Can my previous employer give me a bad reference?

Can my previous employer give me a bad reference?

References are always a concern for a candidate once they have accepted their job offer, the same paranoid questions begin to manifest and the overarching anxious wait can be frustrating for many. The one big question that features consistently throughout the wait is ‘What if my previous employer gives me a bad reference?’; this question can cause many headaches for both the candidate and employer.


When a previous employer is requested to provide a reference, the information they give must be seen to be fair and accurate, avoiding subjective opinions and claims that have no substantial evidence to support them. A reference can only be bad in the sense that it suggests a candidate to be unsuitable for a role by detailing their experience and the potential employer then perceives that this is not relevant enough to the responsibilities of the role. If the job offer is subject to references then this could see that offer revoked. Another challenging aspect to referencing is that the previous employer has no legal obligation to provide a reference and could refuse, this potentially means that the candidate is left with a lack of referees. The new employer will then not be able to proceed with the process of starting the new employee.


Under new GDPR laws, the candidate if unhappy or curious can request to view a copy of the reference. If the information in the reference is then found to be incorrect or misleading, and can provide evidence of this, then the candidate can claim damages in court. This is only relevant when the job offer has been withdrawn due to the reference in particular.


If you would like more advice on references then please contact us at Real Recruitment Solutions or visit this helpful link from Frettens Solicitors:



Kate Fretten (2018)


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