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Charlie Mullins: Employer reference letters need to be protected

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Apparently, writing a reference that is critical of a former employee could see employers sued for defamation. 

Isn’t finding the good employees tough enough already? We already have to overcome creative CV writers and interviewees who can give an Oscar-worthy performance to help them land the job.

If we can’t call on the experiences and opinions of our fellow employers to help select the right candidates then we might as well call it a day!

Like a lot of these barmy legal minefields, this has come as a result of a Court of Appeal decision citing post-employment victimisation. A car mechanic successfully sued his former employers after they provided a poor reference to an employment agency.

It’ll mean that references will only contain bland statements, which say as little as possible. You may ask how candidates will know you’ve written a negative reference. Don’t worry about that one; Thanks to the Data Protection Act, former-employees access written references supplied to prospective employers!

We should be thankful for one small mercy; employers aren’t prevented from giving a frank and truthful appraisal of their former employees on the phone or face to face. However, time is precious and there aren’t enough hours in the day to do this every time.

If bosses can’t be truthful with each other in writing about the suitability of an ex-member of staff for fear of being hauled in front of the beak, then the world is truly going to hell in a handcart.

If that’s the case, what’s the point in writing a reference at all? I’m all for praising employees that want to move onto pastures new to help them get a new job, but why should I essentially pull the wool over the eyes of other employers if I have someone who is lazy or incompetent. 

Perversely, it could also mean good candidates are penalised by receiving watered down references summarising only the briefest details of their careers!

This is taking equality and employment rights a step too far, shields these individuals from the realities of life and only serves to fuel this country’s seedy compensation culture society.

The way things are going, sometimes I think the gates are firmly shut at the School of Hard Knocks and the classrooms in the College of Cuddles and Cotton Wool are bursting at the seams!

Charlie Mullins is CEO and founder of Pimlico Plumbers

Related: Charlie Mullins: Don’t let your business go the way of David Moyes

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