In the world of Google and social media and against a growing fear of being sued, are workplace references still as valuable as they once were? ACAS seems to think so, as it's recently updated its guidance on the subject.

The guidance offers some straightforward advice for employers tasked with responding to reference requests. Although some of it may seem like common sense, there are some interesting comments which may warrant a little more contemplation.

We all know that a reference must be based on facts and a true, accurate and fair reflection of the subject, but did you realise that you could be sued for providing a reference which fails to meet these demands? 

References can usually be requested from the Human Resources department of an organisation, but sometimes requests will go to line managers or other colleagues. Having a policy which sets out who is authorised to provide a reference on behalf of the organisation is important. Managers should be advised on how to deal with reference requests and discouraged from providing personal references and assuming any liability on behalf of the organisation.

More often than not, modern references are bland, factual and formulaic. That doesn't always need to be the case, but accuracy and honesty are essential. Employers should remember that a former employee can request a copy of any reference supplied and sometimes, the least said the better.

If you have any questions about providing references or producing a policy which is appropriate for your business, please contact me at

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