New ACAS Guidelines: Is Your Company Compliant?

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The new ACAS Guidelines on employment references (2018) are now in effect.

This important new guidance clarifies the reference process for employers and job applicants, making it easier to know exactly how to deal with providing references, and exactly what a reference can include.

 

ACAS’ new guidance covers specifics such as:

  • What a reference must include
  • Whether a reference must be provided
  • Whether an employer can give a bad reference
  • Problems with references
  • Job offers and references

Providing references for employees can be confusing, particularly for new and start-up companies who haven’t had previous experience in this area.

Here’s what the guidance has to say about the most frequently asked questions regarding compliance in these matters, and how it concerns you as an employer.

 

What should an employee reference include?

In an employee reference, you will be asked to provide the basic facts about your employee or former employee, such as:

  • Employment start and end date (where applicable)
  • Employee’s current or former job description

 

References can also include answers to a potential employer’s specific questions, such as:

  • Absence levels
  • Confirming reason for leaving post

 

A reference can also include:

  • Details about the applicants skills and abilities
  • Their strengths and weaknesses
  • Their suitability for the role they have applied for

A reference absolutely cannot include irrelevant personal information. According to the ACAS website:

“A reference must be a true, accurate and fair reflection of the job applicant. When opinions are provided, they should be based on facts.”

 

Can an employer give a bad reference? 

There is no legal obligation to provide a reference. As an employer, you can choose whether or not to give a reference.

If you choose to do so, everything you say within it must be 100% accurate, fair and relevant. Subjective opinions or personal comments not supported by facts are unacceptable.

 

What types of job offers can be made?

If you plan to offer a role to a job applicant, there are two types of offers you can make.

 

Conditional Offer

This job offer can be withdrawn if the applicant doesn’t meet a condition you set – for example if their references come back and you feel they are unsatisfactory.

Unconditional Offer

Once you make this offer, it cannot be withdrawn. If the applicant accepts it, a contract of their employment must be drawn up.

 

Tom Neil, an Acas Senior Adviser, said about the new ACAS guidance:

“The job market can be very competitive so it is vitally important for job applicants and employers to know what the legal requirements are around work references.”

 

Access the full guidance here: http://www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=5072

 

If you would like to speak to one of our employment law specialists about the new ACAS guidelines, compliancy with employment regulations or any other pertinent matter regarding employer/employee rights, please contact us on 01282 433 241 and speak to an employment law specialist today.

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