Government proposals to make references mandatory

07 November 2019


Business Secretary, Andrea Leadsom announced new government proposals to ensure that all references are compulsory in a bid to crackdown on workers facing workplace discrimination.

The motivation behind the decision was in order to combat unscrupulous employers who threaten to withhold references as a bargaining tool, often in a bid to silence former employees from discussing serious wrongdoing in the workplace. The government accepts that this relates to a minority of businesses and that most UK employers comply with the law.  If the proposals become law, then employers would be required to disclose at least a basic reference for all former employees.

The recommendations arose as part of a wider response to an inquiry on non-disclosure agreements (NDAs), which can commonly be used in discrimination cases. The government was urged to clampdown on and suppress scenarios which involved the misuse of NDAs, and to ensure that employees could still disclose information to regulatory bodies, such as the police. Part of these recommendations maintained that independent legal advice should be offered on this matter.

It was also suggested that confidentiality clauses should be written in clear, concise English, without the use of jargon or technical language, so that individuals signing them clearly recognise their rights and what they are agreeing to.


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