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Employment and hiring

Q

Must I provide a written reference for an ex-employee?

A

An employer has no legal obligation to provide a former employee with a reference, regardless of whether the employee has resigned or was dismissed with or without cause. However, if a court finds that a terminated employee took longer to find a job due to an employer refusing to give a reference, the opposite is true. This situation eliminates the employee's obligation to find other employment in the least amount of time possible, and the employer may be required to pay damages and give more notice.

Employers should not fear providing a reference, as long as the content of the reference letter is honestly made. Even if it is negative, you cannot be sued for libel or slander as a result of a reference if what you say or believe is true. The Courts call this the "defence law of qualified privilege" and it is used quite often in defamation cases.

Ensure that what you write in the reference letter is always job related. Find more information on reference checking in our Compliance and Best Practices guide Employment Reference Checking.

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Please Note: Any information provided in response to an HR or payroll question is not legal advice or a legal opinion. To obtain legal advice or a legal opinion, consult a lawyer.

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