Dh being turned down for job due to references?

(42 Posts)

I hope you can offer some guidance.

Last July, dh had an accident at work. Because he didn't follow procedure properly, they classed this as gross misconduct. On appeal he was re-instated by the owner of the company at head office. The manager who sacked him was a depot manager. Without being horrid about him he was on a power trip. We sought advice from a solicitor who said the worst was a warning for not reporting the accident properly as they had no procedures in place on the day dh worked which was alone. Dh had a case for unfair dismissal.

Anyways his accident resulted in major leg surgery being brought forward. His was sacked, reinstated and had major surgery within 16 days. This followed a period of 5 months off and he is currently using up holidays before going back next week.

He doesn't want to go back so has started to look for other employment. He applied and went far down the recruitment process with another company. They said they were confident they could place him at either of the 2 cities we live between. They would come back to him shortly.

I should say at interview they asked about defences. Dh was completely honest and told them about his current employer. Tried really hard to say he had learnt from the experience and not to slag them off. He said he would rather they didn't apply for references but understood if they wanted to.

So he hears today that he is not being offered a position due to the managers discretion. They we very short with him. He is very worried that they have applied for and received an awful reference.

He is part way through interviews with another firm and is hoping to hear about formal interview any day now. Is the anything he should do differently? Anything he should say? He doesn't want to stop people applying for references but if his current employer are sticking the boot in - which we don't put past them, we are stuck. Help if you can!

Do employers take fright when a interviewee has sought legal advice?

Should he say at interview if applying for a reference at my current employer results in a negative reference due to the incident and therefore a job rejection he would rather they didn't apply and just said now?

P.s he had great references from his previous employer. Glowing in fact.

And should he take the solicitors paperwork with him to interview and show if necessary? Thank you and sorry for all of these posts.

hermioneweasley Tue 22-Jan-13 20:05:24

It's a crappy situation. I think all he can do is explain to prospective employers that he won't get a good reference from current employer.

Their reference has to be fair and accurate, but if it's being done verbally this is almost impossible to prove.

Thanks. We still think honesty is the best policy. At his next interview he is going to say if a negative reference from his current employer is an automatic no then to call it a day. It will make life too difficult back at work.

CajaDeLaMemoria Wed 23-Jan-13 08:23:42

Have you asked the firm what the reference said? They may be willing to tell you, most companies are.

I'm not sure that telling them not to get references is a good idea, or even warning against them. It sounds odd. I'd be honest about the incident, but that's all. Behave normally re references. Most if not all companies will get them.

That way, if he gets a terrible reference, the new company will be surprised and hopefully discuss it with you dh. As it stands, it looks like he's trying to prepare them for a terrible reference, which is being confirmed when it comes back and looks terrible.

Dolallytats Wed 23-Jan-13 08:34:58

I'm with Caja, he should phone and ask. There could be all sorts of reasons why they were a bit abrupt on the phone, they could have been busy, had lots of the same type of calls to make, they may even feel rotten making those calls so try to do it as quickly as possible!! Most companies will give feedback.

TwoFacedCows Wed 23-Jan-13 09:20:23

You can find out what was said about you. It comes under the freedom of inforation act. Perhaps speak to CAB to find out how you would go about gathering information using that act.

YouOldSlag Wed 23-Jan-13 09:25:28

I believe its illegal to give someone a bad reference. You can give them a basic reference i.e Bob worked here between these dates and his role was xxxx, but I believe its illegal to give a bad one.

(Its also bloody unfair on the poor sod who's trying to move on and get a job!)

girlbehind Wed 23-Jan-13 09:28:36

I'd be inclined to send a Subject Access Request to the firm who turned him down. Ask for copies of everything they have relating to his selection process, including references.

It may not be references at all, but at least you should have the info that informed their decision.

I'm assuming that attempting to talk to them informally hasn't worked.

PolterGoose Wed 23-Jan-13 09:35:10

TwoFacedCows - to access personal data you use the Data Protection Act.

My understanding is that firms won't usually provide bad references, but will provide a basic reference. If your dp has a glowing reference from previous firm then that is good. TBH, I think a lot of companies only give basic references anyway. He needs to just answer questions honestly in interview and not provide any extra information. If the references are sent and the interviewing firm think it odd that he has gone from a glowing reference to a bland one then he can explain basic details about a breakdown in the relationship at old firm.

Rockchick1984 Wed 23-Jan-13 09:36:07

It's not illegal to give a bad reference, however if the reference was untrue there may be a case for libel / slander (depending on verbal / written reference).

I would speak to the employer who has just turned him down and get feedback, and work from there.

Who did he put down to contact for the reference, presumably not the manager who fired him?

Stropzilla Wed 23-Jan-13 09:41:22

As someone who has previously given interviews, being asked not to go for a reference would set huge alarm bells ringing. I would rather hear the truth and I would not be put off by seeing a solicitor over unfair dismissal as long as it was genuine which this was.

steppemum Wed 23-Jan-13 09:49:47

I think that it is illegal to give a closed reference. I think that you are entitled to see any reference written about you (but not absolutley sure)

The best thing may be to ask the employer to give him a general reference (to whom it may concern) and then use that. That way he can see what it says. Then get the glowing reference form previous employer as well, and put the two together

prh47bridge Wed 23-Jan-13 13:10:45

There are a number of misconceptions about the law on this thread.

It is not illegal to give a bad reference. That is a myth.

You are not entitled to see any reference written about you. References are exempt from the subject access requirements of the Data Protection Act.

It may be possible to sue for libel or slander if the reference is untrue but it is very difficult to win such a case as references are subject to qualified privilege. That means it is not enough to show the reference was untrue. You have to show that the person who gave the reference was acting out of malice. That is very difficult to prove.

He phoned and asked the reason. The refused to tell him. Just that it was manager's discretion.

starfishmummy Wed 23-Jan-13 13:33:11

Can he just give other references?

Some very interesting points here. He has the formal interview on Friday.

Surely he has to mention the last 6 months as they will ask why are you leaving your current employer? He will then have to advise of everything that has happened? If this incident hadn't happened he would have said he was moving to a bigger company with better prospects and a chance for growth and promotion.

Interesting about the references. DH is of the opinion they should apply to his current employer but based on receiving all of the facts over the last 6 months during the interview which will un turn allow them to make an informed decision - do you agree? Any help you can give really is appreciated.

I think DH is just very worried that if they do apply for references from his current employer and they are poor, his employer then knows he's applied for other work and then been turned down iyswim?

And yes to the person who above said the last job he applied for they might have just been busy with other things when DH asked for feedback. That is a valid point.

That way, if he gets a terrible reference, the new company will be surprised and hopefully discuss it with you dh. As it stands, it looks like he's trying to prepare them for a terrible reference, which is being confirmed when it comes back and looks terrible.

Thanks caja - valid points there again.

starfish, that would be ideal but this company and the previous interview want the last 5 years work history and references to support it all so sadly no.

Flatbread Wed 23-Jan-13 13:45:11

He would have said he was moving to a bigger company with better prospects and a chance for growth and promotion

He should still say the same. Make no mention of the last six months. It is not relevant, as such, in the larger scheme of a career move.

Your dh should talk to the HR in his existing firm and find out about their procedure for giving references and what information is shared.

In fact, I would be reluctant for a potential employer to ask for references from an existing job, unless they had already made me an offer I had accepted. Else it could create ill-will with an existing employer.

Thanks Flatbread. This is helpful. There is no HT at current work. Only the bosses who, IMO make it up as they go along. They have payroll but that is it. If you get bosses on a good day you are laughing but on a bad day you are fucked. Excuse the language.

Surely but not being honest you are therefore keeping something from them because although re-instated (and I should may be have mentioned before) he is on a final written warning?

it is such a bloody mess. He was aniticipating surgery in 2 + years time, the accident brought this forward as an emergency. If it hadn't happened he could have found another job without all this shit.

I would be honest with interviewers...and say that I am leaving in part due to a personality clash with my boss. There is no formal HR team, and it has made life rather difficult. Also, you suspect that as a result the reference may be inaccurate. Flatbread makes good points re existing employer.

I would also send a SAR to the firm that you believe received the poor reference. They do not have to forward on to you, unless they get permission from the person that provided it, but they do need to provide extracts. You would see the whole thing if you sent a SAR to the person who gave the reference...but based on what you have said, that may not work in the short term. If you get no response within 40 days, you can complain to the ICO.

CoraBear Wed 23-Jan-13 14:27:45

I know this may be bad advice, but can you not get someone you know to ring your husbands bosses and ask for a reference? They could say he was in for an interview and they were following up. Or ring yourself?

YouOldSlag Wed 23-Jan-13 14:48:00

Ooh I like Cora's idea!

SolomanDaisy Wed 23-Jan-13 14:55:58

References are only exempt from SAR if the request is to the company who gave the reference. If you request it from the company who received it, there is no automatic exemption. It might be worth asking.

Crinkle77 Wed 23-Jan-13 15:16:00

This might be useful:

https://www.gov.uk/work-reference

MissMarplesMaid Wed 23-Jan-13 21:00:49

I might be wrong here but I wonder if your DH is dwelling too much on the whole reference problem? What you describe sounds very negative and backward looking.

In your DH's situation I would be more looking to the future. To the question 'why is he wanting to leave his current employer' my answer would be more along the lines that the time off recovering has given him time to reflect and consider his future and now he is looking for the better opportunities which a much better firm such as acme Ltd will give blah blah blah...

Employers arent daft, the more fuss you make about something the more they think there is something to worry about.

Nobody leaves a job because they love it. People leave because they want something better, in that your DH is no different.

IME employers arent Machiavellian. Requests for references go to the HR department. My old company didnt allow managers to give personal references. This never caused a problem, I asked other people for these.

That is a valid point. Thank you. They have no HR department so if the manager who sacked him got hold of the reference letter he could stick the boot in. Tis is the biggest concern but I see whee you are coming from.

What he doesn't want to happen is for him to be turned down for not mentioning the last 6 months and not being honest if the fall out comes out in his reference. I do agree he needs to concentrate on the future though and be positive.

VBisme Wed 23-Jan-13 22:12:53

I don't think it's unusual to ask a prospective employer not to contact your current employer until a firm offer has been given an accepted (subject to references).
Whatever the situation you shouldn't mention any issue with current employer, it certainly makes the interviewer question whether to employ you or not.
Most of my previous companies have had a policy of stating the dates and job titles and that's it. An employer can be prosecuted for giving an unfairly negative reference.

I think damages can be claimed if a bad reference is proven but they can't be prosecuted.

Differing opinions here. Not sure what to do now.

TwoFacedCows Wed 23-Jan-13 22:23:37

thanks PolterGoose! i knew it was something like that! grin

prh47bridge Wed 23-Jan-13 22:53:08

SolomanDaisy - It is true that the exemption applies specifically if the request is to the giver of the reference. However, guidance from the ICO is that a request to the company receiving the reference may also be refused in a number of circumstances. The important point is that the reference giver's opinion may be regarded as personal data relating to the reference giver. Any factual information included in the reference should be disclosed but the position is less clear for other information.

gregssausageroll - No you cannot claim damages just because a bad reference has been given. As I and others have already pointed out, there is no law against giving a bad reference. Indeed, the reference giver has a duty of care to the potential employer so may be liable to them if they give an incorrect good reference.

You can sue for libel if the reference is inaccurate but you would have to prove that the reference giver acted out of malice. That is very difficult to prove. The reference giver also has a duty of care towards the employee which may give an easier route to claiming damages if the reference is false, but even there you have to show that the reference giver has acted unreasonably or negligently. You won't get damages if they have expressed an honest opinion or reasonably believe that the statements they have made are true.

Tasmania Thu 24-Jan-13 00:36:46

It doesn't have to be just formal references. My last employer used his network of people (same industry and all, not difficult!) to get "verbal" and off the record references about me.

I found my employer's notes about me, and what people said (what do you do, if a computer file happens to have your name on it!). I have to say... VERY INTERESTING. Some people I barely spoke to all of a sudden had opinions they weren't entitled to have. And the people I sort of outshined suddenly sought their vengeance...

SolomanDaisy Thu 24-Jan-13 08:49:07

Yes, ph47bridge, that's why I said there was no automatic exemption, so it might be worth asking.

Due to bad weather being forecast the interview is now today so all we can do is be honest and keep fingers crossed.

MissMarplesMaid Thu 24-Jan-13 12:26:15

Be honest but dont make a big 'thing' about it. Most of the time your DH will be asked about references and by keeping it simple and asking current employer not to be contacted at this stage there is a very good chance that references wont be taken up.

Good luck to your DH

EldritchCleavage Thu 24-Jan-13 12:38:29

It is very often said on MN that it is illegal to give a bad or a closed reference. It isn't. There is no onus on companies to give a basic reference rather than to set out negative statements, it's just that many prefer to in order not to be sued in defamation or negligent misstatement.

OP, since the owner reinstated your DH, would it be a good idea to approach the owner and ask to agree a reference with him that will be the only reference used when prospective employers contact the current employer?

CinnabarRed Thu 24-Jan-13 12:41:08

I can't offer any advice to your DH, but wanted to let you know that my firm (one of the Big 4 professional service firms with 10,000+ employees in the UK) will only give a basic reference no matter whether the leaving employee was good, bad or indifferent. They simply confirm that person X was employed by firm Y between the dates of XX and YY. That's all.

Thanks everyone. Interview went well. Fingers crossed.

Flatbread Thu 24-Jan-13 16:03:35

Great smile Best of luck!!!

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