Blog

  • Home
  • News
  • Consequences of inaccurate comments about employees
You Are Here:

Consequences of inaccurate comments about employees

Posted on | Posted in News

Most employers are aware that they are under a legal duty to take reasonable care in the preparation and provision of a reference for an employee or former employee. However, the recent case of McKie v Swindon College [2011] EWCH 469 QB shows that employers must also take care when providing any further comment on an employee or former employee.

Mr McKie was employed by Swindon College until 2002. Six years later, he was offered a role at the University of Bath. A few weeks after Mr McKie started working at the university, the HR Director of Swindon College sent an email to the university containing extremely negative comments about Mr McKie. These comments resulted in Mr McKie being dismissed by the university. The email itself was not intended to be a formal reference, as Mr McKie had already started working for the university by then. Mr McKie sued Swindon College, alleging that the email amounted to the tort of negligent misstatement.

The court found that Swindon College owed Mr McKie a duty of care regarding the contents of the email, even though he had left its employment six years previously and the email had not been intended as a formal reference.  The court judge described the contents of the email as ‘fallacious and untrue’, and said that it had been prepared in a ‘slapdash’ manner. Mr McKie was therefore able to recover the losses which arose as a result of the email. This result is perhaps unsurprising – if the same email been sent as a reference for Mr McKie prior to his being employed by the university, the college would certainly have owed him a duty of care in preparing that reference and he would have had a clear claim against it.

The duty to take reasonable care in providing a reference has therefore been extended to apply to employees in a ‘non-reference context’. Employers must take care in making any comments about an employee or former employee, irrespective of the context of those comments or communications. Statements about employees and former employees should be fair and, above all else, accurate. It will be dangerous to make negative comments about a former employee, particularly if such comments cannot be backed up by credible evidence. If an employee or former employee can establish that a statement or comment is incorrect and has been negligently prepared, they may be able to claim damages for loss flowing from that statement or comment.

This case highlights the risks of providing a reference containing more than just dates of employment. Employers should ensure that there are guidelines on who is authorised to give a reference, and the basis on which such references should be given. Those authorised to give references should be made aware that they should stick to the terms of the reference in the event that a further enquiry is made by a potential employer, and that comments, even if made casually, could have a have future impact. If it is necessary to provide more detail than just the dates of employment, the information provided should be strictly factual.

To find out more, please contact Charlotte Stafford at Penningtons Solicitors – Charlotte.Stafford@penningtons.co.uk

0

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Latest Posts
25 Jul 2018

Educate employers about benefits of older workers

The latest report from the Government’s Women and Equalities Committee says older workers still face discrimination and the recruitment industry’s ‘failure to take more robust action has a significant impact on (their) ability to access work’. Maxine Hart, our Operations Director, has something to say. Valuing best practice The report is pretty damning stuff. But[…..]

Latest Posts
28 Jun 2018

Feeling hot, hot, hot?

Isn’t the weather glorious.  I don’t think anything beats a British heatwave.  It reminds of just how beautiful our country can be.  Granted, it would be more enjoyable if we weren’t all stuck in the office! So, how can we office workers stay cool in office? Here’s a few tips! If you’re luck enough to[…..]

Latest Posts
26 Jun 2018

Here’s what happened when we took on an apprentice…

A little over 18 months ago, we decided it was time to try something new.  Finding people jobs in Basingstoke and surrounding areas, Wote Street People has always grown organically, but after a stagnant 12 months we wanted to initiate a change. How were we going to do this?  Do we just wait for the[…..]

Latest Posts
07 Jun 2018

Proud of our community champion and awards finalist

Maxine Hart, Operations Director at Wote Street People, made the finals of the recent Place to Be Proud of Awards, nominated alongside Lamb Brooks Solicitors and The Champion Group in the Business and the Community category. Following a public vote, Champion was announced as the winner at a ceremony on 6th June at the Haymarket[…..]

Latest Posts
29 May 2018

How to get a summer job in Basingstoke

Whether you’re back in Basingstoke for the summer or you’ve recently left school or college, getting a summer job is an excellent opportunity to gain valuable work experience and earn funds – it can’t be all work and no play! What type of summer job could you get? Hospitality & Events, Production Line, Warehouse, Admin,[…..]