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  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.uk0
If you’re looking for job vacancies in Basingstoke, working with a local recruiter like Wote Street People could be very rewarding because we have the local business knowledge that might lead to opportunities for you to meet with companies face to face. However, there’s nothing more annoying than registering for job vacancies in Basingstoke with[…..]
Local recruitment agency, Wote Street People, won Student’s Choice at the recent Skills Tree Awards. The ceremony was held at BDBC Council Chamber on 7th November and organised by Basingstoke Consortium; an education charity that works with the area’s young people. Their goal is to help students gain the skills and confidence for adult life[…..]
What is it used for? A CV provides an overview of your working life so far. However, it doesn’t need to be restricted to just your working life. If you have achievements or interests outside of work that may have a bearing on your application – write about them. Now is not the time to[…..]
PREPARATION PREVENTS POOR PERFORMANCE Put yourself ahead of the rest and research thoroughly prior to your interview. Run through the Job Description and familiarise yourself with as many duties as possible. Pay attention to any Person Specifications and note what the company are looking for in a person. Look at the company website (provided by[…..]
I don’t know about you, but it seems the minute the mid-Summer Solstice has happened we start thinking about Christmas. Who’s going where and when. Who wants what, who doesn’t want anything and who is going hide in their bedroom all day. You may think this is all a bit early. However, many of our[…..]