It is possible for a reference to be unfair and yet lawful?
The Court of Appeal thinks so.
In Jackson v Liverpool City Council, the claimant left the youth offending team to join Sefton Borough Council. While at Sefton he applied for a position with their youth offending team. He did not get the job and it was found that one of his references from Liverpool suggested there had been issues with record keeping. The caveated reference clearly stated that these had not been investigated before he left LCC. In failing to get the job, he remained unemployed for the next 12 months.
Says Dr John McCullen of Wriggley’s Solicitors LLP, “The trial judge (upheld by the Court of Appeal (applying Spring v Guardian Assurance  2 AC 296) considered the reference true and accurate even though it referenced to matters which were untested and unproven. The claim for negligent mis-statement therefore failed.”
This might have been avoided had the claimant agreed his references with his employer before he left.
For more information, please contact our Employment Rights team on 0113 245 0733.