Applicable to employees of the Central Academic Bodies and central activities of the University of London (the "central University").

Please also refer to the provision and request of references for further detailed guidance or contact Human Resources.

1 Dealing with Reference Requests 
2 Providing References 
3 Duties when writing a reference  
4 Considering a person’s sick record  
5 Dealing with poor performance 
6 Disclaimers  
7 Requesting References on Job Applicants   
8 Receiving a bad reference 


1 Dealing with Reference Requests


  • As a rule references should only be signed off by staff at Level 08 and above;
  • In all other circumstances consult the HR Office;
  • Do not provide anything other than a written reference;
  • Keep a copy of references given and forward a further copy to the Human Resources.

If you intend to provide a reference on a personal basis, do not use central  University headed paper or write from your central University address.

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2 Providing References

In most circumstances the central University will provide a reference. Consult Human Resources if you are asked to provide a reference but feel unable to do so.

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3 Duties when Writing a Reference


  • In general an employer may be liable in negligence if the employee suffers loss as a result of the employer's failure to exercise reasonable care in the preparation of a reference;
  • If the employee fails to secure a new job because of a carelessly prepared reference then they may be able to sue the employer who provided that reference;
  • An employer may also be sued by the new employer if it provides a negligent reference.

Therefore the reference must:

  • Be true, accurate and fair;
  • Not be misleading;
  • Not be unduly selective about the information it contains.

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4 Considering a Person's Sick Record


  • Sickness reasons and medical history are sensitive personal data under the Data Protection Act 1998;
  • Do not release any such data without the individual’s consent;
  • If the individual refuses permission to state the nature of their ill-health, it is still possible to release information in respect of the individual’s absence record without giving details of the nature of their illness, e.g. identifying the length of any period of absence due to hospitalisation and a comment to that fact.

Please also refer to the section on Data Protection – Sickness, Absence and Accident Records

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5 Dealing with Poor Performance


  • The reference to statements of fact and avoid any emotive language or subjective comments;
  • Consult Human Resources for further advice in such cases.

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6 Disclaimers


  • References should be marked ‘Private and Confidential' and clearly for the attention of the addressee only;
  • The subject of a reference does not automatically have the right to view it.  Contact Human Resources if an individual makes such a request.

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7 Requesting References on Job Applicants

In most cases, a candidate’s current or most recent former employer will be approached.  A personal reference should be a last resort or in addition to professional references only.

Questions about the candidate may include:

  • dates of employment;
  • job title;
  • nature of responsibilities;
  • performance in the job;
  • salary;
  • reason for leaving;
  • time-keeping and absence record.

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8 Receiving a Bad Reference

In such a case you should follow any issues up with the applicant before making a final decision.  Please contact Human Resources for further advice.

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