Blog Sub

Do I Need to Provide a Letter of Reference for an Ex-Employee?

January 21, 2016, by HR à la carte | Work Environment and Policies

Many companies have a policy against providing letters of reference for ex-employees.  The thought process was that if they didn’t have anything positive to say about the employee, the negative reference could result in some sort of litigation.  However, in the cases of employees who have been laid off or provided a severance package for a without cause termination, courts have determined that by not providing a letter of reference the employer has hindered the employee’s ability to find their next employment opportunity.  In some cases, courts have even upped the severance amount payable or ordered damages to be paid to the employee as a result.

When you are asked by an ex-employee to provide a letter of reference here are some guidelines to help you:

  • References should be given in good faith
  • Do not breach rules of confidentiality. Any information regarding service dates, etc., should only be confirmed to a potential employer or provided at the employee’s written request.
  • Ensure the letter of reference is based on facts (don’t embellish either in a positive or negative way).
  • The information provided should be defendable in that none of the information in the letter should be news to the employee; one of the ways to do this is to pull language from a previous performance review that the employee signed off on.
  • Put in a statement in the letter of reference that the information provided is only intended to show how the employee worked in your organization’s environment and is not intended to be a representation as to how the employee would work in the new organization’s environment.

Although providing references can sometimes be difficult, it is often the right thing to do.  By keeping the reference factual, simple and to the point you will be able to make it a win-win situation for both the organization and the ex-employee.

Free HR News and Tips for Canadian Employers

Our HR newsletters help keep you up to date on managing employees in Canada

Free HR News and Tips for Canadian Employers

Join other Business Owners and HR professionals who want to stay up to date on the latest HR news and get helpful tips and resources.