Settlement Agreements and Your Job Reference

Does my employer have to give me a job reference if I sign a settlement agreement?

The short answer to this is… no. This may surprise you, but unfortunately it’s the way it is. Unless it’s in your employment contract that they will provide one, or if you have had it in writing elsewhere that they will, your employer cannot be forced to provide you with a job reference.

You may feel that this is a bit unfair, bearing in mind that at the recruitment end of an employment contract an employer will often require a job reference before they will take a new employee on. But it’s what it is.

As always with these things, though, there is also a longer answer…

Under the Equality Act 2010 it may be unlawful discrimination if an employer refuses to provide a job reference and the reason for this refusal is because of a protected characteristic, which includes, for example, age, sex, disability etc.

But all is not lost when it comes to getting a job reference…

The solution, therefore, is to prevent the issue arising in the first place. There is no reason why you should not request a job reference whilst negotiating your departure, or make it a term of the settlement agreement itself. A good employment law adviser will swiftly point this out if it’s not already included. In reality, as a bargaining point, it is something that an employer can ‘give’ to an employee at no cost to themselves (as long as their reference is  true, accurate and fair, of course) and may be a way to conclude a negotiation. An experienced employment law specialist will know how to time such a request. Just bear in mind that developments in employment law have meant that many employers have a policy to only give the same type of job reference each time, which now often only covers basic details anyway.

An adviser who specialises in employment law will be able to guide you on the most appropriate way to negotiate this tricky topic. They will have considerable experience of what does, and doesn’t, work, and will agree with you what you are trying to achieve before advising on the best path forward for you to obtain a job reference.


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