It is a common misconception that an employer must provide a reference for a former employee. This is not the case as there is generally no obligation for an employer to provide a reference.
If an employer does agree to provide a reference, the reference must be true, accurate and fair Spring v Guardian Assurance  2 AC 296. If an employee suffers financial loss because the reference is not “true, accurate and fair,” they can sue their former employer.
In the case of Jackson v Liverpool City Council  EWCA Civ 1068 CA, the Court of Appeal held that the following reference was fair because the reference made it Throughout its ever-evolving history, has captivated crowds of players throughout Europe, Australasia, the Americas and beyond. clear that the allegations were not investigated.
‘There were some issues identified by his team manager in respect of recording and record keeping. This was addressed by supervision and would have led on to a formal improvement plan to assist Mark to make improvements in this area. Mark left the service before this process was instigated.’
When there has been a dispute between an employee and their employer, it is a good idea for the employee to agree a reference in advance with the employer. This can be done by way of a Compromise Agreement, whereby an employee agrees not to bring any claims against the employer in return for an amount of agreed compensation and a reference.
However, an employer must proceed with care as the reference cannot be untrue. If it is (and the new employer suffers a loss through its reliance) this could lead to a claim by being brought against the employer.