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Legal and financial: Reference ruling lifts threat for employers.

An key court victory has been won for firms faced with giving references for former employees.

Lawyers from Pinsent Curtis claim the High Court success has averted the imposition of 'intolerable burdens'.

Before 1995, an employee had to show deliberate malice on the part of a past employer and was faced with the expense and uncertainty of mounting a libel action to redress any alleged shortcomings in a reference.

But the House of Lords then ruled in the case of Spring v Guardian Royal Insurance that a former employee could also sue if the reference was factually wrong and given negligently.

Since then employers have had to take extra care that references do not mislead the prospective employer 'when considered in the round'. Otherwise they could face legal action from the person who was the subject of the reference.

But an aggrieved ex-employee recently mounted a court challenge to take things a stage further. He wanted past employers to be forced to give references that were 'full and comprehensive'.

Pinsent Curtis said: 'If the action had succeeded it would have placed intolerable burdens of employers to a point where they probably would have ceased giving references at all.

'As it is, employers can still feel able to give a true, balanced but brief reference without fear of a court challenge.

'The case has clarified the position for employers and employees alike.'
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Mar 31, 2000
Words:231
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