7 September 2017 Employment law myth No. 1: "It's illegal to give a bad reference"

By Simon Obee, Associate and Richard Ottley, Partner

Many people believe that giving a "bad" reference is somehow against the law.

In fact, there is no general obligation at law to give an employee (or former employee) any sort of reference – good or bad.


Where the law might intervene (for example in an action in defamation) would possibly be if an employer provided a deliberately dishonest or misleading reference which caused some harm to the employee.


To avoid such potential pitfalls many employers adopt the position of just providing a statement of service confirming an employee's length of service and position, but not commenting further.


For any advice on rights and obligations concerning references please contact: or

Read myth no. 2, "You need to give someone three warnings before you can dismiss them" here.


Richard Ottley, Partner  |  Phone: +61 2 9233 5544  |  Email:
Simon Obee, Senior Associate  |  Phone: +61 2 9233 5544  |  Email:

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This article is not legal advice and the views and comments are of a general nature only. This article is not to be relied upon in substitution for detailed legal advice.

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