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Giving and getting employee references (practical tips)


Does your heart sink when you’re asked to provide a reference? Do you know how to ask for a reference when taking on someone new?

Our quick guide explains what to do and how to keep things as problem-free as possible.

Providing references

  • In the hair and beauty industry there is no legal obligation to provide references for your employees unless there is a written agreement that you will do so.
  • If you do give a reference it must be fair and accurate. Don’t include irrelevant personal information.
  • Have a clear company policy that explains how you handle reference requests and what information you will provide about your employees.
  • If you choose not to provide references you must make it clear that this is your company policy. The policy must be applied fairly and consistently to all requests for references.
  • You can give a bad reference. However, your comments must be accurate, factual and fair and not based on personal opinions. You should ensure you have evidence to back up any negative comments that you make, for example, warning letters sent to the individual. If you cannot back up your claims, you may face a claim for damages.

Top tip: Be careful if you are asked to provide sick leave records. If you state that you cannot recommend someone because of their sick record and their absences are due to a disability, you may risk a claim under the Equality Act 2010

Asking for references

Top tip: You can only ask a job applicant’s current employer for a reference if the applicant gives you permission to do this.

A typical reference request can include:

  • Basic facts about the job applicant such as employment dates and job descriptions.
  • The reason for leaving their current post.
  • Details about the job applicant's skills and abilities.
  • Details about the job applicant's strengths and weaknesses in relation to their suitability for the role.

If a reference is refused, ask the applicant for another referee or consider employing them on a probationary basis.

Top tip: Be careful if you ask for sick leave records as part of your reference request: you may risk a claim under the Equality Act 2010 if you reject the applicant because of their sick leave record if the reasons are due a disability.

Members: Our star rating system celebrates and promotes the outstanding quality of service provided by you so use it to attract the best talent to your business. Displaying your star rating prominently in your recruitment marketing and advertising endorses you as one of the leading salons in your area. 

Who can provide references?

As well as the employee’s current or previous employer, references can also be provided by people who know the applicant well. For example, teachers or work experience supervisors. These can be useful for those who are applying for their first salon role or an apprenticeship.

Top tip: Your job offers should always be ‘conditional on receiving satisfactory references’. You can then legally withdraw the offer if you receive poor references.

However: you should also consider raising concerns directly with the applicant to give them a chance to have their say. You could also employ them for a probationary period in your hair or beauty business.

Members: Need some more help? Call our industry experts free of charge for information and practical advice about all aspects of running a successful salon business.