Employment Reference Questions

Friday, September 25th, 2009 - Employment, Employment Reference, Job Application, job search, references

Employment Reference Questions


Claire, a nurse, asks: can an employer offer you a job subject to reference, and then tell you they had “concerns” and offer a lower paid job? I had been doing a band 7 nursing position at a hospital for 18months, and saw an advert at another hospital for a full time band 7 position. I was told in feed back that my CV was fantastic, that I had performed brilliantly at interview, and although the decision was close I had beaten the other candidates. I was told after the second interview and later informed by letter that they were not allowed to offer the job until background and reference checks were concluded. Over a four month period, I pursued them, being told each time that they were progressing my application. Then, after I had passed all the relevant background checks, they offered me a junior job at band 6, with an explanation of: “We had concerns about how you would cope/manage at band 7 and this was confirmed by you references?” Is it because I suffer from depression and they are discriminating against me, saying I can’t cope? I had rigorous Occupational Health checks, an extra long interview where I candidly answered all their question. I was also dismissed during my period of employment at my last hospital, but I got that decision overturned at an Employment Tribunal. I had as part of that settlement an agreed written reference, but could they have given a bad verbal reference? How do I: find out what’s going on; prove it; and what can I do about it?

In answer:
Yes, an employer can withdraw an offer of employment, if it is stated as subject to references. The fact that they offered alternate employment is a separate legal issue.

Most employment references would simply consist of dates of employment, and reason for leaving, eg: “June 2007/June 2009, resigned” The issue legal and hence the change in procedure came down to ex-employees suing ex-employers due to poor references.

However, in certain professionals particularly where they are regulated, including nursing, teaching and most FSA covered jobs; then further notes and history must be provided under the law.

Employer Reference

Hence, at best your reference if it were not a regulated job would included the fact you resigned (it shouldn’t include dismissal/reinstatement if that is legally what happened). As you are in a regulated environment dealing with young/elderly patients, particularly if you are dealing yourself with mental health issues as part of your duties, it would include basic notes on your state of health and health record.

The answer here is simple:

  1. Decide if you want the new job offer or not? Personally, I’d take it subject to an agreed review after 12months and promotion to Level7
  2. Ask for a debrief with the HR manager who undertook the referencing at the new employer hospital, and understand why they lowered the job offer
  3. As you are in a regulated environment, you are entitled to a full copy of your job reference from your former employer. This is probably best addressed in co-ordination with your RCN representative

As the offer was clearly stated subject to references, you would be foolish to push the issue. Decide on whether to take this job or not, then get resolved what your ex-employer is saying.

Good Luck!


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