I am leaving my job but my employer refuses to give me a satisfactory reference. What should I do?

With a few narrow exceptions (in particular, financial services) an employer is not legally obliged to provide a reference.

If your employer has always provided references in the past, you may be able to build a case that there is an implied contractual duty to provide a reference based on custom and practice.

Your employer must not victimise you by refusing to give you a satisfactory reference, for example, because you have alleged discrimination or engaged in whistleblowing. This would be against the law. You can find out more about what amounts to victimisation.

Where a reference is given, the employer has an implied duty of care to both you as the ex-employee and also to the prospective employer to take reasonable care that the reference is true, accurate and fair. You may be able to bring a civil case for negligence if you suffer damage as a result of an inaccurate reference (e.g. an unjustified reference causes a job offer to be withdrawn).

Note: This content is provided as general background information and should not be taken as legal advice or financial advice for your particular situation. Make sure to get individual advice on your case from your union, a source on our free help page or an independent financial advisor before taking any action.

What is WorkSmart?

A career coach that works for everyone.


Enjoy bite-sized activities delivered to you every week.

Lightbulb brain

Equip yourself with essential skills to be the best you yet.


Get the guidance you need to stay focused and reach your goals.

Worksmart circle