Service users are put at risk by threadbare employee references, warn homelessness groups

03 Dec 2010 News

Depaul UK and Broadway have urged charities to ensure they provide adequate references for former employees working with vulnerable people.

Depaul UK and Broadway have urged charities to ensure they provide adequate references for former employees working with vulnerable people.

The homelessness organisations say that charities are currently only providing basic reference details such as job titles and dates of employment, for fear of reprisals.

They are concerned that references that provide little or no detail will lead to unsuitable job candidates being hired, which could put service users at risk.

Rachel Slade, PR manager at Depaul UK, said: “The concern is that references are all largely saying the same thing. There is nothing to distinguish between them.”

She added that this lack of detail prevents charities from picking up vital warning signs about rogue workers, stating references with such little detail was little better than not receiving a reference at all. 

Cherie Smartt, HR director at Depaul Trust, expressed concern that charities are adopting a minimal reference standard policy in order to reduce the risk of litigation.

She said: “We are growing increasingly concerned that this could lead to our already vulnerable clients being put at risk as it hinders robust employment screening.”

Smarrt said however that detailed references can be provided which include records of disciplinary action, without fear of reprisal. She added that as long as references are factually accurate charities are within their legal rights to provide details.

Criminal Records Bureau checks only declare whether a job candidate or employee has any criminal record, not whether they have undergone any disciplinary action in a job.

Employment law currently says that employers do not have to give a reference if their former employee’s contract does not stipulate this; however if references are given they do have to be factually accurate and not misleading.

Image courtesy of Depaul Trust

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