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The court has decided that an employer may be liable to a former employee for damages for negligent misstatement when making statements about him to a future employer.

Mr. McKie was a well regarded employee of Swindon College. He received an excellent reference when he left. He later joined Bath University where his new job involved contact with the former employer, Swindon College. The former employer’s new HR Director was responsible for a damaging email about Mr McKie being sent to Bath University. On the facts this was “fallacious and untrue” and its preparation “sloppy and slapdash”.  As a result, Mr. McKie lost his job at Bath University.

It has long been the case in UK employment law that an employer will be liable for damages if he or she gives an employee a reference which was negligently prepared. What exactly amounts to ‘negligence’ is dependent on the circumstances. However, this decision has now been extended from the act of giving ‘references’ to the much wider field of ‘communications’ in general.

Employers should always take care to ensure that any communications about former employees are accurate and appropriate in the circumstances and that UK employment law in areas such as data protection is observed.

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