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Unfair reference

Discussion in 'Workplace dilemmas' started by JodiP, Jan 29, 2019.

  1. JodiP

    JodiP Occasional commenter

    I recently had a period of time off work through stress. I had 6 weeks off, both myself and my GP agreed that I could go back after 6 weeks. It took a further 3 weeks for work to do the return to work meeting, OH, etc. They knew the date I was due back plus I was emailing asking about my return to work so it wasn’t a surprise.

    I have just applied for another position and I was shown the reference. He has left the chart about characteristics/qualities completely blank. He has written I had a long term absence and this has meant i’ve had no evidenced impact in my current role. I would disagree. Plus, 6 weeks (as I don’t think counting the last 3 week is fair) is not, in my view, long term.

    I’m phoning the union tomorrow but can anyone offer any advice please?
  2. caterpillartobutterfly

    caterpillartobutterfly Star commenter

    Six weeks would definitely count as a long term absence, it is more or less a half term. If this was recent, it seems fair to say there is no evidenced impact in your current role. Might not be a positive and glowing statement, but it isn't false.

    Leaving the characteristics/qualities blank shouldn't cause a major problem.

    Who showed you the reference? It's very unusual to see your own reference.
    agathamorse and jlishman2158 like this.
  3. Bedlam3

    Bedlam3 Star commenter

    You school policy will tell you what the definition of long term is but it is usually 4 weeks. You could contact him and ask why he hadn't put anything in that particular section and suggest what he could have put in there.
  4. sbkrobson

    sbkrobson Star commenter

    Your posting history suggests very chequered attendance at best. I'm not judging. But it may easily be relevant in addition to the particular absence that you mention.
    The last time I applied for jobs I recall being asked about long term absence in the last three years. The question per se is legitimate, and will likely be corroborated in any reference; you are often required to outline any period of long absence in job applications, although giving precise reasons for it might be more variable.
    Whatever, you fail to mention any other absence in your opening post, and I actually think that the reference as you have described it to us falls on the fair side from their perspective.

    I suppose if you wanted this reference to be reviewed by your referee a sensible thing to do would be to compile a list of outcomes for which you have been responsible. You could cite great progress of one specific group, or intervention you have done, or contributing to SoW or assessment. You need to show this documentation to the referee and say "I cannot agree that you are unable to judge the impact I have made, maybe through over sight, but I would like you to look at this x,y,z, which without my input would not have been possible"
    If you don't do this, then an employer is apt to make assumptions about you because your attendance (or lack of) will be at the front of their mind more than what you have actually done.
    Put it right, turn up at their office, smile, and present it. It sounds like they don't actually know you.
  5. PersianCatLady

    PersianCatLady Occasional commenter

    Unfortunately the reference states exactly what the author knows about you at the present time.

    While it isn't great, it isn't false or unfair.
  6. ridleyrumpus

    ridleyrumpus Star commenter

    How does asking for absence records prior to offer to interview fit into the EA 2010?

    If the absence was due to a disability then wouldn't short listing based on that information be discriminatory? It certainly would be in normal circumstances when references are taken up AFTER the offer to employ.
  7. grumpydogwoman

    grumpydogwoman Star commenter

    Does a reference include sick days?
    Your employer doesn’t necessarily have to include the number of sick days you’ve taken throughout your employment in a job reference. However, your next employer might ask them to include this in the reference, and your current employer can then choose whether they relay this information or not.

    Again, your employer must stick to the facts; there’s no room for fabrication as they’ll be at risk of legal action. However, if you have taken long periods of absences due to illness, it’s a good idea to let your potential new employer know. It’s preferable, and more professional, for them to hear this from you rather than on your job reference.

  8. PersianCatLady

    PersianCatLady Occasional commenter

    At one of the interviews I went to, we were asked to fill in medical forms in front of other applicants and then the forms were then left laying around for anyone to read.

    I did not know how wrong this was until I went for another interview where they told us that we would only be asked to complete medical forms after selection.
    agathamorse likes this.
  9. ridleyrumpus

    ridleyrumpus Star commenter

    This may well be good advice but in normal. Jobs the references are taken up AFTER the offer, in teaching it is BEFORE.

    It is also not allowed to disclose an employees disability so the previous employer would report the days off without context. I cannot see how any potential employer would look at the figures and not be influenced by them when making a decision to interview or not.

    I cannot see how taking references before invite to interview cannot do anything but place a disabled employee who had LTA in the last few years at anything other than a disadvantage.
    agathamorse likes this.
  10. Rott Weiler

    Rott Weiler Star commenter Forum guide

    Yep, that's what the law requires (Equality Act 2010, section 60) but a surprising number of employers still don't appear to understand that.
    agathamorse likes this.
  11. ridleyrumpus

    ridleyrumpus Star commenter

    Exactly my point so how can you include absence days in a reference taken before even being invited for interview?
  12. grumpydogwoman

    grumpydogwoman Star commenter

    I suppose that for a lot of employees who are covered by the Equality Act reasonable adjustments would have been made and their absence record wouldn't therefore compare unfavourably with anyone else.

    Just a random thought.
  13. grumpydogwoman

    grumpydogwoman Star commenter

    There's no law to prevent the prospective employer asking the question. The existing employer need not answer.
    agathamorse likes this.
  14. ridleyrumpus

    ridleyrumpus Star commenter

    (1)A person (A) to whom an application for work is made must not ask about the health of the applicant (B)—

    (a)before offering work to B, or

    (b)where A is not in a position to offer work to B, before including B in a pool of applicants from whom A intends (when in a position to do so) to select a person to whom to offer work
  15. ridleyrumpus

    ridleyrumpus Star commenter

    Mmmm. Not convinced as for one thing a reasonable adjustment could be an adjustment in the criteria for triggering capability through absence proceedings.
  16. ridleyrumpus

    ridleyrumpus Star commenter

    But the absence of an answer could well lead to the prospective employer drawing conclusions and hence disregarding the applicant.
  17. Rott Weiler

    Rott Weiler Star commenter Forum guide

    There is. Equality Act section 60 (1). (Unless the question is permitted by s60 (6).)
  18. ridleyrumpus

    ridleyrumpus Star commenter

    So how can schools taking up references, including information on abscences, prior to deciding who to interview be compatible with EA2010?
  19. caterpillartobutterfly

    caterpillartobutterfly Star commenter

    If I was inviting an unknown adult in to my school to teach a class (as most interviews these days ask applicant to do), walk around the school (possibly with pupils as guides) and freely associate with pupils over lunch or break, I'd want to have checked that they are who they say they are and that there are no safeguarding concerns.

    I also wouldn't have the time to faff with asking for references twice, and referees wouldn't have the time to write them twice, so putting things like absence and punctuality in the original one seems eminently sensible.
  20. grumpydogwoman

    grumpydogwoman Star commenter

    A lot of employers are now electing to state only the dates of employment and whether or not (in teaching etc) there have been any safeguarding risks.

    So the days of "an exemplary attitude/outstanding attention to detail/above and beyond the call of duty/infinite compassion and patience" are probably coming to a close. It'll be a level playing-field. If the employer wants to know about you then they'll have to give you some psychometric tests or find other ways. They won't have these subjective statements on which to rely. Nor will any employer be prepared to discuss absence for fear of making a mis-step.

    So I wouldn't worry too much. It would be far better really. How much is a glowing reference really worth? It CAN mean you're a big mate of the referee. It CAN mean that the referee is desperate to get rid of you.
    agathamorse likes this.

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