Will my employer still give me a good reference?

Your reference should be negotiated as part of your compromise agreement, and you need to work with the person representing you to make sure that this is done. You may be given a copy of the agreed reference when you receive your copy of the signed compromise agreement.

The basic reference that will be agreed is a simple acknowledgement that you worked for that organisation between the relevant dates. If, during the negotiation of your compromise agreement, relationships have been kept calm and amicable, it may be possible to negotiate specific wording which makes reference to your responsibilities and achievements, but your employer is under no obligation to agree to this.

Your employer may not be under any obligation to give you a ‘good’ reference, but, if your compromise agreement is negotiated correctly, neither will they be able to give you a ‘bad’ reference. Nor will they be able to refer in any way to the dispute that led to the compromise agreement. This constraint is the same whether the reference is requested in writing or by telephone.

If they do give you a ‘bad’ reference, and you find out about it (for instance, by asking for feedback after an unsuccessful job application) then they will have broken the terms of your compromise agreement, which means they could be liable to pay compensation. In practice, it is very unlikely that an employer would break the terms of a compromise agreement simply to ‘get back’ at a former employee by giving them a poor reference. Nevertheless, individuals may not always act professionally so it is always better to give the address of the HR department when asked for a reference, rather than contact details for your former line manager.