Requesting references

Suggested wording for staff to use when requesting references from referees.

The University receives references for staff and prospective staff in connection with job applications, and for students and prospective students in connection with applications to study.

The subjects of these references (data subjects) are entitled, under data protection legislation, to make a subject access request for copies of these references.

What to say to referees

When you request a reference we recommend you tell referees that the candidate has the right to see any references written on their behalf and references will be disclosed if requested.

Example text to use when consulting referees

Please note that the candidate has the right to see any references written on their behalf. We will disclose references to candidates if requested. If you would like to be contacted prior to disclosure to discuss this, please say so in the reference.

This means that the referee is forewarned that the reference may be shared with the data subject, and has the chance to ask the University to contact them prior to disclosure if they wish to be informed or have concerns. 

Benefits of informing referees

The benefits of informing referees of this are:

  • It is fairer to the referee as they will be aware from the outset that the reference may be shared with the data subject. 
  • If you have not told a referee that the the reference may be shared and the University receives a request for a reference,  you will need to write to the referee and inform them we intend to disclose the reference.

Advice on dealing with subject access requests for references and writing to referees is available in our guidance on responding to requests for references.

Responding to requests for references

Writing a reference

Write references on the assumption that the data subject will be able to see what you have said about them. 

References should be accurate, fair and transparent.

  • Avoid making unsubstantiated or potentially misleading statements.
  • Keep the information fact based and support your claims with evidence.
  • Avoid supposition and use qualifying statements if needed, e.g. ‘To the best of my knowledge’.

You do not need consent to provide a reference. The legal basis under Data Protection Law for provding a reference for a job or further study is *performance of a contract” as the candidate wishes to enter into an employment contract, or a contract to complete further study.  

Guidance for staff on writing references for students is available from the Careers Service.

Careers Service guidance on writing references