UK firms are being prevented from writing detailed job references for fear of being taken to an employment tribunal, according to new claims.
Ranjit Dhindsa, a partner at law firm Reed Smith, said that many employers were avoiding mentioning negative aspects of former employees' performances by restricting their reference to a list of dates and job titles.
She told the Birmingham Post that employers were being torn between giving an accurate but negative reference and risking an employment tribunal, or keeping it short but risking recommending a problem worker to another company.
She said: "Although previous employers are not obliged to provide references, future employers might infer from any refusal – perhaps wrongly – that the applicant has a blot on his or her record.
"On the other hand, if a former employer does give a reference they should be careful that the contents don't expose them to possible legal claims under a host of legislation ranging from data protection to discrimination."
Employers should make sure that they only delve deep enough into a candidate's employment record to see if they are suitable for the job, but not so deep as to be in breach of their human rights, she said.
Unfortunately this means that the usefulness of references in recruitment could decline, she added.