References and employment history

COVID-19 indemnity and litigation

Seeking a reference continues to play an important part in an employer's overall assessment of an individual's suitability when recruiting to NHS positions. 

As a minimum, employers should seek at least one reference from the individual’s current or previous employer either via email or over the phone. Permission should always be sought from the candidate before approaching their current employer.

Where more than one reference can be practically obtained, as government restrictions ease, these should be obtained as outlined in the pre-existing NHS Employers pre-employment check standard.

Where NHS staff are being redeployed to a different NHS organisation, employers should aim to seek verification from HR on what information may be readily available about the individual on personnel systems, such as ESR. 

In all cases, information should be sufficient enough to enable the employer to check any gaps or inconsistencies between information provided and in the candidate's application and self-declaration forms obtained as part of the wider check process. 

Where references are provided over the phone, employers should record a written account and ask the referee to confirm that this is an accurate reflection of the information they have provided. This information should be retained and stored. 

Where it is genuinely impossible for a reference to be obtained, for example, if the individual’s current or last employer has been forced to close because of COVID-19, employers should base their recruitment decision on what information they can reasonably obtain as part of the interview and checking stages. Reasons for the recruitment decision and details of all efforts to obtain a reference should be recorded on file, this should also include any reasons as to why information could not be obtained.

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