May 04, 2011

Negligent (non-)References

The QBD has handed down its decision in McKie v Swindon College, which is authority for the proposition that an employer may be liable to a former employee in tort for damages for negligent misstatement when communicating with a future employer about him.

It is well established, since Spring v Guardian Assurance [1995] 2 AC 296, that an employee may make such a claim following a reference negligently prepared by an employer. HH Judge Denyer QC extended this principle to a statement made by a former employer which was not a reference.

McKie was an exemplary employee of the College. He received a fine reference when he left. He later joined Bath University. His new job involved contact with his old employer, Swindon College. The new HR Director of Swindon, on behalf of the College, caused an email about Mr McKie to be sent to Bath in damaging terms. On the facts this was "fallacious and untrue" and its preparation "sloppy and slapdash". It cost Mr McKie his job at Bath.

Although this was not a reference case the Court held that a duty of care applied. The claim should succeed because the damage sustained was foreseeable, the relationship was sufficiently proximate, the claim fair, just and reasonable and there was a causal connection between the negligence in and about the sending of the email and the damage claimed.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Full judgement is at

Dr Butt became an OBE in the New Year's Honour's List. Robert Eales is Director of HR Operations at University of Cardiff, Robert Rowe continues as Director of HR at Swindon College, Bill Hunt is now Head of Higher Education at Oxford and Cherwell College and Dr Lombard's company, TIPS continues to provide psychology services to colleges in Wiltshire. The claimant is curently unemployed.