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Cruxes of the job reference

The job reference is an important factor when hiring employees. With a sub-optimally written job reference, one is often not even invited to the job interview.

What is particularly important to pay attention to in the content of the reference? What are the underlying legal requirements that are placed on a job reference?

An employee may request a job reference from the employer at any time. During the current employment relationship, the employee is entitled to an interim reference. This may also state the reason why one was issued (for example, change of superiors or reorganization of the company). If an employment relationship has been terminated, the employer must issue a final reference to the employee. Both the interim and the final reference are so-called “qualified references” or “full references”, since in addition to the nature and duration of the employment relationship, they also comment on the employee’s performance and conduct.

To be distinguished from this is the work confirmation (so-called “simple certificate”), which is limited only to information about the nature and duration of the activity. If the employee has only a work confirmation, this can be associated with question marks in the application process on the part of the employer. However, it has the advantage that criminal offenses or other serious misconduct, which would be mentioned in the full certificate, are not – at least not right from the start. In any case, the employee himself can choose whether he wants a certificate of employment, a full certificate or both.

On the one hand, the job reference is intended to promote the employee’s career advancement, which is why it should be worded in a benevolent manner. On the other hand, the future employer should receive as true a reflection as possible of the employee’s activity, performance and conduct, which is why it must be fundamentally true and complete.

In this sense, a full reference must also mention negative facts with regard to the employee’s performance, insofar as these are significant for the overall assessment. Individual incidents that are not representative of the overall picture of the employee must be omitted. Analogous considerations apply in connection with illnesses. These may only be mentioned in the employer’s reference if they have a significant influence on the performance or behavior at work and are representative.

The termination and the reason for termination (for example, career advancement or dismissal for business reasons) shall be included in the employer’s reference at the employee’s request. Without the consent of the employee, the reason for termination may only be listed if otherwise a materially false overall impression would be created.

In the event of incorrect, incomplete or ambiguous content or other violations of testimonial principles, the employee is entitled to a claim for correction. If necessary, we will be happy to review your reference or advise you as an employer on its form.

AMATIN AG  Rechtsanwälte / Rechtsberatung  │  Attorneys at Law / Counselors  │  Conseiller Juridiques / Avocats

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Martin BoosAttorney at Law, Partner

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Roman Kälin-BurgyAttorney at Law, Partner

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+41 61 202 91 91

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