The last job I did before my current one was a bit of a disaster. There was no support and a great deal of pressure, which actually made me quite ill. I left as soon as possible, which was just over six months from starting. Unfortunately leaving didn't go smoothly.

My contract stated that I could leave with two weeks notice, until I had been there for six months AND had a six month progress review. This then increased to four weeks from the start of the calendar month. I handed in my noticed a couple of days beyond the six month mark, but before I had the review, so only needed two weeks notice. In fact I gave four weeks, which I felt was fair and usual.

A week after handing in my notice the company decided that they wanted me to do an extra two weeks to cover my replacement being on holiday for that period. They cited the four weeks from the start of the month rule, which would have required me to work those weeks if they had done the review. I refused, as I had already told me new employer when I would start.

The company refused to accept this and as far as they are concerned I didn't turn up for work, so was fired. Needless to say they won't give me a good reference. I disputed it but at the time I was unwell and just relieved to get away, so didn't ask for arbitration or anything.

When I move on again the new company will ask for references from my two previous employers. How is it best to handle this?

  • So in short the company changed their terms, you disagreed with the new terms, and thus you left - seems like a perfectly reasonable explanation to me. Commented Aug 22, 2014 at 13:30
  • 1
    How best to handle this under what circumstances? Interviewing? Resume writing? Running into people on the train?
    – KatieK
    Commented Aug 22, 2014 at 16:32
  • When changing job the new employer will ask for references from the last two employers.
    – user
    Commented Aug 22, 2014 at 19:50
  • Can you get a reference from someone not directly involved in the unpleasantness over your departure? e.g. a senior team member who was not your direct manager? Or a former manager no longer at the company? Commented Aug 22, 2014 at 23:50
  • Another way is simply to omit the employment from your CV and say you were travelling or studying over that period.
    – Miguel
    Commented Dec 9, 2019 at 23:57

2 Answers 2


Be honest.

The company did not meet my expectations so I resigned. I worked through the entire notice time but the company insisted that I'd work longer than that, I couldn't, however. As a result they are not willing to give me a proper reference.

Focus on what you learned during your stay at the company, at least you got some experience which is better than starting with nothing. In both cases there is no reference, but now you're not exactly at square zero.

  • +1 Based on what I read about the UK handling of notices, I believe that @jonast92 has a good answer. Commented Aug 22, 2014 at 12:25
  • My concern is that they will want to contact the old company to get their side of the story. They will say I was sacked for not turning up or giving the contractually agreed amount of notice. As such it will be my word against theirs. It seems unfair that I should be penalized for their mistake, but the only other option is to sue them it appears.
    – user
    Commented Aug 22, 2014 at 15:37

In the UK there's a somewhat common misconception that it is illegal to provide a bad reference. Whilst not strictly true, it does leave the company open to litigation under Workers Right's legislation. There's limited information on the GOV.UK website on options available to you if it causes you loss e.g. a job offer being withdrawn.

As you've stated, most UK recruiters will want the last 2 or 3 employers as references. If this is the case, then being up-front and honest about the circumstances under which you left your previous post will prepare them for a less than glowing reference or a refusal to provide a reference from your previous employer.

If you're performing well in your current role and there are no problems then your current reference should be positive. If they only ask for 2 and you have sufficient work history offer to provide a 3rd reference from your employer previous to the job you left under bad terms.

Explain that you don't feel that your previous employers reference, due to the circumstances you've already explained, will provide a genuine reflection of your performance and work ethic and you can provide additional references that indicate this.

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