I'm looking to apply for a position advertised on an employers website. They only accept online applications answering their specific questions. One of the forms is for references, of which one must be your current employer and is mandatory at this stage.
I have no doubt my line manager, or indeed MD of the company would have any issue giving me a good reference however I do not wish to alert them that I am looking at another position until I am certain I would like to go ahead with it and I have an offer.
So my question is: When are references normally checked in these circumstances? If not before an offer is made and/or accepted (pending references), why make them mandatory at the beginning of the process?