In a recent High Court decision, employee Dr Daniels brought a libel action against the BBC over an appraisal which referred to errors he had made, communication problems and failures to follow instructions.
At Springhouse, we advise employers to raise issues like these where they exist. You may not be able to raise them later, when you may need to.
On the other hand, employees often ask whether a poor appraisal or reference may give them a libel claim.
Fortunately for employers, therefore, this claim was unsuccessful.
To be libelous, such comments must go beyond relatively minor criticisms of the way a job is being done (in this case, by a beginner), but be serious enough to undermine their personal or professional reputation.
Furthermore, even if the criticisms were libelous, the BBC had the defence that they had a legal, moral or social duty to make them in this context, and there was no malice in their having done so. This is known as the qualified privilege defence, and it often applies to references.