ASK HR: My former employer won’t give me a recommendation letter


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Q. I worked in a certain company for 13 years. I resigned in December 2016, giving 30 days’ notice as required, however, my employer did not acknowledge my resignation notice, and no one was available for handover. After the lapse of the notice period, I  left. I had compiled a handover report, which I left in my supervisor’s office. Since then I have tried to get him on phone for clearance and a recommendation letter in vain. I was also not paid for years served. I got a new job but I cannot yet join the company since I am required to provide a recommendation letter from my former employer. I risk losing this new chance.

It is unusual that you served your 30-day notice period without an opportunity to meet your former supervisor after a relatively long tenure. Individuals experience smoother transitions from their organisations when they first raise the subject of their intended departure verbally, prior to formally handing in their resignation letters.  

Employment legislation requires an employer to issue an employee with a certificate of service upon termination of employment unless the employment was less than four consecutive weeks.

A certificate of service contains basic information, including the name and address of the employer; name of the employee; employment date; nature and place of employment and date when employment ceased. This document is obtainable from the HR department, the custodians of employment records.

An employer who fails to provide a certificate of service commits an offence and is upon conviction, liable to a fine not exceeding Sh100,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months, or both.

Note too that upon resignation, an employee is not entitled to payment in compensation for their years of service, otherwise known as severance pay. This only applies when the company prompts the employee’s departure for reasons unrelated to the employee.

Be candid with your prospective employer about your predicament. And if indeed a recommendation letter is needed, there certainly are credible individuals who after 13 years of working with them, could corroborate your capability and character. 

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