There are many reasons you may be asked to write a letter of employment, also known as an employment verification letter, for a past employee. The difficulty is knowing what information to include and, most importantly, what not to include.
This article explains what a letter of employment is, when you might need to write one, how to do so, and some alternative ways an employee’s work history can be validated.
- What Is a Letter of Employment?
- Why Might You Need to Write a Letter of Employment?
- How Is an Employment Verification Letter Different to a Background Check or Reference?
- How Do I Write an Employment Verification Letter?
- Formatting Your Employment Verification Letter
- Sample Employment Verification Letter
- Alternative Ways to Verify Employment
- Final Thoughts
What Is a Letter of Employment?
A letter of employment, or an employment verification letter, is a formal correspondence to validate an employee’s work history.
You will generally be asked to write a letter of employment by the employee themselves or an interested third party.
Why Might You Need to Write a Letter of Employment?
An employee might need to validate their work history in the following contexts:
- A prospective employer needs to confirm the information provided by the employee on their job application.
- The employee is applying for a mortgage, credit card or loan, and the lender needs to confirm they can maintain the repayments.
- The employee wants to rent a property and the landlord needs to confirm they can afford the rent.
- For immigration or visa purposes.
- To obtain an expedited passport to travel urgently on business.
How Is an Employment Verification Letter Different to a Background Check or Reference?
A background check will verify everything about an employee’s background, from their employment history to their previous addresses to whether they have a criminal record.
A reference check will be broader and often include details about the employee’s work performance, personality and work ethic.
In contrast, an employment verification letter will only include factual details about the employee’s employment, such as their job title and how long they have worked at the company. Its purpose is only to confirm an employee’s work history and eligibility to work.
How Do I Write an Employment Verification Letter?
To structure your letter correctly, follow these guidelines in order.
1. Who Are You?
The way you approach writing a letter of employment will depend on who you are:
- The employee’s employer – In this situation, you will have full control over the content of the letter. However, you must ensure you respect the privacy of your employee. If you disclose too much information and the employee suffers harm (such as not getting a job) because of your letter, you could face legal action for defamation or discrimination.
- The employee – If you are writing your own letter of employment, you can worry less about the repercussions of what you say. However, your employer must approve the contents of your letter and add their own signature to authenticate it.
2. Information You Should Include
Every employment verification letter should include the following information:
- Contact details
- Position in relation to the employee
- Dates of employment
Be aware that in some states, you will be required to obtain a signed release form from your employee to disclose any information in your employment verification letter.
3. Information You Should Not Include
There are no federal employment laws regarding what an employer can and cannot disclose regarding their employees and former employees. However, civil protections and state laws add additional protections for employees.
Employers should take a defensive stance when writing letters of employment, to avoid any expensive and time-consuming legal challenges by the employee.
Employment verification letters should only include verifiable facts, and not include details relating to the employee’s performance or overall character. Familiarize yourself with your state laws and keep your letter short and to the point.
Here are some key points on what not to include:
- Confidential information regarding performance. It is generally not good practice to mention the employee’s performance in an employment verification letter, due to the potential damage to the employee’s reputation and the legal pitfalls. In some states, it is actually illegal to mention an employee's performance.
- Class-protected information. Employers are not allowed to disclose any information which is class-protected and discriminatory towards the employee.
This includes the employee’s health, disability, religion, sexual orientation and marital status. Never include this information in your employee verification letter.
- Financial information, unless the employee consents and it is necessary. You should not include financial information, eg details of salary, bonuses or overtime, unless the employee has expressly authorized you to do so.
Before including financial information, consider whether it is essential for the requester’s purpose. For example, while a prospective employer might be interested in the employee’s salary, they do not need it to make an informed decision about the employee’s suitability for the job.
Conversely, a bank will need financial information to make an informed decision about whether to offer the employee a mortgage.
- Incorrect information. Obviously, an employer is not permitted to disclose incorrect information maliciously. However, there could also be adverse consequences if you unknowingly do so.
Do your due diligence. If you are the employer, have a meeting with the employee to confirm the information and authorize its disclosure.
If you are the employee, ensure all information is checked with the relevant workplace departments (for example, Payroll), and ensure your employer is happy to sign your letter.
Other things employers should not disclose include:
- Historic or pardoned criminal convictions
- Whether an employee has a valid driving licence
- Whether an employee has ever failed a drugs test
- Credit reports and score
- Bankruptcy filings
4. Who Is Your Recipient and Why Do They Need This Information?
Any other information that you choose to include, in addition to the dates of employment, is dependent on the identity of the requester and the context in which the letter of employment has been requested.
Here are some examples of information you could include within specific contexts:
Letter to a Prospective Employer
In addition to the above information, you may also want to include:
- The employee’s job title
- A brief description of the employee’s job role and responsibilities
- The employee’s salary
In some states, it is illegal for employers to inquire about an employee's salary. If you are an employee, do not feel obligated to disclose your salary history.
If you are an employer, you should obtain written consent from the employee before disclosing any financial information.
Letter to a Lender Concerning a Mortgage, Loan Application, Credit Card Application or Rental Application
In this situation, the requester wants to know if the employee is in steady employment and can maintain payments. They will require financial information but no information regarding the employee’s job role and responsibilities.
Make sure you include:
- The employee’s salary
- Details of any bonuses or overtime payments received during their employment
A Letter to Support an Application for a Green Card or Other Immigration Visas
For example, if the employee’s spouse is seeking to live in the country, they may need to provide evidence that they can support them. These employment verification letters should include:
- The employee’s job title
- A description of the employee’s responsibilities
- Salary details
You may also want to get the letter notarized to add to its authenticity.
Formatting Your Employment Verification Letter
To give your employment verification letter legitimacy, it needs to be written in formal business English and impeccably formatted. Here are some tips for formatting your letter:
- Use the employer’s letterhead.
- Write the company’s address and the date at the top of the page.
- After the company’s address, but before the salutation, insert a subject line stating the purpose of the letter. For example, ‘Subject: Employment Verification for [employee’s name]’.
- Address the letter to a specific person, or, if you do not know the name of the recipient, address the letter to the company.
- If you do not know the name of a specific person or company, address the letter ‘To Whom it May Concern’.
- After the salutation, use a colon instead of a comma as this is considered more formal.
Sample Employment Verification Letter
Here is an example to help you get started:
Subject: Employment Verification for [Employee]
To Whom It May Concern:
I am [Employee’s] line manager. I am writing to confirm that [Employee] has worked in a full-time capacity at this company since June 2017, in the position of Retail Sales Manager. Her responsibilities include driving sales of our products to supermarkets and other retail buyers, and promoting our brand. [Employee] also manages a team of four sales assistants.
If you have any further questions or require additional information, please do not hesitate to contact me on [phone number] or by emailing [email address].
[Your job title]
Alternative Ways to Verify Employment
Depending on the amount and type of information requested, it may be more convenient to use one of these alternatives to verify an employee’s employment:
1. Fill out the Requester’s Verification Form
Some companies will provide you with a form to complete. Take care to fill in the sections as accurately as possible. However, look out for any questions which appear to ask you for confidential information. Never disclose confidential information, even if asked directly.
2. Pick up the Phone
Sometimes it is easier to call the requester and verify the employee’s employment over the phone.
However, you cannot do this if you are the employee yourself. Also, certain requesters may require the verification in writing. For example, a bank may need written confirmation of an employee's salary before it can offer a mortgage.
3. Use Your Payroll Vendor
If you have been asked to provide financial information, it may be easier to print the information directly from your payroll vendor.
Here's a summary of the key points included in this article to help you get started on your employment verification letter:
- Think about who has asked you to write the letter and why.
- Include the employer’s contact details and print the letter on the employer’s letterhead.
- Include the employee’s name and the dates of their employment.
- Only include details about the employee’s job responsibilities and financial information if necessary.
- Familiarize yourself with your state’s laws about what information you can and cannot include.
- Avoid including information regarding the employee’s work performance.
- Never mention class-protected characteristics such as disability or sexual orientation.
- Use formal business English and include the employer’s signature.
Learning how to write a letter for proof of employment is a matter of understanding exactly what information can and can’t be included. Just remember to keep your letter precise and to the point, and never be tempted to overshare.
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