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Q: Do we have to have an employee’s written consent to provide a reference to a future employer?

A:You will be processing personal data when providing a reference and must therefore satisfy the conditions stipulated for processing data as laid down in the Data Protection Act, 1998.

It is recommended in the Data Protection Employment Practices Code contained on the Information Commissioner’s website, that employers should have a policy and procedure on giving references including the requirement that the person providing the reference is satisfied that the person for whom they are writing the reference wishes the reference to be provided. In addition, it is recommended that employers keep a record on file when an employee leaves of whether or not they wish the Company to provide a reference for them.

In many cases the employer requesting the reference provides the individual’s signed consent to a reference being sought.

If there is any doubt as to whether or not the employee has given their consent, the employer should make contact with the employee to obtain their written consent before providing a reference.

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