In regard to Reference Checks:
- Any information provided when giving a reference must comply with the Privacy Act, that is, it can only be given with the ex/employee’s consent. So before giving a reference, you should check that consent has been given.
- It is also important to only provide information for the purpose for which the permission was given, i.e. to help the prospective employer assess the person’s suitability for the job applied for. Irrelevant personal details should not be discussed.
- Under the Privacy Act a reference given to a prospective employer can be withheld from the ex-employee if it can be said to be “evaluative material” i.e. information held to determine the suitability, eligibility, or qualifications of the individual for employment, and its disclosure would breach an express or implied promise made to the person who supplied the information.
- The rule of thumb when considering what to provide in a reference or statement of employment is that it must be truthful, whether negative or positive (and be careful to not exaggerate). Let the ex-/employee know you will provide your honest views in a reference, particularly if those may not assist the person secure the role – perhaps they would prefer you only provide a written reference of areas that you can honestly speak positively about? And make it very clear at the beginning of a reference check if you do not wish what is said to be disclosed to the ex-employee.
- Remember, as an employer you are not obliged to give a reference at all. You can decline to give a reference and just provide a statement of service in writing.
- Where you have mutually agreed to part ways with your employee with an “exit arrangement”, you may be asked by the exiting employee to give a verbal reference for any new roles they apply for. Be careful not to agree to anything as part of any arrangement that would require you to mislead anyone who asks you for a reference.
- Whether or not an ex-/employee can raise a personal grievance (PG) for a negative reference will depend on whether the employment relationship had ended when the reference was given. To try to successfully defend this type of PG, it is essential that no misleading information has been provided.
For more information about reference checking, see the linked article here: