Do Employers Need Consent to Check References?

 We have heard the stories about employers “googling” prospective employees to see if there is anything in their online presence that would suggest that the candidate would not be a good employee.  While the information found via internet search is “public” knowledge, the rest of a candidate’s background check is not.

The short answer: YES!  PIPEDA, the Personal Information and Protection of Electronic Documents Act, contains provisions around the collection and use of personal information. This includes research into a candidate employee’s background.

In fact, universities and colleges will not provide an employer with information on a student unless the employer can produce a signed consent form.  This can make it very difficult to verify the candidate’s education and training. The inability to verify the information does not relieve the employer of risk should it be discovered that the candidate does not possess a required educational  or professional certificate.

If you are hiring staff, whether you are a professional recruiter or a business owner taking it on themselves, remember to get a separate, signed authorization to perform the reference and background check.  You could be at risk for Privacy Act violations!

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