A row between the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) and a recruitment agency about confidential job references could have serious implications for businesses that employ people working with children.
The Information Commissioner’s Office has told Tinies, which has 25 branches in the UK supplying nursery workers, to disclose previously confidential references from former employers to staff.
The dispute began when a nursery nurse requested to see a reference under the Data Protection Act after failing to secure a job through Tinies. The company is now fighting the Information Commissioner’s Office’s ruling.
Ben Black, director of Tinies, said the possibility of disclosure could prevent former employers from giving honest references and could put children at risk.
“A reference which merely confirms dates of employment might be fine for some industries, but it’s not really sufficient in the childcare market,” he said. “Anything that stops nursery managers giving people like us full references should be fought tooth and nail.”
But a spokeswoman for the Information Commissioner’s Office said the Data Protection Act did not stop employers from giving honest and open references. “The Act gives individuals the right to find out what information an organisation holds on them. This includes the right to request a copy of references provided by their previous employer,” she said.
All employees have a right to request a copy of their references, she added.