British Columbia’s Privacy Commissioner has issued Guidelines for public body employers to assist them in being privacy complaint when checking references. While directed to public bodies in British Columbia and based on the BC Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, these Guidelines may also be of assistance to private sector employer compliance with privacy legislation.

The Guidelines make it clear that reference checks are to be limited to collecting past work information from the references that the applicant has provided. If those references are not deemed to be adequate, the applicant needs to be asked to provide additional references. Checks ought not to be undertaken without the knowledge and consent of the applicant.