Labour Research March 2016

Law Queries


Q. A member has had a job offer withdrawn on the basis of an unsatisfactory written reference from her existing employer. Can she get hold of a copy?

A. It depends who she asks. In accordance with the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA 98), individuals have a right of access to personal information held about them (known as data subject access). However, there is an exemption in relation to confidential references.

This exemption only applies to references which have been given, not to those which have been received.

If she asks her current employer and the reference was given in confidence, she will probably not be entitled to a copy because of the DPA 98 exemption. That’s not to say it isn’t worth asking. The employer may give it to her anyway. However, if she asks the recipient of the reference, she will almost certainly be entitled to a copy. 

Your member could make a data subject access request under the DPA 98. The ICO has produced guidance on how to do this, along with draft template letters: 

Your member may be asked for a subject access fee of £10.