It happens all the time; a former employee calls the employer for a reference. Do you provide one? What do you say? What if the employee was not a particularly stellar employee? Could it backfire on you? Do you have a work policy on who in the company can provide references?
Ahhh another area of caution…references. Let’s try to attack this very succinctly. If you provide references to past employees, be cautious. Ensure you have a policy around reference providing so both the current employees and management and your departed employees are aware of whom they go to.
I would strongly advise you have one designated individual or department that completes references. Usually I recommend that this department is HR.
Legal action CAN be taken against the company if negative statements are made about a past employee and they cause some kind of economic harm or if there is deemed to be a defamation of character.
So what DO you say? Though not all provinces have privacy laws around personal information this is growing and former employees expect you to protect their personal information. Disclose minimal information – hire date, termination or departure date, job title, duties. Feel free to pass along your policy to the reference checker – that only the above information is shared for all references.
Looking for additional protection? Upon the departure of an employee – have them sign a reference disclosure form – listing the above information and that the employee consents to this information being passed on as part of a reference check.
Key words for this blog: “Proceed with caution”