Where a job applicant does not give their current or most recent employer as a named referee, can this employer be contacted instead of the named referee?

The Employment practices data protection code, issued by the Information Commissioner, specifies that employers should always obtain a job applicant's signed consent before seeking any information about them from a third party. Job applicants have the right to know in advance what the prospective employer's intentions are in respect of any proposed reference checks before the checks are instigated.

Although the code relates to the Data Protection Act 1998, rather than the General Data Protection Regulation (2016/679 EU) regime, it remains useful for employers, pending updated guidance from the Information Commissioner, as the underlying data protection principles remain the same.

An employer should not, without the job applicant's specific written consent, seek to contact their current or most recent employer for a reference. Employers should also respect any request from job applicants not to contact their current employer until they have given formal notification of their resignation.