Skip To Content

Athabasca University

< back to guidelines

AU Employees Providing Written and Verbal References for Other Employees and Students

The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy (FOIP) Act, R.S.A. 2000, c. F-25 regulates the disclosure of personal information by Athabasca University (AU) employees. The FOIP Act defines personal information as recorded information about an identifiable individual, including anyone else's opinions about the individual.

Section 40(1)(d) of the FOIP Act states that AU may disclose an individual's personal information only if the individual has identified the personal information and consented, in the prescribed manner, to the disclosure.

Section 6 of the FOIP Regulation states that the consent must be in writing and must specify to whom the personal information may be disclosed and how the personal information may be used.

Employees who provide written or verbal references must obtain the individual's written consent.

Two forms have been drafted for employees to use when an individual requests a reference. One is for when another employee asks you to provide a reference and the other is for when a student asks you to provide a reference. A letter or email from the individual is acceptable, so long as the letter or email specifies to whom the personal information may be disclosed and how the personal information may be used.

Section 40(1)(x) of the FOIP Act allows an employee of AU to disclose personal information about another employee or former employee for the purpose of providing a reference within AU without obtaining the consent of the employee or former employee.

Any recorded information provided with the request for a reference (e.g., letter of reference) must be kept for one year and may be accessible under FOIP Act in certain situations. It is highly recommended that the employee providing the reference keep a copy of the consent for one year.

It is preferable that an individual agree to have his or her consent in effect for a specified period (one year is recommended).

Office of the University Secretariat, January 2006

Updated May 30 2014 by Office of the University Secretariat

AU, CANADA'S OPEN UNIVERSITY, is an internationally recognized leader in online and distance learning.