Privacy guidelines and storing information
With job applications, resumes, interview notes and reference checks, you’ll wind up gathering a lot of personal information about candidates. It’s legally required that you collect and store this information in compliance with the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA).
Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act
The FIPPA regulates how public body employers collect, use and disclose personal information in BC. Public bodies include government ministries, municipalities (including municipal police), public hospitals, schools, universities, colleges and public libraries.
What counts as personal information?
Personal information is any recorded information about an identifiable individual. It includes their name, address, telephone number, race, national or ethnic origin, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital or family status, blood type, healthcare history and educational, financial and employment history.
What does this mean for the selection process?
The FIPPA has a number of implications for the hiring process. Among other things, it dictates how you need to collect and store applicant information, how you talk to others about the candidate, how you check references and who you can contact when doing so.
If you are using an individual’s personal information to make a decision that directly affects the individual, you must retain the information for at least one year after its use. This means that a school district must retain all personal information collected about all job applicants (and not just the successful candidate) during the recruitment and decision-making process for at least one year.
Issues to keep in mind during reference checks
Conduct background checks only after the candidate has signed a consent and release of liability form. Keep the following points in mind to ensure your reference checks comply with legal requirements:
- only contact references if the candidate has given you consent to do so,
- have all candidates sign a statement saying that they understand that you will not share any information from your discussion with the referee,
- ask the referee if they expect the reference discussion to be held in confidence, and
- ensure that if you are taking notes during a reference check that you are only recording what the referee is saying, and not adding in your own interpretation or comments.
You will need to store information about job applicants in a place where it remains confidential and is accessible only to those overseeing the hiring process.
When developing your application form, it might be a good idea include your district’s policy around collecting and using information. You may want to include a statement such as the following on your application form:
“The personal information we collect as part of the application process for employment, transfer or promotion is used to evaluate an applicant’s qualifications for the position applied for. School District No. 101 will make every effort to ensure that the personal information provided by applicants is used for this purpose only and will be handled in accordance with the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act and the school district’s policies and procedures manual. The district will retain application information for one year.”