Data Protection - Staff Handbook
23. FAQs - Confidential References
23.1 Q: Can the University withhold references received from an external body?
A: No. References received by the University from an external source are covered by the subject access provisions and will generally be disclosed in response to a Subject Access Request.
In respect of disclosure it is a matter of judgement as to whether disclosure would cause a third party substantial distress or damage. If this is thought not to be the case the Data Protection Officer will disclose. If doubt exists the Data Protection Officer will seek third party consent.
23.2 Q: Can the University withhold references given by the University to an external body?
A: Yes. References given by staff to external bodies are exempt from the subject access provisions and need not be disclosed to the data subject. If a data subject wants to see such a reference they should put in a subject access request to the person or institution receiving the reference.
However there is nothing to prevent an individual referee disclosing a reference to a data subject if they so wish. The University takes the view that it is good practice for personal references to be of an ‘open’ nature.
23.3 Q: Can the University withhold references that are internal to the University?
A: Yes. However, the University has absolute discretion in this matter and generally speaking references given within the University, i.e. given by a member of University staff such as a head of school, about another member of staff (or a student), should be treated in the same way as references received from an external source. This should be made clear to any member of staff who is asked to write such a reference and this most frequently happens at Newcastle during the promotions exercise. Again, the University takes the view that it is good practice for personal references to be of an ‘open’ nature.