Employee Personnel File
An employee file, or personnel record, is a group of documents that contain all relevant information about an employee’s time in your employment, from their job application to their resignation letter.
You may be confused about what should be in an employee file or wondering how long you should keep the information for. In this guide, we’ve created an employee files checklist to help you gather all the right documents and answer many common questions you may have.
Why You Need Personnel Files

Personnel files are considered as a track record of important paperwork for your employees. It can be viewed during a government audit or subpoenaed in case of a wrongful termination lawsuit. Those are both good reasons to maintain accurate up-to-date files.

Let’s take two scenarios:
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Scenario 1: Wrongful Termination Lawsuit

Cindy was fired from your company for performance. She had three poor performance reviews in 18 months, and she was not meeting any of her goals. You terminated her employment for performance and gave her two weeks of severance pay in lieu of two weeks’ notice.

A few days later, you get a call from an HR attorney. Cindy has claimed she was fired for being over the age of 40. She says you are discriminating against her because of her age.

The HR department would look in her file and find nothing in the folder but tax forms and her job application. Her performance reviews were not filed. It’s now your word against hers. You may need to call your attorney.

To prevent this, document employee performance reviews in the staff member’s personnel file and also include your reasons for termination, such as notes on constructive performance conversations. Documentation of why Cindy was terminated wouldn’t completely prevent her from suing for wrongful termination, but it would make clear the reason why she was terminated and the poor performance that led up to it.

Better yet, also have an employee handbook and obtain employees’ signatures on any policies such as anti-discrimination or harassment prevention that require reporting of any incidents.
Scenario 2: Independent Contractor

Johnny was a part-time independent contractor with your company whom you chose to terminate because you needed a full-time employee in the office. You offered the role to Johnny and he said no; therefore, you posted the role on a jobseekers' website, found a great candidate and hired them.

A day later, you hear from an attorney for Johnny who says you broke an implied contract. It is unclear what he meant by that. Johnny’s contract in his personnel file is then looked at and you find that the folder is more than a year old. You look through your emails and see that your boss wrote to Johnny and said he could keep working through January 1st, which is several months away. Johnny now has a case against you.

To prevent this, every contractor agreement, employment contract, and any other document of a legal nature should be kept in the worker’s personnel file folder and signed by both parties. Contracts also need to be maintained with current dates and updated annually as needed.
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An employee file, or personnel record, is a group of documents that contain all relevant information about an employee’s time in your employment, from their job application to their resignation letter.
You may be confused about what should be in an employee file or wondering how long you should keep the information for. In this guide, we’ve created an employee files checklist to help you gather all the right documents and answer many common questions you may have.
Why You Need Personnel Files

Personnel files are considered as a track record of important paperwork for your employees. It can be viewed during a government audit or subpoenaed in case of a wrongful termination lawsuit. Those are both good reasons to maintain accurate up-to-date files.

Let’s take two scenarios:
Image
Scenario 1: Wrongful Termination Lawsuit

Cindy was fired from your company for performance. She had three poor performance reviews in 18 months, and she was not meeting any of her goals. You terminated her employment for performance and gave her two weeks of severance pay in lieu of two weeks’ notice.

A few days later, you get a call from an HR attorney. Cindy has claimed she was fired for being over the age of 40. She says you are discriminating against her because of her age.

The HR department would look in her file and find nothing in the folder but tax forms and her job application. Her performance reviews were not filed. It’s now your word against hers. You may need to call your attorney.

To prevent this, document employee performance reviews in the staff member’s personnel file and also include your reasons for termination, such as notes on constructive performance conversations. Documentation of why Cindy was terminated wouldn’t completely prevent her from suing for wrongful termination, but it would make clear the reason why she was terminated and the poor performance that led up to it.

Better yet, also have an employee handbook and obtain employees’ signatures on any policies such as anti-discrimination or harassment prevention that require reporting of any incidents.
Image
Scenario 2: Independent Contractor

Johnny was a part-time independent contractor with your company whom you chose to terminate because you needed a full-time employee in the office. You offered the role to Johnny and he said no; therefore, you posted the role on a jobseekers' website, found a great candidate and hired them.

A day later, you hear from an attorney for Johnny who says you broke an implied contract. It is unclear what he meant by that. Johnny’s contract in his personnel file is then looked at and you find that the folder is more than a year old. You look through your emails and see that your boss wrote to Johnny and said he could keep working through January 1st, which is several months away. Johnny now has a case against you.

To prevent this, every contractor agreement, employment contract, and any other document of a legal nature should be kept in the worker’s personnel file folder and signed by both parties. Contracts also need to be maintained with current dates and updated annually as needed.
Employee File Folder Checklist
The checklist of the employee file folder can be used, one per employee, to make sure you have all the documents needed for that employee’s file. If a paper file folder is being used, stapling the checklist inside the folder would be a good idea. Then, each time you open it, you can see what you have or what’s missing in the employee’s personnel file. Otherwise, an electronic copy is kept, with all the employee’s other employment documents online, as a kind of “master list.”
What to Keep in Employee Files?

Employee file contents will vary from person to person, but we think there are a few key aspects that should be included.

The things to include in an employee’s personnel file are:
  • Job application, CV and cover letter
  • Education and past employment info
  • Role description
  • Job offer letter and employment contract
  • Confirmation letter
  • Emergency contact information
  • Training records
  • Payroll and benefits information (but not bank details)
  • Performance appraisal forms
  • Increments and bonus letter
  • Disciplinary action reports
  • Employee resignation letter
  • Exit interview documentation
  • Any other documentation related to employment
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What Shouldn’t Be in Employee Files?

Any information that is not relevant to the employee’s role, for example, their ethnicity or details about a disability, should not be included in their personnel file.

It is also best not to include any observations or opinions about the employee in their file: the information should be limited to just facts.
Optional Items to Include in Employee Personnel Files

Optional Items to Include in Employee Personnel Files

  • Educational transcripts— if you use a Learning Management System or online training portal, your employees’ training and certifications will likely be stored electronically
  • Goal setting records— if you use Performance Management software, your employee goal setting documents will likely be stored electronically
Managing employee personnel files becomes more and more complicated when your business grows. All-in-one HR, benefits, and payroll software can be implemented since they let employees self-onboard, electronically sign paperwork, enrol in benefits, and more, all online. Furthermore, a fully integrated payroll and time-tracking tools can be implemented to help you manage everything about your employees in one place.
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Who has the Authority to See Employees’ Personnel Records?

Due to the private information contained in an employee file, such as home address or details of any disciplinary action, you should ensure they are protected, and access limited. Employees themselves, their direct manager and HR staff must be the only ones allowed access to view their files.
How Long to Keep Employee Files?

General Data Protection Regulation came into effect in several countries and laid out strict rules surrounding employers’ responsibility to protect their employees’ data.

You cannot simply get rid of all of the employee’s information when they leave your employment. Law might legally require you to keep hold of some data like payroll details, as it’s best practice to keep other information in case a past employee makes a claim against you. If you’ve deleted records of appraisals, disciplinary action or benefits, you won’t be able to present evidence that you followed employment laws.
Image
For unsuccessful job candidates, it’s a good idea to keep their information for at least 6 months after they apply. For past employees, some general rules may include:

  • Working Time (details of when the employee worked for you) – 2 years
  • Payroll and details about any maternity and paternity leave taken – 3 years
  • Personnel files and training records – 6 years
Under the same laws, employees have a right to be told:

  • what information you have about them and how you use it
  • the confidentiality of the records
  • whether these records can help with their training and development at work
Image
You are required to provide data from these files if requested by the employee within a certain period of time specified by the country's employee protection laws.
Image
Image
The checklist of the employee file folder can be used, one per employee, to make sure you have all the documents needed for that employee’s file. If a paper file folder is being used, stapling the checklist inside the folder would be a good idea. Then, each time you open it, you can see what you have or what’s missing in the employee’s personnel file. Otherwise, an electronic copy is kept, with all the employee’s other employment documents online, as a kind of “master list.”
What to Keep in Employee Files?

Employee file contents will vary from person to person, but we think there are a few key aspects that should be included.

The things to include in an employee’s personnel file are:
 
  • Job application, CV and cover letter
  • Education and past employment info
  • Role description
  • Job offer letter and employment contract
  • Confirmation letter
  • Emergency contact information
  • Training records
  • Payroll and benefits information (but not bank details)
  • Performance appraisal forms
  • Increments and bonus letter
  • Disciplinary action reports
  • Employee resignation letter
  • Exit interview documentation
  • Any other documentation related to employment
 
Image
What Shouldn’t Be in Employee Files?

Any information that is not relevant to the employee’s role, for example, their ethnicity or details about a disability, should not be included in their personnel file.

It is also best not to include any observations or opinions about the employee in their file: the information should be limited to just facts.
Image
Optional Items to Include in Employee Personnel Files

Optional Items to Include in Employee Personnel Files

  • Educational transcripts— if you use a Learning Management System or online training portal, your employees’ training and certifications will likely be stored electronically
  • Goal setting records— if you use Performance Management software, your employee goal setting documents will likely be stored electronically
Managing employee personnel files becomes more and more complicated when your business grows. All-in-one HR, benefits, and payroll software can be implemented since they let employees self-onboard, electronically sign paperwork, enrol in benefits, and more, all online. Furthermore, a fully integrated payroll and time-tracking tools can be implemented to help you manage everything about your employees in one place.
Who has the Authority to See Employees’ Personnel Records?

Due to the private information contained in an employee file, such as home address or details of any disciplinary action, you should ensure they are protected, and access limited. Employees themselves, their direct manager and HR staff must be the only ones allowed access to view their files.
How Long to Keep Employee Files?

General Data Protection Regulation came into effect in several countries and laid out strict rules surrounding employers’ responsibility to protect their employees’ data.

You cannot simply get rid of all of the employee’s information when they leave your employment. Law might legally require you to keep hold of some data like payroll details, as it’s best practice to keep other information in case a past employee makes a claim against you. If you’ve deleted records of appraisals, disciplinary action or benefits, you won’t be able to present evidence that you followed employment laws.
Image
For unsuccessful job candidates, it’s a good idea to keep their information for at least 6 months after they apply. For past employees, some general rules may include:
 
  • Working Time (details of when the employee worked for you) – 2 years
  • Payroll and details about any maternity and paternity leave taken – 3 years
  • Personnel files and training records – 6 years
 
Image
Under the same laws, employees have a right to be told:

 
  • what information you have about them and how you use it
  • the confidentiality of the records
  • whether these records can help with their training and development at work
 
Image
You are required to provide data from these files if requested by the employee within a certain period of time specified by the country's employee protection laws.
Where to Keep Employee Files?
For many businesses, the days of keeping employee documents in a locked, fire-proof cabinet are fast becoming history. The most reliable, safest method of keeping employee personnel files in one place is storing them within an HR software.
Image
Implementing an HR software helps keep important documents secure and limit the people who can access them. Personal details of employees can be accessed and edited by them, if they need to be updated, freeing up admin time for the company.

Modern software is housed in the cloud, which will make it accessible from anywhere. This is very useful now as more and more workers are starting to work remotely or have flexible working patterns which allow them to work from home some days a week.
Furthermore, any queries employees may have about their role or responsibilities can be answered by viewing their employment contract and job description on the software. This will reduce the amount of time you use up by answering common questions from employees, leaving you free to focus on your business.
Image
Need help with your company's employee personnel files? Call or email us today to find out how we can help you.
For many businesses, the days of keeping employee documents in a locked, fire-proof cabinet are fast becoming history. The most reliable, safest method of keeping employee personnel files in one place is storing them within an HR software.
Image
Implementing an HR software helps keep important documents secure and limit the people who can access them. Personal details of employees can be accessed and edited by them, if they need to be updated, freeing up admin time for the company.

Modern software is housed in the cloud, which will make it accessible from anywhere. This is very useful now as more and more workers are starting to work remotely or have flexible working patterns which allow them to work from home some days a week.
Image
Furthermore, any queries employees may have about their role or responsibilities can be answered by viewing their employment contract and job description on the software. This will reduce the amount of time you use up by answering common questions from employees, leaving you free to focus on your business.
Need help with your company's employee personnel files? Call or email us today to find out how we can help you.
Every SME Can Become Large
InTune Outsourcing - Creating Financially Driven Businesses and Entrepreneurs.
Every SME Can Become Large
InTune Outsourcing - Creating Financially Driven Businesses and Entrepreneurs.

About InTune Outsourcing Services

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InTune Outsourcing was founded in 2007 as an outsourcing and business consultancy firm geared to the needs of small and medium sized enterprises.

Find Out More About Us


About InTune Outsourcing Services

Quick Link

Facebook


InTune Outsourcing was founded in 2007 as an outsourcing and business consultancy firm geared to the needs of small and medium sized enterprises.

Find Out More About Us


About InTune Outsourcing Services


InTune Outsourcing was founded in 2007 as an outsourcing and business consultancy firm geared to the needs of small and medium sized enterprises.

Find Out More About Us

Facebook