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What should be in a personnel file?

What should be in a personnel file?

If you own, operate or manage a business or human resource function of a company, you may be all too familiar with a personnel file. Depending on how your company sets up their system, the files may be created differently or contain more or less information. In larger companies, there may be multiple files per employee to keep confidential information hidden.

According to HR professionals, there are many things an employee’s file should contain; see the list below to ensure you have accurate and complete records. (We assume in our examples that files are not accessible by unauthorized employees.)

Basic Information: This would be the fundamentals like their name, address, birthday, SSN, emergency contacts and so on.

Hiring Documents: Make sure you keep all documents related to an employee’s hire. Resumes, cover letters, applications, job descriptions and clearances should be included in this section.

Payroll and Compensation: Keep records how much you have historically paid an employee along with their benefits information, W-4s, beneficiary forms, time cards, etc. This can be kept in a separate file for best practice as well.

Agreements and Contracts: Keeping record of all employment agreements such as union contacts, non-competition agreements, confidentiality or nondisclosure agreements, and signed acknowledgements is always a good practice. In case of any disputes, you will have tangible proof.

Job Performance: It’s hard to accurately list documents to be included in this section since every company does things a little differently. Keep record of promotions, job description changes, corrective actions, awards, recommendation letters, training and continuing education, and evaluations. Again, some companies will have separate files for some of these items, but it is important that you are at least keeping them somewhere.

Confidential Files

There are files that should have even more limited access and be kept separate from other files. Medical records, workers’ compensation claims, Family and Medical Leave information, employment verification, wage garnishment, and other sensitive information pertaining to one’s personal life should be included in this confidential file. You can also keep proof of background checks, credit reports, aptitude test scores here.

What about former employees?

It’s always good to keep a record of what ex-employees had in their files during their time at the company. If a dispute were to occur, having those files could help protect other employees and the company. For good practice, keep the entire file for 6 years after termination. Beyond that, keep payroll records, pension documents, union agreements, medical records and workers’ compensation permanently.


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