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It's a good idea for an employer to maintain a personnel file for each employee. Documentation of employment history, records of contribution and achievement, disciplinary notices, promotions, performance development plans, and much more, belong in a personnel file. Smart employers keep more than one personnel file, too.
The employer has good reasons to keep several personnel files - some legal and some for employment best practices purposes. Documentation is needed so the employer has an accurate view of an employee's employment history. Documentation supports the employer's decisions and may protect the employer in a lawsuit - preserved correctly.
Because several types of personnel files are recommended, different rules and guidelines are associated with each personnel file.
Each type of personnel file has a different reason for existing and different contents, based on that reason.
Each type of personnel file is stored differently.
Access to a personnel file is restricted to certain employees in most organizations. Different personnel file types have different access guidelines.
Employee access to his or her personnel file is allowed, but most employers set up guidelines for employee access with a personnel file access policy.
The Human Resources department "owns" and is responsible for employee personnel files.
Here are the types of personnel files recommended and what you need to know about working with them
Employee Personnel File
This is the main personnel file an employer maintains for each employee. The personnel file stores the employment history of each employee. The employee personnel file is the main employee file that contains the history of the employment relationship from employment application through exit interview and employment termination documentation. Only Human Resources staff and the employee's immediate supervisor and manager may have access to the information in the employee personnel file, and it never leaves the Human Resources office.
The employee personnel file is generally stored in a locked, fire-proof file cabinet in a locked location that is accessible to Human Resources staff. The confidentiality of the employee information in the employee personnel file is of paramount importance.
Of all the company-kept employee files, the employee personnel file is most frequently accessed day-to-day for information by the employer, supervisor, or Human Resources staff.
Considerations About Employee Personnel File Content
The fundamental principles and questions to consider when filing any document in an employee personnel file are these.
Will the employer need a particular document to justify decisions if the employer was sued? Would the employer need the document in a court of law?
Does the employee know and understand that the document will be filed in his or her personnel file? In most cases, employers ought to have the employee sign the document, not to signify agreement with the contents of the document, but to acknowledge that they are aware of and have read the document.
No surprises, opinions, or personal notes about the employee should ever be placed in an employee personnel file. Just the facts, no speculative thoughts, belong in an employee personnel file.
Contents of an Employee Personnel File
Following are recommendations about the documentation that an employer should keep in an employee personnel file.
Employee access to the employee payroll file is less restrictive than access to either the medical or the personnel file. The payroll file holds information about salary, benefits selection, pay rate changes, garnishments, and other legal documentation that affects an employee's pay check. Various accounting and Human Resources staff access the information in the payroll file.
I-9 Forms File for Employees
Because of access rights of various government agencies, you follow best practice by maintaining a separate file for employee I-9 forms. Find out more about storing I-9 forms.
Personnel File Access Policy for Employees
You want to enable each employee to know what is in his or her personnel file, but you need to control the integrity, completeness, and thoroughness of the file. Maintaining employee and employer confidentiality and limited access are ensured with a personnel file access policy.