Employee files are some of the most important files in any organization. It’s critical to make sure that you have what you need to prove that employees are legally allowed to work and to ensure that you’re taking proper steps when it comes to things like taxes and insurance requirements. If you decide to terminate an employee, it may also become critical to show documentation supporting behavioral or performance issues.

On the other side of the equation, however, it’s also important to limit the amount of data stored in employee files. The more data that you store in employee files, the greater the amount of sensitive information that could potentially be compromised. It can be helpful to have a guideline as to what should be kept in personnel files – and what shouldn’t.

What to Store in Employee Files

The first items that should be placed into an employee’s file are copies of personal documents proving identity and work eligibility, as well as application forms, CVs, and resumes. Legal forms such as W-4 forms and benefit information come next. Additionally, any job-specific forms such as employment contracts, job descriptions, and training program certifications should be included.

As the employee’s career with the company continues, documentation or notation regarding performance and behavior should be added as necessary. If an employee is given a raise or promotion, the date and reasons should be noted. As such, if an employee is reprimanded, the date and reasons for this should also be noted.

If an employee is terminated, documents relating to the termination should be added to the personal file. Documents may include exit interviews, information about continuing benefits, and agreements about unemployment benefits.

What to Store in Other Files

Forms like I-9s, hazard communication training logs, medical records, workers’ compensation claims, investigation records, and garnishment records may need to be accessed by third parties. Tying these documents to employees’ personal files could allow sensitive information to be accessed. Storing them separately keeps this information safe while allowing the appropriate parties to access specific data.

What Not to Store

Information about employees’ personal lives shouldn’t be stored in their files. Some irrelevant information that has been found in employee files includes hobbies, political affiliation, religion, and number of children. With the addition of social media analysis to some recruitment strategies, employee’s social media site addresses are another thing that should be purged from employee files if they have been stored.

While notes about performance should be kept on file, employers should be careful to stick to the facts. Employees can request to see their files and files may be reviewed by legal counsel or a jury if a lawsuit is filed. Writing notes that could be considered discriminatory or inappropriate could be harmful to an employer in these situations.

Cleaning up employee files and making sure that only the most relevant and up to date information is stored can improve security and protect employers. Using a HRIS can make it easy to store employee information correctly and securely. If you would like help finding a HRIS that’s the right fit for your company, visit our vendor match page to get started.