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The employee file

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Welcome to this Easter weekend. In the Christian calendar this weekend is of tremendous importance. So, from one Christian to you, have a wonderful weekend and come out at the other end refreshed.

Today, we are looking at what should be in an employee file. An employee file, or personnel record, is a group of documents that contain all relevant information about an employee’s time in your business, 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. Below is an employee file checklist to help you gather all the right documents and answer any common questions you may have.

Having all important information about an employee stored in one place means it is easy to find any relevant details about their role and responsibilities.

This also means you can produce any necessary records in the event of an employee making a claim against you. It is important to keep an employee’s personnel file up-to-date and regularly review all files to ensure all relevant documents are in there.

This ensures the organisation is protected in the case of a claim against it, as the file serves as a record of what transpired during the employment.

Employee file contents will vary from person to person, but there are a few key aspects that should be included across board. These are, job application, CV and cover letter, education and past employment information.

Their role description, job offer letter and employment contract. Very important is the emergency contact information. Training records, payroll and benefits information (but not bank details), and performance appraisal forms and disciplinary action reports.

The employee’s resignation letter, exit interview documentation and any other documentation related to employment.

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.

Personal opinions and observations should not be included in their files. The information should be limited to just facts.

As employee files contain private information, such as home address or details of any disciplinary action, the files should be protected, and access limited. Only the employees themselves, their direct manager and HR staff should be able to view their files.

In Nigeria, I know there is best practice about how long we should keep records even after the employee has left. This ranges between three and five years. Unfortunately, there is no stated law we need to comply with regarding employee data.

In the United Kingdom, The GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) came into effect in May 2018 and laid out strict rules surrounding employers’ responsibility to protect their data.

Whatever we are adhering to, one cannot just get rid of all an employee’s information when they leave your organisation. Payroll details are important to keep for example.

Read also: Have you measured your employee engagement level?

In fact, keep it as much as you can, just in case you need to prove anything in future regarding the said employee. If you have deleted records of appraisals, disciplinary action or benefits, you won’t be able to present evidence that you followed employment laws.

Even for unsuccessful job candidates, it is a good idea to keep their information for at least six months after they apply. Statutorily in some countries for past employees, the general rules are working time (details of when the employee worked for you) to be kept for two years. Payroll and details about any leave taken is three years. Personnel files and training records is six years.

Employees have a right to be told what information you have about them and how you use it. The confidentiality of the records and how these records can help with their training and development at work. If an employee requests a copy of the data you have about them you should give them and you can draw up a policy of how long it will take to extract, just to help everybody manage expectations.

The days of keeping employee documents in a locked, fire-proof cabinet are fast becoming history for many organisations. One of the safest, most reliable methods of keeping employee personnel files in one place is storing them within an HR software or in soft copy if the software is financially out of reach.

Keeping the records in soft copy enables HRM keep important documents secure and limits the people who can access them. Employees will be able to edit their personal details when they need to be updated, freeing up admin. The nature of soft copies means information can be accessible from anywhere.

Due to the more flexible working hours and locations employees can get answers to any queries they have about their roles or responsibilities by viewing their employment contract and job description on the software or at least online. Restricted but easy accessibility.

This was a simple topic today but not known by all who should know. Our people are the most important factor of production. If we invest in them they become very valuable assets.

Again, have a refreshing weekend.