If you run a company of any size, you likely know there is a lot of information that you need to keep track of. Unfortunately, you can’t store all of it in the same place. One of the areas that you keep most of it in is the personnel files. While you can put a good amount of data in these, there are also certain things that you should never keep in there. If you are unsure what these things might be, this guide on what and what not to include in personnel files will be right up your alley.
What To Keep In
We’ll start this list with the items to keep in a personnel file. While they’re not all required, this is the best place to keep them since employees have the right to see their files in some states.
Job Application Materials
The first things you’ll include in most people’s personnel files are their resume, job description, and any other materials involved in their original application. You can also keep an employee’s W-4 form in this section for reference if they receive a raise or go through a position change that would affect their pay. You would keep all that data here as well.
General Basic Info
You’ll want to have the employee’s name and current position in this file as well. That way, you can easily identify it later. You should leave most of their personal information out of here, but you can keep a copy of their next of kin and emergency contact list in the rare chance that you need it.
Performance and Disciplinary Evaluations
One of the biggest uses of personnel files is to store documents about your employee’s overall performance. In most cases, this file will include performance reviews, any awards they gained, and proof of training program completions.
While most workers will have mostly good things in the section, that’s not always the case. More troublesome employees will have their disciplinary records and any complaints that coworkers or customers have filed in there. It’s essential to make sure that all these records remain as factual and objective as possible. Avoid any opinions or unproven remarks because these notes will be what you use if termination becomes a necessary course of action.
During your employee’s time at your company, they will likely sign off on many documents, whether they’re personal or professional. These files are the best place to keep them. That way, your employee can come back to them to see what they’ve agreed to in the past.
End of Employment Documents
Whether it was from termination or of their own accord, the day will come when the people who work for you will move on to other jobs. That’s why every personnel file will someday contain any documents needed to signify the end of their employment with you.
Some of these records will include their reasons for leaving, insurance continuation forms, and any other pertinent information involved with their departure. You’ll never want to completely get rid of their file in case information from it ever becomes relevant again in the future.
What To Leave Out
While many things are OK to have in your personnel files, there are a few items you should never include. If you have any of these in the ones you have set up for your current employees, you’ll want to find a new home for them.
You shouldn’t keep any information relating to an employee’s previous jobs in these files. While not all employers have these types of documents, it’s not uncommon for an employee to give you samples of their previous work during the interview process. If you hire them, don’t keep these pages in their personnel file.
Also, you should never keep any employment eligibility forms in these files. Even though they’re not pre-employment records, we still have to make a note of them since they’re a large part of the employment process. This might cause an employer to accidentally keep it with the other job application documents. If you need an E-Verify designated verification company to hold these forms in a separate area for you, you should look into our services.
Specific Basic Info
While we mentioned that some basic info is alright to keep in here, most of it isn’t. You should leave out anything that can identify your employees, such as their race, nationality, gender, or even age. You must keep private information, such as medical and disability records, in a different area as well. There are a lot of legal issues that come up with those types of files, so you shouldn’t keep them in a place that others can easily access.
Even though we mentioned that you should put disciplinary records in an employee’s personnel file, you should keep those dealing with legality issues somewhere else. Due to the sensitivity of these problems, you must keep them in a place that few people have access to. The same goes for anything dealing with whistleblowing. You need to place those documents somewhere else so that the people involved in those cases can remain anonymous.
Anything That Would Be Considered Unnecessary
Even though we covered all the crucial points of what and what not to include in personnel files, it would be nearly impossible to cover every last niche scenario that could come up with any of your employees. That’s why as a final rule for deciding what to leave out of one of your worker’s files, we’d recommend leaving out anything that someone could consider too personal or entirely unnecessary. These files should only contain job-related documents and nothing more.
While it’s OK to keep a detailed record of all your employees, you’ll need to hold on to them within other systems. Personnel files are much more public than many people realize, so having troublesome documents within them will do nothing except cause trouble down the road. Remember to keep these files relevant to the employee and their position, and you’ll be golden.