What should be in an employee personnel file? What is the purpose of an employee personnel file even?

The purpose of keeping an employee personnel file is twofold: to document what your company needs for its own purposes and to keep documentation as required by law. Many companies maintain one file for their own purposes—including items like achievements, disciplinary notices, employment history, and other office-specific documents—and an additional file with the documents required by law. Other companies keep numerous official personnel files, each for its own specific purpose. Regardless of the number of files a company keeps, a digital personnel file is a more secure and easily accessible option than keeping paper files.

The Importance of an Employee Personnel File for Best Practices

Most employers will keep a file of documents that are required by law, but they often overlook a file for best-practice purposes. The file contents are necessary to give your company an accurate view of each employee’s official history. The information contained within could be necessary in the event your company is the defendant in a lawsuit—assuming you preserve the information correctly. Digital employee documentation is the easiest way to ensure you have easy access to the information in a safe, secure place.

Guidelines for Any Type of Employee Personnel File

The information kept in each employee record and the way it’s kept will vary based on the purpose of the personnel file.

  • You may store a personnel file differently if it contains information you need access to on a regular basis or if it’s information you need for future reference but won’t access regularly.
  • Access to the security of files will vary based on what’s contained within the employee file.
  • Employees should be able to access their own personnel files (and in many cases, companies are legally obligated to provide access for individuals to their own file) but it’s up to each company to find the right way to allow access.
  • Always remember that no matter who has access to it, the Human Resources department at any given company is the owner of their employee’s files. As the official staff over employee files, they are 100% responsible for the security of said files.

Employee Personnel File: What Goes In It?

The employee personnel file is the main file an employer keeps for every employee. It contains everything related to the employee’s employment history with that company.

The following are some of the most common file contents include:

  • Employment history: Application,  resume, emergency contact information, employment records, education verification, and references, etc.
  • Employee performance and development: Performance appraisals, talent acquisition files, improvement plans, attendance records, self-assessments, competency assessments, training information, etc.
  • Employment termination records: Resignation letter, COBRA information, overview compensation, exit interview, etc.

Medical File: The Basics

Each employee also needs medical information on record. Some companies choose to have a separate digital personnel file for medical information.

This medical file generally includes the following:

  • Health insurance forms
  • ER forms
  • Life insurance information
  • Applications for other employee benefits
  • Requests for paid and/or medical leaves
  • FMLA reports and paperwork
  • HR investigations
  • Letters contracts
  • Medical excuses
  • Accident and injury reports as required by OSHA

Once again, the easiest way to keep this highly sensitive information secure is in a digital format, preferably through an employee file management software system.

I-9 File Contents

There are several government agencies that may request access to an employee’s I-9 verification form. As a result, many companies keep a separate file to ensure easy, secure access. Note that the I-9 verification form is required by the Department of Homeland Security for every employee and staff personnel in the US hired after November 6, 1986.

It’s the employee’s responsibility to fill out Section 1 of the form, but it’s up to the employer to ensure it’s done and properly stored. The employer must also check the employee’s verification documents and complete Section 2, which requires them to examine and verify two original, unexpired eligibility documents. This must be done within 3 days of the first date of employment.

Keeping this I-9 verification form separate serves several purposes. As mentioned above, government agencies may need to inspect these forms for a variety of reasons. You do need to surrender the information they request, but you don’t want to give them access to your employee’s irrelevant, confidential information. To ensure restricted access to your employee’s personnel files, keep them separate.

The Simple Solution to Keeping Digital Personnel Files Secure and Easy to Access

Your company wants to comply with regulations, file guidelines, and stay organized. eFileCabinet makes it easy to do all of this. You can easily separate employee information into several files so that it’s easy to access exactly the information you want. The files are kept secure, confidential, and organized. Employees can be given access via a password to view their own files without compromising the confidentiality of other employee personnel files. In short, it’s the simplest and most secure way to keep a digital personnel file on each employee.