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.
- Job application
- Resume cover letter
- Education verification
- Employment verification
- Employment and personal reference checks
- Rejection letter
- Position job description
- Job analysis records
- Job offer letter or employment contract
- Employment agency or temp agency agreement, if used
- Emergency contact information
- Signed employee handbook acknowledgment form showing receipt of employee handbook
- Checklist from new employee orientation showing topics covered and by whom
- Any relocation agreements and documentation
- Any contract, written agreement, receipt, or acknowledgment between the employee and the employer (such as a noncompete agreement, an employment contract, or an agreement relating to a company-provided car), for example
- Life of employment official forms including: requests for transfer, promotion, internal job applications, and so forth
- Any other documentation related to employment
Employee Performance Development and Improvement
- Copies of any performance appraisal used or employee development plans
- Employee self-assessments
- Records from any formal counseling sessions
- Notes on attendance or tardiness
- Performance improvement plan documentation
- Disciplinary action reports
- Employee recognition presented such as certificates, recognition letters, and so forth
- Employee formal suggestions and recommendations, organization responses
- Training records
- Requests for training
- Competencies assessments
- Training class or session notifications or schedules
- Needs assessments signed
- Training expense reports
- Complaints from customers or coworkers
Employment Termination Records
- Employee resignation letter
- Exit interview documentation
- Cobra notification
- Employment ending checklist
- Final accounting for all aspects of the employee's employment such as final paycheck, vacation pay, return of company property, and so forth.
Additional documents related to personnel files are available.
- Personnel File Overview
- Personnel File Access Policy
- What Employers Should Not Keep in Personnel Records
Disclaimer – Please Note:
Susan Heathfield makes every effort to offer accurate, common-sense, ethical Human Resources management, employer, and workplace advice both on this website, and linked to from this website, but she is not an attorney, and the content on the site, while authoritative, is not guaranteed for accuracy and legality, and is not to be construed as legal advice.
The site has a world-wide audience and employment laws and regulations vary from state to state and country to country, so the site cannot be definitive on all of them for your workplace. When in doubt, always seek legal counsel or assistance from State, Federal, or International governmental resources, to make certain your legal interpretation and decisions are correct. The information on this site is for guidance, ideas, and assistance only.