Personnel File System – What to Keep & How to Maintain It
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What Goes in an Employee’s Personnel File?
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You should maintain a personnel file for each employee. Preferably, you should use something to keep the files protected and in order, like a labeled three-ring binder or two-hole bound legal pad.

So what goes in the file? In short, all job related documents should go into the personnel file for each employee. You should make sure to maintain your employees’ personnel files in a location where only individuals with a "need to know" have access to the personnel file (preferably under a lock and key). These individuals could include a human resource coordinator, the owner, or the employee on a need to know basis.

Some of the documents that could go into the personnel file of each employee include:
  • job application
  • effective date of hire
    • separate form for the actual date of hire (if available)
  • acknowledgment of employee handbook (if there is an employee handbook)
  • job description
  • letters of reference
  • offer letter
  • IRS Form W-4, Employee’s Witholding Allowance Certificate
  • Forms relating to employee benefits:
    • Pensions
    • Health insurance
    • Dental and vision insurance
  • Emergency contact forms
  • Blank employee performance evaluation – so each employee knows the company’s standards
  • Records of attendance
  • Training programs
  • Any contracts – if the employee is not an at-will employee
    • e.g. the employee is a "just cause" employee
  • Disciplinary actions
    • These forms will help to protect your company if an employee ever files a claim against the company for a disciplinary related matter
    • Any notes pertaining to discipline
  • Awards/recognitions
With multiple employees, you’ll also want to order your employee files. Many companies choose an alphabetical or organization structure of ordering employee files (or both, depending on the size of the company).

Next, we’ll go over what not to keep in an employee file.