Employee Personnel File

Suggested Content of an Employee Personnel File

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 key members of staff such as Human Resources staff, the employee’s immediate supervisor and line management should have access to the personnel file.

Personnel files are generally stored in locked, fire-proof cabinets in a locked location that is accessible to a limited number of individuals for instance Human Resources staff or the Managing Directors PA in a smaller organisation. 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.

Employment History

• Application form and/or CV and Covering letter
• Notes from the interview and selection process
• Verification of required qualifications
• References from previous employers
• Any required background checks
• Offer letter and employment contract
• Employment agency agreement, if used
• Emergency contact information
• Job description
• Signed employee handbook acknowledgment form
• Signed induction checklist
• Any relocation agreements and associated documentation
• Any other documentation related to employment

Other documents which may be stored in the personnel file

• Performance reviews and personal development plans
• Holiday and general time off requests and attendance reports, though nothing of a medical nature
• Notes on attendance or tardiness
• Salary/wage information
• Benefits enrollment papers
• Employee recognition presented such as certificates, recognition letters, and so forth
• Employee formal suggestions and recommendations, organisation responses.
• Training records.
• Requests for training.
• Training expense reports
• Complaints from customers or co-workers
• Letters of recommendation
• Records from any formal counselling sessions
• Performance improvement plan documentation
• Disciplinary records including records of informal counselling
• Grievance records
• Confidentiality, Non-compete and non-disclosure agreements
• Testing results for purpose of initial employment or promotion or transfer
• Safety records, though nothing on workers compensation
• Termination documentation including exit interviews
• Final accounting for all aspects of the employee’s employment such as final paycheck, vacation pay, return of company property, and so forth

Items that Should Not be Placed in a Personnel File

• Medical information – drug test results, physical results, self certification forms, medical certificates and doctors’ reports etc
• Unsubstantiated comments or reports of any kind
• Personal references
• Credit reports
• Insurance claims, benefit applications and related information
• Security or investigative records
• Records regarding Parental and Medical Leave
• Information regarding personal finances

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Suggested Content of an Employee Personnel File


Kathryn is a highly experienced HR Manager with a wealth of skills and knowledge acquired across a variety of industries including manufacturing, health and social care and financial services. She has worked in small localised business and larger multi sited organisations and is comfortable liaising with senior managers and union officials as well as answering queries from team members. Connect with Kathryn on:

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