What to include in employee personnel files?

Keeping a record of an employees’ lifecycle documents of their employment journey within an organization has become a must due to the digitization of all decision-making. Moreover, documentation proof is required to fulfill any legal requirements that might arise.

Documentation of employment history, including resume, records of contribution and achievement, disciplinary notices, promotions, performance development plans, and such, belong in a personnel file.

Nowadays, most companies keep the employee details and records in an HRMS (Human resource management system), though for small companies.


Here are certain guidelines for maintaining an employee personal record file:

1) Make sure that all information stored is factual. No personal commentary or sidenotes should make it to the file. There have been instances when comments about an employee’s physical or emotional state have been found, which can become a liability if some dispute occurs.

2) Determine a protocol for your company personnel records based on state and federal laws, employment laws such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), and employer best practices.

Set notes about background checks and inputs from the interview in a separate file. They should not be mixed up with the personnel file details.

Personnel in charge of maintaining and inputting data in the personnel file should be well trained in what all comes under personnel files and what needs to be separated.

3) Determine who all can access the files. Generally, Human Resource department personnel only have access to the file. Supervisors or managers can have restricted access or can be encouraged to maintain their file, including skill and experience details.

There are rules that govern access to these files and vary from state to state. the requirements also vary about what the employee can access. Know the rules in the jurisdiction in which you employ people to stay in compliance with your legal requirements.

Employees’ personal file is the most important file when it comes from a perspective of compliance both internally as well as statutory. 

4) The need to maintain a personnel file is to have access to document proof of the employees’ education qualification, experience, background, and progress report that the department supervisor or manager files at regular intervals. These are the basic documents. It can also include medical and insurance documents.

The contract signed at the time of joining, which lists out leaves, pay, probation period, notice period and circumstances under which an employee can be asked to leave.

The need to have a record of all this information is if an employer needs to justify a decision if the organization is sued.

Additionally, the employee should be made aware of the records kept and made to sign a checklist of what all has been filed.

The file should not contain any personal observations or comments. The fie shoud be factual.

A checklist of what all goes in an employee personnel file

Employment History

  • Resume
  • Education verification
  • Employment verification
  • Position job description
  • Any relocation agreements and documentation
  • Any contract, written agreement, receipt, or acknowledgment between the employee and the employer (such as a non-compete agreement, an employment contract, or an agreement relating to a company-provided car)
  • Requests for transfer, promotion, internal job applications, and so forth
  • Any other documentation related to employment
  • Copies of any performance appraisal, employee self-assessments
  • Disciplinary action reports
  • Training records

Employment Termination Records

  • Employee resignation letter
  • Exit interview documentation
  • Final accounting for all aspects of the employee’s employment such as the final paycheck vacation. pay, the return of company property, and so forth
Anna Verasai
Anna Versai is a Team Writer at The HR Digest; she covers topics related to Recruitment, Workplace Culture, Interview Tips, Employee Benefits, HR News and HR Leadership. She also writes for Technowize, providing her views on the Upcoming Technology, Product Reviews, and the latest apps and softwares.

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