Personnel files

Why updated personnel files are critical to your business

Every employee's personnel file should contain his or her complete employment history. This should include the job application, resume and employment agreements and exit interview.

Every employee's personnel file should contain his or her complete employment history. This should include the job application, resume and employment agreements and exit interview. Additionally, only your HR staff and each employee's immediate supervisor should have access to this confidential information.

What to keep in a personnel file

Contents of an employee personnel file may include:

  • Job application, resume and cover letter
  • Employment testing results
  • Employee background check (past employment and educational verification)
  • Employment and personal reference checks
  • Rejection letter
  • Job description
  • Offer letter or employment contract
  • Employment agency or temporary agency agreement
  • Emergency contact information
  • Signed employee handbook form acknowledging receipt of employee handbook
  • Relocation agreements and documentation
  • Non-compete agreement, employment contract(s), or an agreement relating to a company-provided car or cell phone
  • Signed document on your company's social media postings and computer monitoring policy
  • Requests for transfer, promotion offers, internal job applications, etc.
  • Disciplinary action reports and/or HR-related problems and issues
  • Annual job reviews, attendance and tardiness issues
  • Awards/letters of recognition and certificates
  • Training records
  • Employment termination letter and/or employee resignation letter
  • Exit interview documentation
  • List of work-related items given to the employee, e.g. tools, computers, cell phones, etc.

Other key points

  • It is imperative to keep your company's personnel files in a locked, fire-proof file cabinet. If not, you can open yourself up to employee lawsuits and other related problems.
  • What documents will you need to justify decisions if your business is sued?
  • What documents would you need for evidence 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 he or she is aware of and has read the document.

Executive summary

A personnel file should only contain objective factual data. It should not contain opinions or personal notes about an employee and should be without speculative opinions. Additionally, you need to ensure all items are scanned and filed accordingly. This will help create a more permanent, and easy-to-manage file to help you avoid wasting time digging through boxes throughout your office(s).

For more information about updating personnel files, contact Carrie Cox via email, or Cindy McSwain using her information below.

Cindy McSwain

Senior Vice President
Outsourcing Services

Cindy McSwain leads AGH’s outsourcing services group. Her team provides payroll, accounting, funds disbursement, controller, and other financial outsourcing services to numerous clients throughout the U.S. Prior to joining the outsourcing group, Cindy served AGH’s audit clients for 10 years, working with a wide range of middle-market, closely held and family-owned organizations.

Her current clients cross many industry sectors, including manufacturing and distribution, restaurants, retailers, medical and not-for-profit. She has participated in numerous SEC filings and public registrations and has experience in mergers and acquisitions. Cindy is a certified public accountant and a member of both the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the Kansas Society of Certified Public Accountants.

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