The Website and Blog of HR Author and Speaker Lori Kleiman

To File, or Not to File: THAT is the Question!

All organizations should keep a thorough company file!All organizations should maintain official employee files. In the best case, these are maintained by a trusted member of your team and kept locked in a central location. In many cases, there are documents that should be part of employee files which are currently retained in various areas of the organization. Finance keeps what they need related to payroll; the office manager retains portions related to emergency contact and key card access, and while the department manager has information concerning performance and training. Files that are strewn all over the organization can be difficult to assess, and will rarely meet the compliance obligations of the organization. Maintaining a central file system allows the organization to ensure that all pieces of the compliance puzzle are maintained.

How do we do this?

The good old fashioned file cabinet still works. Be certain that it is locked at all times, and terminated files should be separated. That is primarily for ease of getting at what you need. Employee files can also be maintained electronically. The advantage to electronic is that it provides a central storage and will typically attach to your payroll system for security and ease of retrieval. Virtual files are acceptable under compliance requirements, and an excellent use of technology. With proper security, the virtual files will enhance productivity and accessibility of employee information by your management team.

Who can have access to the files?

Generally, files should only be accessed in a “need to know” situation. Managers often need information, but a team member with understanding of the sensitive nature of the files should maintain control. In almost all jurisdictions employees must be allowed to access the files that are retained relating to their employment. However, that does not mean employees can approach you at any time demanding that you to drop everything and provide access. The exact time frame is based on state law. You should be familiar with the obligations of your state and use the time allotted to ensure the file is complete and you are comfortable with the contents prior to providing an employee access. Many states will allow you to charge employees for any copies that are requested. While it is not recommended for current employees, it can be an effective deterrent and cost containment process for former employees or their authorized representatives.

What do we keep?

They key is to keep all documents that relate to the employment of person. Common examples are:

  • New Hire paperwork – taxes, application, resume, direct deposit etc.
  • Performance records
  • Training certificates
  • Enrollment in benefit programs

In our book, HR Hacks, we offer a full checklist of employee files, and on the book website there is a short video of employee file maintenance. Check it out!

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