Personnel Records: What Should Be Included in the Personnel File Printer friendly format

The first concern of personnel files is usually what goes into the file. It is important to have all of the essential documents in place in order for your files to be complete and to protect your organization in the case of litigation. This article explores what should be included in the personnel file.

First things first. Let’s revisit the purpose of the personnel file. The personnel file is a journal of the employers’ relationship with employees and it serves three key purposes.
1.     Legal compliance. State and federal governments require certain documentation be included in all employee files.
2.     Justification and defense. Complete personnel files can provide justification for raises and promotions and they offer defense for not giving a raise or promotion. This is helpful in lawsuits and claims.
3.     Easy access to key employee information.
In order for personnel files to meet the three key purposes, they have to be complete. So let’s return to our initial question. What exactly goes into the personnel file?
The personnel file includes, but is not limited to:
·       Recruiting and screening documents. This includes job applications, resumes, and college/high school transcripts.
·       Job descriptions. Copies of all job descriptions throughout the employment relationship should be kept in the personnel file.
·       Documentation about employment changes. Document employees’ promotions, transfers, demotions, salary, layoff and other relevant changes in the personnel file.
·       Disciplinary actions. A journal of all disciplinary discussions and actions should be recorded in the personnel file. Documentation of discipline needs to include the date of infraction and a citation of the specific rule violated or the problem being addressed. Your disciplinary documentation needs to always include the exact action plan as told to your employee.
·       Professional development. Include in the personnel file a record of the employee’s education achieved during the employment relationship. Examples of professional development include a college degree, technical classes, skill primer workshops and any certifications earned.
·       Awards. Keep a record of awards employees receive. This could include employee of the month, rising star, most innovative employee, or any professional award an employee earns during the employment relationship. 
·       Performance evaluations. Copies of annual, quarterly and monthly performance reviews should be kept in the personnel file. Goals and goal progress should also be recorded in the personnel file.
·       Termination Records. Termination records should include employee’s last physical date of work, termination date, final pay, vacation pay received upon termination and any separation pay. Termination documentation should also specify if the termination was voluntary or a discharge and, if a discharge, the specific reason(s) for the discharge.
This list of what the personnel file should include should get you started in the right direction for having complete personnel files. Next week we’ll explore an equally important topic: what does not belong in the personnel file.
Sources cited
“Personnel Files: What should, and Should Not, Go In the Personnel File.” Society for Human Resource Management. Web. 15 Nov. 2015.
“Recordkeeping Requirements.” Recordkeeping Requirements. Web. 15 Nov. 2015.