2. Employee Files

Keeping Good Records
Every employee should have a personnel file. A recommended contents and order for files is outlined below.

The purpose of a personnel file is to provide a record of the key correspondence, events and developments in the course of an individual's employment. 

Please also refer to GDPR for HR for further guidance on managing employee data.

Suggested sections in the Personnel File:
  1. Contractual
  2. General
  3. Benefits
  4. Absence
  5. Appraisal/Training
  6. Files Notes / Disciplinary
Within each section, the following information would be held:

1. Contractual
  • Offer letter
  • Contract of Employment
  • References (and DBS check or copy of qualifications if appropriate)
  • New Starter form
  • Changes in Employment Terms letters/forms
  • Salary review letters
  • Bonus letters
  • Promotion letters
  • Copy of Passport or documents confirming right to work in UK
  • Probation reports / letters
2. General
  • Application form
  • Interview notes
  • Medical reports or medical questionnaire
  • Statement of Wishes (pension / life assurance)
  • Next of Kin information / emergency contact information
  • Change of details
  • Copy of driving licence and insurance (if driving on behalf of the Company)
3. Benefits & Company Equipment
  • Private Medical Insurance
  • Pension
  • Company Car
  • Other benefits
  • Issue of Company Equipment (Form/information)
4. Absence
  • Absence summary form (if not kept on computer)
  • Holiday Forms
  • Self-Certification Forms
  • Return to Work interview notes
  • Medical Certificates/Fit Notes
  • Medical Reports (during employment)
5. Appraisal/Training/Performance Management
  • Copies of qualifications/certificates gained during employment
  • Job Description (+ any KPI's, objectives, targets)
  • Appraisal forms
  • Training record (if not kept electronically)

6. File Notes/Disciplinary/Grievance

  • General file notes
  • Disciplinary notes
  • Warning letters
  • Investigation reports / notes etc
  • File Notes for Improvement
Disciplinary Notes

Confusion often arises over the treatment of records relating to disciplinary proceedings. If, for example, an employee is accused of misconduct which results in an investigation, a disciplinary hearing and a final written warning, the whole process may involve the creation of large amounts of personal data from the initial complaint through to witness statements, the notes of the disciplinary meeting and the warning letter itself. The question is whether such data can be retained for as long as the employee remains with the employer, or must be removed and destroyed after a fixed amount of time.

The ACAS Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance procedures recommends that a disciplinary warning should be of fixed duration and that, at the end of this time, it should be disregarded for disciplinary purposes. However, this does not mean that the data itself should be destroyed.

Any disciplinary proceedings data will be a record of an important event in the course of the employer's relationship with the employee. Should the same employee be accused of similar misconduct five years down the line and defend him or herself by saying 'I would never do something like that', reference to the earlier proceedings may show that the comment is not credible. Alternatively, if the employee were to be dismissed for some later offence and then claim at tribunal that he or she had 'fifteen years of unblemished service', the record of the disciplinary proceedings would be effective evidence to counter this claim.

Employers should therefore be careful not to confuse the expiry of a warning for disciplinary purposes with a requirement to destroy all reference to its existence in the personnel file. One danger is that the disciplinary procedure itself often gives the impression that at the end of the effective period for the warning, the warning will be 'removed from the file'. This or similar wording should be changed to make it clear that while the warning will not remain active in relation to future disciplinary matters, a record of what has occurred will be kept.