What should, and should not, be included in the personnel file ?

A personnel file is a record or compilation of all information that is related to an employee. The information starts from the date of recruitment. The information is generally identified by the name of the person or by a special number. It is also a comprehensive listing of all the information regarding the individual’s association with the company. Care should be taken to ensure that the information contained in the personnel folder is maintained with confidentiality since the information in the folder may be sensitive for both the company and the individual.

The personnel file should contain job-related material such as the offer letter to the employee, disciplinary letters, awards and commendations, emergency data.

While it is important to understand what must be in a personnel file, it is equally important to know what should not be in a file. References of prior employment, complaints, grievances, credit reports and data pertaining to affirmative action should not be found in a personnel file. Besides, there is some information which may be subject to change as they may be subject to dispute. These changes are effected as and when the issues of contention get resolved. Examples include ratings of a performance appraisal and a disciplinary letter which may be removed as soon as the employee is vindicated in a complaint.

In order to protect the privacy of an employee, documents which may relate to medical treatments undergone by the employee, injuries etc should be kept in a file that is separate from the main personnel file. This is done so that it is easy to remove this data when the personnel file is requested for review.

The personnel file is generally located in the human resource department or with the supervisor. The personnel files of an organization should be kept in a file that is secure and where access can be easily limited. The file should not be given to the employees. Employees can access the file only after prior permission and they can access the file only in the presence of the Human resource manager. If the employees request a copy of any of the contents in the file, of what was given should be maintained.

The file can be accessed by a few select individuals such as the employee or his designated representative, the immediate superior of the head of the department, another department which may seek to absorb him, etc.