Five Essential Employee Files to Have for the New Year

by Mammoth Team on November 1, 2017

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Let’s face it… Organizing and storing employee files isn’t something most people find exciting. But accurate recordkeeping is an important part of managing employees and maintaining efficient HR practices. Here’s five essential employee files you should have for 2018:

1. Basic Personal File
To start, each employee should have their own personnel file, clearly labeled with the employee’s first and last name. You can also include the employee’s start date and department or position title if you prefer. The employee’s personnel file should include documents related to an employee’s original hire – that’s all of the recruitment and selection information, as well as documents related to the employee’s job acceptance such as the signed offer letter, job description and handbook acknowledgement form. You should also include documents related to continued employment over the course of time.

2. Medical / Benefits File

Every eligible employee should have a confidential Medical / Benefits file (ineligible employees include those who are part-time, for example.) This file should include all insurance & medical enrollment forms - other medical documents may be added to this file over time, such as a doctor’s work release after a medical leave of absence or documentation of an accommodation request for a temporary or permanent disability. You’ll also want to include COBRA notification forms in this file once employment has ended and continued health insurance options are provided to the individual.

There are two additional records that could be included in this file: Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and pre-employment test results, such as drug tests or criminal background checks. You can also choose to have these documentations in separate files, but make sure to remain consistent with where you store these records.

Remember that confidentiality is especially important with the medical and benefits files. Various privacy laws and the American’s with Disabilities Act require that you keep confidential employee medical records separate from basic personnel files and that they are accessible only to the office administrator or HR department.

3. Payroll File

When it comes to this file, employers have some discretion on how to maintain it. For the sake of confidentiality, we recommend maintaining payroll-related records separate from other files. The payroll file can be quite robust, as it includes the W4, timesheets, pay increase/decrease status changes, time-off and leave records, vacation and sick time records, and wage garnishment documentation. Please note that HR professionals should maintain close tabs on vacation, sick time and other time-off records to ensure policy compliance.

4. On the Job Injuries File

This file is for any employee who is injured on the job and should contain workers’ compensation claim records, injury reports, and any additional medical records pertaining to the injury, such as a doctor’s work release, details regarding light-duty return to work, and all other insurance documentation. We recommend maintaining a separate file for each injury for organization and ease of annual OSHA reporting, if that’s applicable for your company.

5. Form I-9 File

Employment law attorneys recommend that you keep all I-9s in either a separate master file or three-ring binder. Because I-9 files are subject to unique record retention laws, a separate master file or three-ring binder will help ensure that you retain these forms for as long as necessary and that you can readily discard them after the retention period expires. In the event of an audit, it’s imperative that these documents are removed from all other identifying & confidential employee information before review.

Regardless of where an employer stores the I-9s, the law requires that the employer make the forms available upon request by authorized government officers after being provided as little as 3 days’ notice prior to an inspection.

Now that you are familiar with these five types of employee files, and what to include in each, your next task will be to confirm how long you are legally required to keep each type of record according to Federal and state law.


 As of September 18, 2017, U.S. employers are required to use the latest version of the Form I-9 — a key federal document used to verify the identity and eligibility of people hired for employment in the United States.  Download this free guide for a step-by-step look at how to properly complete, file, and retain your I-9s so you’ll be prepared in the event your organization is audited.

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Topics: Compliance, Best Practices

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