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The do’s and don’ts of keeping personnel records

It is important to remember that the contents of an employee’s personnel file are accessible by the employee, HR staff and the employee’s supervisor and manager. Pursuant to section 7 of the Data Protection Act 1998 an employee can make a data subject access request in order for all personal data relating to them to be disclosed.

HR Responsibilities for Personnel Records

Personnel records contain extremely confidential information, and it is therefore in everybody’s interests that the records are accurate and secure. Knowledge of this will contribute to better working relationships – workers and their representatives will know what information is kept and why. It should promote fair and consistent treatment.

Due to the above it is important that employer’s take care to maintain that an employee’s personnel record is factual and unbiased.

Personnel records can be maintained electronically or in paper form. No matter what format is used, the maintenance, security and retention requirements are the same.


Detailed below are some general guidelines to bear in mind when retaining employee information:

  1. • Keep information factual. Do not keep random notes, gossip, unfounded allegations on an employees’ personnel file.
  2. • Keep information in the correct file. Medical records should be placed in medical files and payroll information should be kept in a separate payroll file.
  3. • Ensure that any employee detailing information that will be contained in a personnel file is adequately trained. Lack of the necessary training can result in inappropriate comments being contained in an employees’ personnel file.
  4. • It is important that Employers only keep factual information about decisions on promotion, salary increases and such like in a personnel file. Be careful not to keep opinions of managers and human resource staff in an employees’ personnel file.
  5. • Keep personnel files in a secure place in order to make sure that confidentiality is protected.
  6. • Personnel files are not just for negative reports, it is important that positive information is also contained within employees personnel files.
  7. • It is important that supervisors and managers are aware of the difference between there management notes that should be kept in management files and information that formally should be contained on an employees’ personnel file. For example a supervisor’s notes that are being used to try and improve performance should be contained in the private file of a supervisor not in the official personnel file.
  8. • If an investigation is being carried out in relation to a disciplinary or grievance it is important that any such investigatory notes are contained in a separate investigation file.

If the above guidelines are followed it will help an employer or HR manager maintain effectively important and useful information about employees.

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