What is the right time period for keeping an employee or ex-employee’s personnel files?
One of the main questions we get asked at Consensus HR is in relation to personnel files. Queries involve what data should be kept and how long for.
The answer? In reality, this is such a diverse area that adapts to the area of HR you are enquiring about. Requirements differ between recruiting new employees, disciplinary & grievance records or performance reviews to name a few.
The Employment Practices Data Protection Code, published by the Information Commissioner’s Office, provides guidance on compliance with the Data Protection Act 1998. The code says that employers should “eliminate personal information that is no longer of any relevance, once the employment relationship has ended.”
Employers should establish and adhere to standard retention times for different categories of records. Organisations can therefore set their own retention periods. Retention times and should be based on business need, taking into account relevant professional guidelines. For example, national minimum wage records must be kept for three years after the pay reference period that follows the pay period that they cover.
The key factor is that detailed records should be kept only as long as is necessary for the purpose for which they were created.
Once the detailed records are removed from an individual’s personal file, there is the option to retain a separate, brief record of the grievance, such as the:
- Relevant dates
- Type of resolution that was reached
Where possible all information about former workers should be kept anonymously. You may need to keep data after the termination of employment for the purposes of defending possible tribunal and court claims. In these circumstances the time limits for bringing claims will inform the retention period.
Employers should ensure that information is not retained for longer than is realistically necessary without justification. Plus, when information is destroyed, it is done securely.
We at Consensus HR encourage our clients to have personnel records for all employees which includes:
- Date of birth
- Education and qualifications
- Work experience
- National Insurance number
- Tax code
- Details of any known disability
- Emergency contact details
- Employment history with the organisation
- Employment terms and conditions (e.g. pay, hours of work, holidays, benefits, absence)
- Any accidents connected with work
- Any training taken
- Any Disciplinary / Grievance action