More is Better: Getting It Right When It Comes to Personnel File Documentation

Some employers fall into lax habits when it comes to documenting employee performance and behavior in a personnel file. It’s easy to let minor infractions slide, or handle the matter with a casual discussion. But all issues, even small ones, need to be documented in writing to sufficiently protect the company.

Consider arriving late to work. If an employee arrives late, even for a legitimate reason, such as car trouble, a supervisor should discuss it with the employee AND make a note in the employee’s personnel file. If the behavior is repeated, the supervisor avoids the risky business of recording behavior retrospectively, such as “John has been late a lot recently,” or where the first notation of the behavior is “This is the fifth time John is more than 30 minutes late to work.” Creating an accurate record in real time is the best way to protect all parties involved.

Notations should include the date, the performance issue, and how the supervisor handled the matter (discussed verbally, for example). Employers do not need to notify employees each time behavior is recorded. However, some documents, such as those an employee has signed, do need to be shared with employees when they become part of the personnel file. Best practices dictate that the document, or at least the first page, be copied and noted they were shared with or given to the employment on this date.

Employees are allowed to access their personnel file at their request at any time. Establish a day and time for the employee to come into HR to review the file. Smart employers paginate the entire personnel file at the outset, so that all parties can determine if documents have been added or removed. Employees are allowed obtain copies or photographs of any documents in their file. They are also allowed to write a response to anything that is in their file. That, of course, should be retained in the file as well.