Employee Records – The Information You Have To Keep

One of the areas of HR that most people don´t like that much is all the administrative tasks and paperwork that comes with the job. Because let´s face it, there is so much paperwork. And although a lot of the paperwork actually happens online these days, there is still a lot of record keeping involved in the job. And, a lot of these records need to be kept for a long time. But, do you actually know which records you need to keep and for how long? Here are some basic guidelines for HR record keeping. Please note that state law may require you to keep different records and for different periods as well, so please make sure you are always aware of your state´s legal requirements. In some cases, state law and federal law might actually conflict, in those cases, your safest bet is to stick to whichever requirement is longer. It´s always better to be safe than sorry.


Application records

All application documentation needs to be kept for one year. Hence, curriculums, interview notes, job postings, grade lists and even a record of your searches through your applicant tracking system need to be kept for one year after the hiring decision was made. This may sound ridiculous but if anyone ever questions your hiring decision, you will have the records to prove that you were not discriminating for example.


Drug Test records

If drug testing is part of your pre-employment checks, you will have to keep the records of the results for one year. There is one exception here, if your business is in transportation jobs, you will need to maintain the records for at least five years.


Payroll records

This is a tricky one. The law requires you to keep these records for three years, however, you might want to keep them a little longer because you won´t be the first business that gets sued after terminating an employee and in those cases, you will want to have all the records of how much someone was paid, how many hours they worked etc. Therefore, it is recommended to keep such records for at least five years after termination. Again, better safe than sorry.


Health / Pension benefits records

These records have a long lifetime! According to law, you need to keep the records of all your benefits plans for at least six years. This again has to do with lawsuits. If someone, for example, is claiming they deserve a higher pension, in court, it will be the company´s responsibility to show that it is not true, not the employee´s responsibility to show that it is. Hence, you will want to keep all the records of this.


FMLA records

When an employee requests a leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act, you will need to keep the whole paper trail for at least three years. Even if you denied the leave, you have to keep all the paperwork related to it. You will need to document all the details here, when the leave began, how much time it was and this also goes for intermittent leaves. Document everything and keep those archives.


Remember, this is not a comprehensive list and these time periods will vary dependent on the state (or country) your business operates in, therefore you will need to do your own research as well (or get some advice!) and make sure your knowledgeable about which employee records you need to keep and for how long.


Although the admin side of HR might not always be the most fun part, it is very important that we do it right!

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