Global HR 10 min

How to handle employee files

Written by Barbara Matthews
May 28, 2024
Barbara Matthews


share to linkedInshare to Twittershare to Facebook
Link copied
to clipboard

You need to keep an accurate record of your employee files to comply with local labor laws and meet your tax obligations. Knowing what files to keep and how to store them safely can be a challenge, especially when you’re keeping digital files in the cloud. 

In this guide, we cover tips and best practices for managing and storing all your personnel files. We'll also take a look at global HR platforms that help make the process even easier.

What are employee files?

Employee files are written documents related to your employee's status at your company. They typically include private employee information, employment agreements, qualifications and credentials, benefits, payroll data, performance reviews, and termination (or post-employment) records.

Definition of employee files

Most companies today store their employee files in a cloud-based system. With a secure HR Management system, you can keep your employee files safe and make sure they’re only accessible to authorized users.

Why is it important to store employee files?

You can keep an accurate, up-to-date record of your current and former employees by storing employee files.

Most countries have recordkeeping requirements that ask companies to keep information on former employees for a minimum of one year after the date of termination. You also need information on your employees for payroll.

Here’s a deeper look at why you need to keep files on your team members.

why store employee files

To maintain a history of employee performance and development

You need to keep track of your employees’ performance and development to support their growth with the company.

An employee file can contain documents on performance evaluations, employee feedback surveys, attendance rates, past disciplinary actions, and the results of training or support programs. 

Having a timeline of an employee’s history makes it easier for managers and HR professionals to evaluate employee performance. Data on employee performance also informs you on the effectiveness of your onboarding, training, disciplinary procedures, and company culture. You can also use this information to help you decide about pay raises and promotions. 

Regulations on employee file-storing differ from one country to another. If you manage a global workforce, make sure you're compliant with local requirements for all employees. 

For example, states in the US have varying regulations on file storage. In California, an employee can submit a written request to their employer to inspect their files, and the employer has 30 days to respond. In Connecticut, employers must respond to such a request within seven days, and employees can only inspect and copy their employee files twice per year. 

Storing employee files is also important for tax purposes. When tax time comes around, you need information on payroll history with timesheets, logged hours, details of payments, and tax withholdings for each employee.

To preserve accurate payroll processes

Storing documents like an employee’s logged hours, time sheets, and expense requests helps you evaluate the cost of each employee. You're also confident that you're processing accurate payroll.

Payroll is easier with an HR Management platform like Remote. Employees can access payslips, manage benefits, submit expenses, and log worked hours through a self-service portal.

What types of documents should you keep in employee files?

You should keep records related to every stage of the employee lifecycle, from onboarding documents to termination information. 

It's important to know what should be included in an employee file. Placing the wrong records in the wrong place could be a breach of privacy. Similarly, lost or missing records in an employee file can pose consequences. 

Let’s take a closer look at what to include in each employee file.

documents to keep in employee files

Personal information

Personal records contain data that your company can use to identify your employees. They typically include an employee’s full name, date of birth, address, contact details, and emergency contact details. 

Other information, such as the employee’s education, qualifications, gender, and ethnicity, may also be stored in their employee file. 

Certain personal information, such as health records, should be kept in a separate file for security and privacy reasons.


Onboarding records refer to any documents related to the process of hiring and training new employees. They may include employment agreements, policies or guidelines, non-disclosure agreements (NDAs), and employee handbooks. 

Most — if not all — of your onboarding documents should be signed by the employee and the person who took care of the onboarding. This confirms that the employee understands their role, their obligations, and the company’s performance expectations of them.


Payroll records document every aspect of your payroll processes. They serve as evidence of when your employees get paid, how much, and what bonuses and other incentives they are entitled to. 

Common payroll record information includes salaries, payslips, expense requests (and proof of expenses, such as invoices and receipts), bonuses, and other incentives. 

Depending on your business, you may also want to account for pay advances. This is where an employee requests all or a portion of their pay before the scheduled pay date. A pay advance can also be a separate loan provided by the employer, which the employee repays by subsidizing their future payslips.

Performance and development

Employee performance and development records should be stored in employee files. These records outline the history of each employee’s performance, behavior, conduct, and achievements. They also serve as a paper trail, a history of the steps your company has taken to train and support an employee. 

Common types of performance and development records include performance reviews, employee feedback surveys, training records, incident reports, and past disciplinary actions. 

Performance and development records should also highlight employees’ achievements, such as their promotional records, written commendations, and rewards.

Termination (post-employment)

Termination records, also known as post-employment records, are documentation that confirms the end of an employee’s employment agreement. 

The types of records you keep depend on the circumstances. Employers who terminate or dismiss employees for misconduct should, in writing, explain the reason behind the termination. Employees who resign should provide a written resignation letter. 

Other termination documents may include a final performance appraisal, exit interview forms, and a copy of any remaining payments or benefits owed to the employee.

What to keep separate from your employee files

You should keep personnel records that contain sensitive information separate from your employee files. Categorize these separate files in a way that is scalable for your HR team to manage. 

You should also implement strict permissions to access sensitive employee information. This way, only authorized people can access these records.

Here’s a quick rundown on what to keep separate from your general personnel files.

things to separate from employee files

Health documents

Consider keeping your health documents in a dedicated employee health file. Health documents may include medical records, physical assessments, insurance forms (including claims), worker’s compensation forms, and doctors’ notes. Incident or injury reports may also contain health information about an employee.

Sensitive documents

Sensitive documents are records protected under data security and privacy laws, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). 

Sensitive information may be related to an employee’s financial situation, such as evidence of garnished wages or receiving rewards and bonuses. It may also refer to an employee’s personal or professional relationships, such as child support documents and past references. 

If an employee works with children or in the government sector, their file may also contain police and background checks.

If an employee is involved in a legal matter, then you may need a file for storing legal documents securely. 

These documents may include past or pending litigation or evidence related to a case. It may even include the written results of an investigation, particularly if a crime was committed at the workplace.

How to safely store physical and digital employee files

Many companies store their files in a cloud-based software. Some companies also store their files onsite electronically, using hard drives or servers. You can also keep physical files on employee records, which can be useful if you need a hard copy on hand. 

Regardless of where your employee files are located, you need to store them safely to prevent data theft and comply with local recordkeeping laws.

storing employee files explained

Storing physical files

Store physical copies of your employee files in a safe, secure place. Use a series of locked cabinets, drawers, or storage filers that can only be accessed by authorized staff with keys, biometric identification, or passwords. 

Ensure your physical storage spaces are in a climate-controlled environment, too, as excess moisture and humidity can damage paper files. 

Furthermore, ensure the room in which the files are located is locked at all times, especially when the office is empty. Be sure to clean up and organize your physical records at least once per year and destroy any files on former employees that you no longer need to retain.

Storing electronic files

If you are storing your employee files onsite, ensure that they are encrypted and cannot be accessed without a password. Activate multi-factor authorization so that users must pass an additional security layer to access the files. 

Just like physical files, be sure to regularly organize and tidy up your electronic employee files. Delete any obsolete data to maintain electronic storage space.

Enterprise-grade security from Remote

An HR Management platform with built-in security features helps you keep employee files easily. Look for a secure platform that offers two-factor authentication (2FA) and single sign-on (SSO), which keeps data safe from unauthorized users. Keeping employee files is even easier when the platform backs up your data.

Why use Remote to store your digital employee files?

An HR Management platform like Remote helps you store your digital employee files securely in one place. Whenever you onboard new employees, you can upload their employee files into a secure system.

Consider using an HR Management platform if you need help with employee file management and simplifying your HR process.

why use remote for employee files

Talent management 

Remote’s talent management feature gives you data on the most competitive salary and benefits packages around the world. If you need to quickly onboard remote team members but are unsure of what to offer, this portal has you covered. Our proprietary salary and employee benefits benchmarking data takes out all the guesswork for you. 

Once your new employees are uploaded to the system, you can continue to update your employee files to keep them safe and accurate.

Employee self-service 

Put the power back into your employees’ hands. Employees can update their personal data and log requests through Remote’s employee self-service portal. You can use this data to keep track of your employee's file.

Global payroll 

With Remote Payroll, you can manage and store your payroll data in one place. Pay your global workforce in their local currencies. Review, edit, and approve payroll runs. Get full transparency of the total cost breakdown of your employees, including their salaries, benefits, and more. 

Payroll also ensures compliance for each country in which you operate. And of course, this information is kept in each employee's file.

Simplify your employee file management with Remote

Keeping track of all your employee data can be a challenge, especially if you manage distributed teams. An HR Management platform like Remote helps you easily keep an accurate, up-to-date repository of all your employee data in one place.

Manage you employee data throughout the employee lifecycle, from onboarding and payroll to performance reviews. To find out how Remote can help empower your business, chat with us today.

Start hiring with Remote, the new standard in global HR

Create an account with G2's top-ranked multi-country payroll software and start onboarding your first employees in minutes.

Get started now
Remote is the G2 top-ranked multi-country payroll software

Subscribe to receive the latest
Remote blog posts and updates in your inbox.