Who holds the record? Record keeping basics for human resources

No profession loves hard copies of records more than lawyers – but it is often human resources who have the most to do with record keeping, particularly in relation to retaining employee records.

What are the basic records which should be kept for employees?

There are records which employers are required to keep in accordance with the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth). These records include, but are not limited, to the nature of the employment, commencement date, pay, overtime, leave records, superannuation and the termination of employment.

Ideally, employee records should reflect the employee lifecycle from beginning to end, so that employers have an accurate record of the employment relationship.

The record of an employee’s commencement of employment is crucial because it is at the start of the lifecycle where a flurry of documentation is created which needs to be retained.

Indeed, employers start collecting information about prospective employees during the recruitment process. It is at this stage that a prospective employee will send in their resume or CV, a copy of their qualifications and other information, such as working with children clearances, which may be required for the role. Some employers may also require candidates to complete applications for employment which contain relevant information about the person’s background and experience. It is important to retain this information for the pre-employment check process, in order to verify qualifications and clearances (and have a record that such checks were conducted). These records may also be useful if it is later discovered that the employee was less than truthful during the recruitment process.

The employment offer and the acceptance of the offer should also remain on file, together with any new contracts or variations that are agreed with the employee during the course of the employment.

Upon commencement, employees usually complete an onboarding and induction process. The induction of new employees is critical for compliance reasons – and so a record of the induction should be kept to show that the employee was properly instructed and trained into a safe system of work.

It is during employment, when HR has less direct involvement with the employee, that employee records can often be scant or incomplete. HR should impress upon managers the importance of keeping records of any training completed by employees, performance appraisals and performance management discussions – informal and formal. These records are often crucial when a decision needs to be made about the employee’s employment or when those records need to be relied upon if there is a claim, for example, of unfair dismissal or adverse action.

Paperless record keeping

Most businesses have embraced electronic document management systems as a means of keeping employee records. Gone are the days where personnel files were in folders kept in cupboards under lock and key, guarded by HR. However, just because files are not there physically does not mean that good record keeping practices should not be maintained.

As with all paperless systems, it is important that employee records created are retained. This may mean that some time is spent in setting up processes for capturing all information relating to employees from across the business. Managers who usually correspond directly with their direct reports should ensure that a copy is also sent to HR so that a copy is retained on the employee’s file. It will be of little use if a manager’s email to an employee about performance concerns, or record of discussion between a manager and employee about conduct is not kept on the employee’s file.

By setting up your employee record system to reflect the different stages in the employment lifecycle, employers are assured of capturing all information relevant to the employee and will be able to retrieve and rely on such information if required.

Shane Koelmeyer is a leading workplace relations lawyer and Director at Workplace Law. Workplace Law is a specialist law firm providing employers with legal advice, training and representation in all aspects of workplace relations, employment-related matters and WH&S.

Information provided in this blog is not legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Workplace Law does not accept liability for any loss or damage arising from reliance on the content of this blog.

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