Employee file: Definitive guide

what is employee file

This is the most complete guide to employee file/ personnel file.

In this guide, you will learn everything you need to know about the employee file.

Let’s dive right in

Meaning of Employee File / Personnel File

An employee file simply means a set of documents that contain all relevant information about the history of an employee under the employer’s business or organization.

Employers typically keep a number of different employee records, often called employee files or personnel file or employee personnel file, as the way of documenting an employee’s relationship with the employer.

Reasons to keep Employee File / Personnel File

It is important for an employer to keep and maintain employee personnel files for each employee within the business because;

  1. The content of the personnel file provides a historical overview of the important events happening during an employee’s career.
  2. They provide important supportive data in case a lawsuit is brought against by a disgruntled or former employee as they demonstrate the employer’s rationale behind hiring, promotions, transfer, rewards, and firing decisions.
  3. The personnel file can also track performance development goals, appraisal, leave of absence, disciplinary notices, and any employment-related agreement.
  4. Responsible and careful employers keep more than one personnel record, as each type of file has content that is appropriate for their purpose.

Types of Employee Files

There are two types of employee personnel files that are; personal files and confidential files.

A personnel file is a type of file that contains employee basic information, hiring documents, job performance development, termination, and Post – Employment information as well as compensation.

Confidential File contains confidential Information of the employee separate from the personnel file such as Medical Records and workers compensation claims, a document pertaining to an employee investigation such as a disciplinary action and background check.

Contents of Employees file

Employees’ file contents will vary from one person to another, but generally, there are few key aspects that should be included and aspects which should not be included.

Therefore, it is more important to know what should be contained in employees’ files and also, what should not be contained in it.

What Shouldn’t Be In Employee File?

Generally, any information that is not relevant to the employee role such as ethnicity or details about an employee’s disability as well as criminal history is advised not to be included in a file.

What Should Be In An Employee File?

The following hereunder are the important Check-List Documents that should be included in the employee file and their importance.

  1. Application letter: It is very important on a contractual basis as it acts as an offer (i.e. an expression of an employee’s willingness to work for or with an employer).
  2. Curriculum Vitae (CV): Provides one’s work history, areas of strength and weakness are noted therein. However, it provides quick reference when it comes to improving employee skills (through career development programs/opportunities).
  3. Photo:  Gives an employer quick identification of an employee when it comes to emergencies of any nature, especially for administrative use. Therefore it is strongly advised all files of employees to include their passport size photos.
  4. Referee/Reference/Guarantor’s Statements:  Assures an employer with the exact work perspective statements from those who have worked with or trust the integrity and work capability of the job candidate/holder before and during the employment repletion.
  5. JD (Job Description):  Allows both parties to be specifically aware of the job demands, directions, and chain of command/responsibility.  It is a useful tool/mark when conducting performance assessments.
  6. Local Government Letter: Allows certainty on an employee’s domicile. It is very useful for an employer when it comes to repatriating an employee in the event of termination of employment.
  7. Social Security Schemes Records: All employees must be deducted and be enrolled on any of the recommended Social Security Schemes as required by the state law. Compliance thereto protects the company from facing legal penalties.
  8. Letter of offer: It starts the employment relationship off on a positive note and it is the legal basis for employment.
  9. Contract: Specifically states the nature/type of work relationship that exists between the two parties. Therefore, for balanced, accurate, and fair future decisions the employer must prepare a written statement of particular about the said relationship as per the dictates of Labour Laws of a certain country or state. See section 15 (1) of Act No. 6/2004 (Employment and Labour Relations).
  10. Commencement & End Dates: Reminds both parties about a service period that both have shared and whether the said duration is due or not. However, fixed-term employment contracts, alerts the HR department on renewal or non-renewal of the employee’s contract. Moreover, it provides a guide when calculating contract terminal dues.
  11. Annual Leave Form & Records: All annual leave records of the company’s employees remain to be on the accountability of the employer. Therefore these records need to be kept well and that all employees must be advised to take their annual leaves every year without unnecessary accumulation. see section 31 (3) of Act No. 6/2004
  12. Personal Data: Provides summary information about the employee. His family records (Status), education background, emergency contacts, and contact persons. Very useful when it comes to “emergency leaves” and “maternity/paternity leaves; Compassionate Leaves and other related matters. Read sections 33 & 34of Act No. 6/2004
  13. Birth Certificate: Guides the employer in recruitment logistics, retirement age determination, and other administrative uses.
  14. Loan Records: Help an employer and employee to keep track of the pending charges or dues/debts. This will depend on the company’s loan policies.
  15. Marriage Details: Very useful when it comes to the legality of exercising “Paternity leaves” and employee benefits.
  16. Appraisal Records:  An employer is advised to conduct a performance assessment of the employees at least twice a year. This assures the company potential candidates on the succession plan. It enables an employer to determine whether an employee adds value to the business for further management decisions.
  17. Exit Interview: It helps an employee to glean feedback from employees in order to improve aspects of the organization, better retain employees, and reduce turnovers.
  18. Resignation / Termination Letter: Serves the purpose of a prima facie evidence of cessation of the employment relationship.
  19. Warning/Disciplinary Records and other related documents: All disciplinary actions that are taken against employees need to be well recorded in personal files. They help to justify, where the need is, the management disciplinary courses of action.
  20. Medical Records: Provide a good track of records for observance of an employee’s right to “sick leave”. Therefore it is strongly advised to keep such records on employee’s files so as to keep track of absenteeism tendencies, managing work discipline, and employee’s sick leave balances.
  21. TIN (Tax Identification Number): possession of Tax Identification Number is now mandatory for all employees both public and the private sector as instructed by TRA (Tanzania revenue authority) for the purpose to modernize the tax collection system and ensure compliance and efficiency as TRA has introduced an electronic filing system of Tax Annual Returns for Companies in Tanzania where pay as you earn will be remitted online. Read Section 22 Of Tax Administration Act.
  22. NIDA (National Identification Number: As per requirement following the new regulations, it is essential in the application of TIN as well as social security funds registration.

Where to Keep Employee File

Since personnel file contains sensitive information’s about an employee, it has to be kept confidential by HR either by the way of failing them within the Cabinets or Electronically through the use of HR – SOFTWARE that secure and limit the people can access the personnel files anywhere.

Who Has the Right to See/access Employee File?

Personnel the file is the property of an Employer but can be accessed by the employee.

Therefore, the access to see the personnel file is authorized only to HR staff, and Employee whose data are contained within the file.

Is It Mandatory to Keep employee Personnel Records?

It depends on the state you’re based in and the contents of your employee’s file.

In Tanzania, Under the Employment and Labour Relation Act No. 6/2004, it is mandatory for both employer and employee to keep a record as it is stipulated under section 96.

How Long To Keep Employee File

This also depends on the law of a Specific Country.

In Tanzania, the law requires an employer to retain the records of an employee for a period of five (5) years after the termination of that employee.

This is important as it helps the employer to make references and defend himself in case a lawsuit is brought against them or as may be required by the Labour officer for general inspections.


My aim was to share with you everything you need to know about the employee file. Hope you find this guided useful, kindly share it with others to spread the knowledge.

Any thought? comment below?

Isack Kimaro
Isack Kimaro

Editor-in-chief and founder of sherianajamii.com. Holder of Bachelor of Laws (LL.B) and Post Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice. Lawyer by profession and blogger by passion