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Which staff records do I need to keep?

The retention and proper management of personnel files is not just important for workplace organisation, in many cases it's a legal requirement your business must meet and understanding your responsibilities will give your business a head start.

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The retention and proper management of personnel files is not just important for workplace organisation, in many cases it's a legal requirement your business must meet and understanding your responsibilities will give your business a head start. Record keeping can often be overlooked as simply red tape, just another administrative burden to be avoided if possible. However, it is of vital importance that all organisations, regardless of size, keep appropriate personnel records. The types of records your business should retain fall into two categories: those you are required to keep by law those which it is advisable to retain for HR planning. Benefits of keeping proper personnel records Proper record keeping not only helps to ensure you comply with employment legislation but allows you to monitor important employment processes such as recruitment, training and dismissal. Doing so will allow you to identify any potentially troublesome trends. In the event of a dispute, the records may also be useful in providing demonstrable evidence that you were following established procedures. Secondly, retaining accurate records of staff pay, holidays, pension contributions and other entitlements helps to prevent disputes with staff. Many disputes arise as a result of employees claiming their pay or entitlements have been unfairly deducted, or they were not informed of important changes to working practices. Without proper records it can be difficult to refute these claims. Therefore keeping records of important decisions affecting employees and your communication of these provides documented evidence of your actions. Finally, good record keeping can also have a practical benefit in terms of monitoring your staff. Accurate records allow you to assess levels of performance and productivity, and identify trends in absence levels, sickness, lateness and disciplinary issues. This will enable you to take swift action to resolve any problems identified before they become endemic in your business. Which personnel records do you need to keep? There are certain key records which all businesses should retain regardless of type or sector. These are statutory records and you are legally obliged to keep them. Information relating to income tax and NI returns, income tax records and correspondence with the Inland Revenue should be retained for not less than three years after the end of the financial year to which they relate Records related to working time should be retained for two years from the date on which they were made Records of holiday entitlement and holidays taken National Minimum Wage records should be kept for three years after the end of the pay reference period following the one that the records cover Wage and salary records including overtime, bonuses and expenses should be kept for six years Statutory Maternity Pay records should be retained for three years after the end of the tax year in which the maternity period ends Statutory Sick Pay records should be retained for three years after the end of the tax year to which they relate There are many statutory retention periods relating to workplace accidents and injuries. These periods vary widely particularly where hazardous substances are involved in the operation of your business. You should always seek advice before destroying these records. In addition to these statutory requirements there are also a number of organisational records which your business should keep to assist you with HR management. For many of these records there is no definitive statutory retention period and it is a matter of judgment as to how long you keep these records for: Recruitment and selection procedures Discipline, including dismissals and grievance Training and career development Induction procedures Termination of employment Equal opportunities issues. This list is not an exhaustive list of your obligations but rather the key areas to be covered. Often the types of records deemed important to your organisation will depend on the nature of your business. This area of law is vast and liable to change. If you are unsure about whether to keep a record, it is important to seek advice. Members of the Forum can call our helpline on 0845 130 1722. How to establish a record system If your business does not already have one, you should consider creating a records system for managing personnel records. You should establish a proper document retention policy and monitoring programme, and this needs to be communicated to all staff. This may involve training staff as to the practical implications of the policy and ensuring that managers demonstrate a commitment to abiding by the procedures. Data Protection Finally, businesses should be aware that the Data Protection Act (DPA) applies to the management of most personnel records. The DPA is generally concerned with any identifiable personal data you retain about your staff. You should ensure employees understand why you are collecting personal information and how this will be used. The personal information you request should be relevant and not excessive. You should ensure this information is kept securely and you comply with the legal rights of employees to access certain information you hold about them.

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