Q&A: Personnel & Benefit Files

Keeping employees’ confidential information handy – yet safely away from prying eyes – is a top priority for human resource managers.  We’ve put together some suggestions for storing benefit enrollment information and personnel files below.


May benefit enrollment documents be placed in the employee’s personnel files or should they be kept separate?


Due to privacy concerns, it is considered a best practice to keep all benefit documents in a separate file and location from personnel records. Benefit forms contain personal confidential information, including dependent information, that requires a high level of security. Personnel files of all types should be kept in a locked file, ideally in a secure location.

It’s recommended that HR managers keep separate files for the following:

  • Personnel file: Employment application, resume, job description, offer letter, status change forms, acknowledgement of company handbook, code of conduct and other policies, emergency contacts, address change forms, disciplinary action, evaluations, certifications, course completions, and accommodations.
  • Benefits file: Enrollment/waiver forms, enrollment change forms, medical forms.
  • Reference checks and pre-employment screening: Reference checks, verifications of employment requests, drug tests and background checks.
  • Payroll file: Compensation changes, W-4 and state tax withholding forms, direct deposit forms.

You may need to create additional files and keep them separate from personnel, payroll, and benefits files, such as a wage garnishment file, an FMLA file and/or ADA accommodations file, and an investigation file.  It is also recommended that HR managers keep all active I-9 forms in a binder if your company size can accommodate that or in a separate file drawer or cabinet away from personnel files. Separately, maintain a binder (or separate file drawer) of I-9 forms for employees who are no longer with your company.

This blog is not intended to be exhaustive nor should any discussion or opinions be construed as legal advice. Readers should contact legal counsel for legal advice.

Health CareJay David