Is the paper piling up in your office and in need of a big spring cleaning? Before managers start tossing documents in the circular file, they need to know which employee-related paperwork must be saved—and for how long.
Supervisors can get their organizations into legal trouble by disposing of documents that they shouldn’t—documents that should be saved or submitted to HR so they can be added to the employee’s official personnel file, substantiate a need for, etc.
Generally speaking, managers are not responsible for maintaining personnel files. But a majority of the documents that go into those files originate from supervisors’ offices. Check with HR before pitching anything related to:
- Hiring and termination
- Promotions and demotions
- Work hours
- Leave requests
- Accommodation requests
- Selection for training opportunities
- Safety and health.
This doesn’t just include paper documents; it includes electronic ones, too.
When it’s unclear what to do with a document, ask yourself these questions:
- Does this require action?
- Can I identify a specific use?
- Is it difficult to obtain again?
- Is it recent enough to be useful?
- Are there legal or tax implications?
If the answer to each question is “no,” ask: What is the worst possible thing that will happen if I toss this? If you can live with your answer, toss or recycle it.
How to manage your ‘desk files’
Desk files are personal files that managers keep on their employees. While they aren’t official personnel files, they typically contain information that could eventually make it into those files. Think of desk files as the place where you store that note you scribbled about an employee’s performance that you wanted to make sure to include in his formal review, or that list of dates employees were absent.
Desk files should be temporary. To ensure that they are, follow these three steps.
- Date them to ensure the info is added to official documents in a timely manner.
- Incorporate them into formal , formal disciplinary warnings, etc.
- Dispose of them after including the information in a formal document. If the information is personal in nature, shred before disposing.