Employment records

All employers need to keep records of their employees’ employment details (such as job title and salary) and certain personal details (such as date of birth and home address). This information will be held either on a computer or on manual record cards and used for payroll and personnel management purposes.

The Data Protection Act 1998 regulates the processing of this information (how it is held, used and disclosed) through a set of eight data protection principles.

The Data Protection Act relates to both manual and computer records. It is safer and certainly best practice to assume that the Data Protection Act applies to all employee records.

Manual records

Employers without appropriate computer systems for keeping employment records should see below for a set of basic employment record cards which should be completed and kept updated for every employee:

Salary and benefits record

This provides an “at a glance” history of remuneration. The cost to the employer of any benefits which are provided to the employee is included in this record for tax purposes (P11 D).

Absence record

All absences should be recorded. Using one form only for recording all types of absence enables an overview of an employee’s attendance record to be obtained quickly. Due to the detail involved and, in particular, the information as to whether the absences are to be paid or not, it is likely that the person responsible for personnel records or salary administration will be in the best position to complete this form. To ensure that the correct payments are made, it is important that this person is notified promptly when employees are absent or return from absence. Establish a procedure for line managers to inform personnel or salary administration of absences on a weekly basis.

Keep details of the illness separate from the record of the dates of absence. Access to sickness and accident records should be limited to those managers who require the information to carry out their management role.

By maintaining accurate records, if a problem arises, you will be able to identify patterns in absence and build up evidence to present to the individual to support any action which may be necessary. You will also be able to determine when SSP and/or company sick pay have been exhausted, so that the correct adjustment to salary can be made.

Training record

In addition to recording training courses attended, this form can also be used for recording training needs and the provision of training other than training courses, such as on the job training.

Disciplinary warnings record

A disciplinary warnings record provides a useful way of monitoring an employee’s disciplinary history and the development of any patterns of undesirable behaviour.

Ensuring compliance

Employers should introduce appropriate personnel systems to ensure compliance with the eight data protection principles and the Data Protection Codes:

  • Records which are kept should be adequate and relevant but not excessive. Do not hold information which is not needed and not used. Assess the data you currently hold and decide whether or not it is necessary. Destroy records which are no longer necessary or relevant.
  • Make sure that employees are aware of the information you are keeping on them and how it will be used or disclosed. Remind them of their rights under the Data Protection Act, including their right to access their own records.
  • When a new employee is appointed, some of the information collected during the recruitment process will be transferred to their employment records. Do not transfer any information which is not relevant, for example the applicant’s salary with his/her previous employer. Delete this information from your records.
  • Records should be kept up to date and accurate. Employees should be required to notify changes of name, address, telephone number, bank details and marital status as soon as they occur. Use a form for this purpose and include it in your staff handbook and make changes to the relevant Personal Details form. Issue employees with a copy of their basic employment records each year and ask them to check their details for accuracy.
  • Records should not be kept for any longer than is strictly necessary. Pay and personnel records (excluding pension documentation) should be deleted (from a computer) or destroyed (if manually recorded) at the end of the seventh year following the year in which the employee leaves employment. Clock cards, overtime sheets and absence records should be retained for at least two years.
  • Where an employee has requested information relating to his/her personal data, you should respond promptly, within an absolute maximum of 40 days.
  • Records should be kept securely and only authorised, named users should have access to computer screens or manual records holding employees’ information. Those with access to confidential records should be fully aware of the need for confidentiality.
  • Employers often receive enquiries about their employees from banks, mortgage lenders or other agencies. Private information, such as salary details, home address or telephone number, should not be disclosed without the employee’s consent.