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The importance of keeping accurate employee records

Employee Records

The days when employers had to keep large files on their employees, with these locked away in the HR department office, are long gone. Thanks to ongoing advances in HR software, firms can keep all their employee data in one place and get the information they need in a click of a button.

Keeping accurate records isn’t just a case of ensuring data protection compliance though. Savvy employers recognise that, far from being an administrative burden, maintaining up-to-date employee records can offer great opportunities. For instance, workplace records make everything from recruitment, right through to employee training and development and even dismissal easier and less stressful.

Why is it important to keep accurate records?

Employee data and GDPR compliance

In many cases, the proper management of personnel files is a legal obligation, and failing to keep sensitive information secure can result in a fine or even harsher prosecution under the GDPR regulations. Dependent on the type of breach, fines can reach up to 4% of annual worldwide turnover of your previous financial year or €20 million. This can cause public embarrassment for any companies found to be in breach of the regulation, and significantly damage reputations.

Monitoring performance and productivity

Without proper records, it can be difficult, if not impossible, to effectively monitor performance and productivity levels. A lack of such important information can hinder both the growth of the business and the development of the individual employee, so everyone benefits from accurate, up-to-date records.

Keep on top of competency

Having up-to-date records which provide an overview of the training, qualifications, and certifications held by company employees allows you to understand the level of competency across your business. This is particularly important in industries where certain training is required to stay compliant with Health & Safety regulations, but can also be beneficial for companies looking to stand out from the competition.

Ensure health and safety

Keeping on top of records pertaining to things like fire safety and first aid training is important for ensuring you are properly safeguarding your team members whilst they are in the workplace. You may also need to keep a confidential record of any team members with disabilities, and to account for these disabilities when planning tasks.

Manage hours worked and holiday allowance

It’s important to monitor how many hours your employees have worked (particularly in shift-based roles) in order to calculate time off allowances and payroll information reliably. Using robust time and attendance software is the most efficient way to do this, taking away all the legwork to save HR teams precious time and money. You can also use this software to generate reports automatically and provide evidence of your compliance if required in the future.

Minimise disputes

Employee records can help to minimise any potential disputes between employer and employee. Even the most basic HR software package will allow an employer to keep precise records of punctuality and attendance, holiday entitlements and pay agreements (statistically the main topics of disputes), while they will also provide evidence that you have been following the correct workplace procedures.

Retain former employee details within the law

An accurate employee database will also allow you to access the records of former workers, again at the click of a button, as well as setting defined rules around the data retention policies around personal data, ensuring you’re always compliant. The days of colleagues or bosses scratching their heads when asked to provide a reference for someone who left the company several years earlier are, thankfully, a thing of the past.

How long does an employer have to keep employee records in the UK?

Due to the introduction of the GDPR in 2018, employers need to be careful about how long different types of employee records are kept on file. One of the guiding principles of this data protection law is that personal information must not be kept for any longer than is strictly required for processing reasons. The time that employee records can be kept for is governed by statutory retention periods, taking into account professional guidelines and business needs too.

Statutory retention periods differ by the type of employee record in question, and we have highlighted some of the main categories below. This is only some of the key retention periods, however, so for full details you should visit the CIPD website.

 

Type of record Statutory Retention Period Statutory Authority
Accident books, records, and reports 3 years from the date of last entry.

Special rules apply if:

  • The accident concerns a person under the age of 21
  • The accident involves a hazardous substance.
  • The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995 (RIDDOR)
  • Limitation Act 1980.
Accounting records 3 years for private companies, 6 years for public limited companies. Section 221 of the Companies Act 1985 as modified by the Companies Acts 1989 and 2006.
First aid training 6 years after employment. Health and Safety (First Aid) Regulations 1981.
Fire warden training 6 years after employment. Fire Precautions (Workplace) Regulations 1997.
Health & Safety representatives and employees’ training 5 years after employment.  Health and Safety (Consultation with Employees) Regulations 1996; Health and Safety Information for Employees Regulations 1989.
Income tax and NI returns, income tax records, and correspondence with HMRC Not less than 3 years after the end of the financial year to which they relate. The Income Tax (Employments) Regulations 1993 (SI 1993/744) as amended.
National minimum wage records 3 years after the end of the pay reference period following the one that the records cover. National Minimum Wage Act 1998.
Payroll wage/salary records (also overtime, bonuses, expenses)    6 years from the end of the tax year to which they relate. Taxes Management Act 1970.
Maternity Pay records, calculations, certificates 3 years after the end of the tax year in which the maternity period ends. The Statutory Maternity Pay (General) Regulations 1986 as amended. 
Medical records At least 40 years from the date of the last entry.

Statutory retention periods differ by regulations, including:

  • Control of Lead at Work
  • Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH)
  • Control of Asbestos at Work
  • Ionising Radiations
  • The Control of Lead at Work Regulations 1998
  • The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health 1999 and 2002
  • The Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 2002
  • The Ionising Radiations Regulations 1999
Records pertaining to children and young adults  Until the child/young adult turns 21 years old. Limitation Act 1980. 
Whistleblowing documents 6 months following the outcome if the investigation if substantiated. Removed immediately if the investigation is unsubstantiated. Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 and recommended IAPP practice.
Working time records (overtime, annual leave, jury service, time off for dependents, and so on) 2 years from the date on which they were created.  The Working Time Regulations 1998.

Last updated: 28.07.20

Want to know more?

If you’re looking to ensure the accuracy of your employee records or a software for employee payroll, contact us at Mitrefinch to discover how we’re creating a single true source for your record keeping. To learn more about Mitrefinch’s software for time and attendance or for workforce management, get in touch today.

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