Storage of employee personnel files

What information has to be kept and for how long

Question: What documents must be stored in employee personnel files and how long after a person's employment ends must the employer hold the file? Is there a requirement the files be held in a confidential location at a corporate office, or can they be maintained regionally?

Answer: Every Canadian jurisdiction has employment standards legislation which stipulates the required contents of employee personnel files, as well as the specific length of time the records must be retained by an employer. Nearly all employers are required to keep current personnel files but the specific requirements will vary by jurisdiction. Accordingly, it is important for an employer to refer to the legislation that governs its particular jurisdiction in order to know with certainty the requirements with which it must comply.

In Saskatchewan, for example, the Labour Standards Act stipulates every employer must retain accurate records showing the particulars of every unwritten contract and a copy of every written contract or other document dealing with wages or other monetary benefits to which any employee is entitled. The legislation also sets out a detailed listing of the information and documentation that is required to be retained.

The list of required items is fairly lengthy and includes the following: name, sex, date of birth, address, rate of wages, total wages for each pay period, time when work and meal breaks begin and end each day, total number of hours each day and week, total number of hours each day and week that the employee is required to be at employer's disposal, amount and purpose of deductions, date of each payment of wages, commencement and termination of employment, information on annual holidays, termination pay, register of work performed at home where applicable and address of home worker.

Under the Saskatchewan legislation, these records are required to be kept for a period of five years following the termination of employment. Specific lists of items that must be retained, as well as the retention period varies by jurisdiction. The shortest retention period is 12 months; the longest is five years. It is important, therefore, to carefully review the legislation that governs your particular jurisdiction in order to know what to keep and for how long.

The statutory requirements in each jurisdiction also vary as to the precise location where the records must be physically retained. In Saskatchewan, the documents must be kept at the place of business or employment unless alternate storage is approved by the Minister. The Saskatchewan legislation doesn't stipulate the retention must be retained at a "confidential location." However, for privacy considerations, it is prudent practice to ensure all personnel records are maintained in confidence and the information they contain can only be accessed by those with a legitimate business need.

Brian Kenny is a partner with MacPherson Leslie and Tyerman LLP in Regina. He can be reached at (306) 347-8421 or [email protected].

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