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Employee Records: What, When, and Where to Keep

July 20, 2021 | posted by Abacus Payroll

Keeping employee payroll files organized is important should you need to easily pull up their information. There are certain laws governing what records to keep, how long to hold on to them, and who should see them. We provide a few tips to help business owners with this tedious task.

Create a Separate File for Each Employee

Make sure to have each employee’s information kept separate from one another in a secure location. This will help to keep the data organized and easily reachable. These files should only be accessed by HR personnel or those with a legitimate reason to review the information. Keep them in a locked cabinet, or if stored electronically, they should be secure and backed up regularly.

Payroll Files

It is important to keep track of payroll records relating to vacation, sick time, time off accrual and usage, pay information regarding raises or wage deductions, authorization for extra hours or overtime, new hire reporting forms, time cards, work schedules, W-4 forms, W-2 forms, withholding and deduction documentation, and wage garnishment records. Keeping all this information may seem unnecessary, but it will not if employees are looking to you to explain payroll or vacation times. Payroll files should be kept for both exempt and non-exempt employees. The FLSA requires you to keep payroll records for at least three years and documents used to compute wages for at least two years.

Other Files to Store

Make sure you hold onto all employee I-9 forms. For medical documents, this should include health insurance enrollment forms, retirement benefit records, formal pre-employment tests, COBRA documents and FMLA papers (if applicable), and other medical history papers. There are privacy laws in place to keep employee’s medical information confidential so be sure that this information is not easily accessible by any personnel. Also, make sure you keep information related to hiring and employment, including recruitment records, application, cover letter, and resume, signed job description and offer letter, personal information, signed employee handbook, performance reviews, documents related to promotions and salary increases, training and class completion documents, and corrective action records. Lastly, keep an injury file for any employee who is injured on the job. This should include worker compensation claim records and injury reports, as well as any medical records related to the injury. Also, if applicable, keep any OSHA records that pertain to the injury.

I-9 Storage Requirements

There are specifications for storing an employee’s Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, documents. An employer must keep an employee’s I-9 form for three years after their start date or 1 year after their last date of employment, whichever date is later. This information should be stored in a secure area or folder so that it is not accessible to any unauthorized viewer.


Overall, there are many documents and records to keep track of and store. Having an organized place to file this information will help if it becomes necessary to review. Abacus Payroll can help you with compliance, contact us for more information!

*All of these documents may not be applicable to your business, please consult your payroll provider or ask about our HR Help Center for more specific information*


About the Author: Abacus Payroll

Abacus Payroll, Inc. is a leading provider of payroll solutions for businesses of all sizes. Whether yours is a family-owned small business or a national corporation, we provide payroll, tax and other financial services on time and at an affordable price. Unlike other payroll providers, Abacus Payroll will assign your very own payroll specialist who will understand your payroll needs inside and out. So no more speaking to a different person each time, no more sitting on hold for hours and most importantly no more missed deadlines! Contact us today to see how we can help your business. You can count on us.