Personnel files: how long can you keep data?

Personnel files: how long can you keep data?

Employers process a lot of data on their employees over time. All this data is stored in a personnel file. This file contains important personal data and, for this reason, it is essential that this is done securely and correctly. How long are employers allowed (or, in some cases, required) to keep this data? In this blog, you can read more about the legal retention period of personnel files and how to deal with it.

What is a personnel file?

As mentioned above, an employer often has to deal with personnel data of its employees. This data must be properly stored and then destroyed. This is done through a personnel file. This includes the name and address details of employee(s), employment contracts, performance reports, et cetera. These data must comply with requirements following the AVG regulations, and must be kept for a certain period of time.

(If you want to know whether your personnel file meets the requirements of the AVG, check out our personnel file AVG checklist here)

Retention of employee data

The AVG does not give specific retention periods for personal data. There is no straightforward answer to the retention period of a personnel file, as it consists of different types of (personal) data.  A different retention period applies to each category of data. It also affects whether the person is still an employee, or has left employment.

Categories of retention periods

As stated above, there are different retention periods related to the retention of personal data in a personnel file. There are two criteria to consider, namely whether an employee is still employed, or has left employment. The following shows when certain data should be destroyed, or rather retained.

Current personnel file

No fixed retention periods are set for data contained in a current personnel file of an employee who is still employed. The AVG only imposes an obligation on employers to keep personnel files ‘up to date’. This means that the employer itself is obliged to set a deadline for periodic review of personnel files and destruction of outdated data.

Application details

Application data relating to an applicant who is not hired must be destroyed within a maximum of 4 weeks after the end of the application procedure. Data such as a motivation or application letter, CV, statement on behaviour, correspondence with the applicant fall under this category. With the applicant’s consent, it is possible to keep the data for about 1 year.

Reintegration process

When an employee has completed a reintegration process and returns to his job, a maximum retention period of 2 years after completion of the reintegration applies. There is an exception to this when the employer is self-insurer. In that situation, a retention period of 5 years applies.

Maximum 2 years after end of employment

After an employee leaves employment, the bulk of the (personal) data in the personnel file is subject to a retention period of up to 2 years.

This category includes:

  • Employment contracts and amendments thereto;
  • Correspondence relating to resignation;
  • Reports of appraisals and performance reviews;
  • Correspondence related to promotion/demotion;
  • Correspondence on illness from UWV and company doctor;
  • Reports related to the Gatekeeper Improvement Act;
  • Agreements on Works Council membership;
  • Copy of certificate.

At least 5 years after end of employment

Certain personnel file data is subject to a 5-year retention period. The employer is therefore obliged to keep these data for a period of 5 years after the employee leaves employment. These are the following data:

  • Payroll tax statements;
  • Copy of employee identification document;
  • Ethnicity and origin data;
  • Data related to payroll taxes.

These data should therefore be kept for at least five years, even if they are replaced by new statements in the personnel file.

At least 7 years after end of employment

Next, the employer also has a so-called ‘tax retention obligation’. This obliges the employer to keep all basic records for a period of 7 years. So this includes basic data, wage garnishments, payroll records and salary agreements.

Expired retention period?

When a maximum retention period of data from a personnel file has expired, the employer may no longer use the data. This data should then be destroyed.

When a minimum retention period has expired, the employer may destroy this data. An exception applies when a minimum retention period has expired and the employee requests the destruction of the data.

Do you have questions about staff file retention periods or retention periods for other data? If so, please contact us. Our employment lawyers will be happy to help you!

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