Human resources: Documentation is key to compliance

In many agencies, large and small, the burden of human resources is always lingering.  Whether a dedicated employee manages HR, or it’s a split function between various staff, documentation must be kept and must be cohesive. To help facilitate documentation that protects your agency in the case of audit from a government body or even in an employee litigation matter, we have been compiling frequent issues and questions that come up.  Below are some helpful tips to safeguard your agency against any future issues.


Communication with Employees

All communication with an employee, whether it is positive or negative should be recorded in the personnel file.  Using a simple communication log or a communication sheet which includes the name of the employee, the date and time, and subject, along with any follow up must be included.  This communication includes general and broad memos or messages to clinicians or teams and office staff.



In healthcare, clinicians are trained to be concise and to the point while providing all necessary information regarding patient care.  The same goes for detailing employee relations.    Documenting an issue should be specific and tell a story with the date and time clearly indicated.  Your documentation should only state the facts – no feelings or personal opinions should be included as they may be used against the agency as bias.


If the document is related to an employee’s disciplinary action, tie this summary document back to prior warnings and communication with the employee to show that you have been building a case for this action.  An example of building your case is to provide a verbal warning (which should always be documented in a file) and a written warning before formal disciplinary action is taken.  Using these two prior actions as the basis for discipline indicates that you have the facts in order and are justified.    However, using non-recent documents to formulate a case for disciplinary action would not be justified.



Don’t wait until a week later to document your employee action.  Make sure you do it during or immediately following the communication with the employee.  Waiting to document may result in a small, but critical detail slipping by.


Employee Involvement

Allow your employees to be part of the process. As more companies open up management decisions to include employee input, the communication about HR related items also count.  By being open and straightforward, you create a more transparent HR process, which allows the agency to stay one step ahead of future potential issues. While HR is supposed to be a support system for staff, in actuality, HR is a compliance function of the agency and HR’s priority is to protect the company. (Sometimes, you must also remind the HR staff member of this critical aspect of their job.)



Document Retention

How long to keep employee records is one of the most common questions.  While there is no overall set timeframe, the following guidelines are widely used by HR departments:

  • Personnel Files: 7 years after termination.
  • Medical/Benefits: 6 years after plan year.
  • I-9 Forms: Not more than 3 years after termination.
  • Hiring Records: 2 years after hiring decision.

Please call or send us an email if you would like a more detailed list of documentation retention policies.