Personnel and Volunteer Paperwork

As your organization and volunteer legal advocate program grow, you will need to develop tools to help you keep records of all of the staff and volunteers. This is a very important human resources practice because it will help your organization keep track of trends with recruitment and hiring as well as provide you with data about your past VLAs and staff: Are they typically from a particular region? Are they usually a certain age when they look into these volunteer opportunities? What universities are represented? This data will be very useful for the development of your advertisement materials and recruitment strategies. Additionally, former volunteers or employees may use your organization as a reference and you should be able to easily access their employment dates/location to verify this information with whoever is seeking a reference.

Annual volunteer planning

Again, you can use the Annual Volunteer Planning chart to keep track of VLAs. With each new year, you can add a tab instead of erasing existing information.

Emergency information and staff bio information

Once volunteers and new staff arrive, they should also fill out a spreadsheet or form that provides information about their emergency contacts, permanent address, personal address, local address and other important information. Having this information accessible is important for risk management.

Below is a sample spreadsheet for Staff Information, which shows what kind of information is useful for your organization to track for each staff member and volunteer.

Personnel files

Every organization that employs one or more individuals inevitably collects substantial personnel information from each employee. Organizations should keep updated personnel files for all employees in order to protect against any potential labor charges brought against the organization in the future and to help with overall employee management and engagement. Suggested best practice is to keep personnel records for seven years after an employee’s last day at the organization.

Some paperwork and employee information is generally required by law in most countries but organizations may choose to expand personnel files to include information outside of national or local regulations. Personnel files will often include performance evaluations, resumes, documentation of PTO (paid time off), and documentation of salary increases or promotions as well as tax forms and payroll information.

In addition to standard personnel files, it is recommended that employers maintain files for each filled position. Records ideally should include the job posting, resumes and cover letter for each candidate interviewed, interview notes, and reference checks.

Documents to store in personnel files include but are not limited to:

  • Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) or Employment Contract
  • Tax forms
  • Employment eligibility forms (legal requirement in many countries)
  • Requests for physical accommodations
  • Work history
  • Performance evaluations
  • Disciplinary records and/or performance improvement plans (PIP)
  • Personal commendations
  • Sick days and vacation days
  • Proof of insurance
  • Waiver of Liability
  • Benefit enrollments
  • Beneficiary designations
  • Payroll withholding statements
  • Salary increases, promotions, or lateral job transition
  • Voluntary or involuntary termination
  • Reports of reference checks
  • Workers’ compensation information
  • Medical information
  • Disciplinary issues or formal complaints

Since personnel files can be requested by the government in the case of a formal legal complaint against the organization, all paperwork held within the files should remain objective and based on factual evidence. It is important that supervisors do not include subjective opinions, especially opinions not relevant to the person’s employment history. It is suggested that supervisors remain vigilant in recording only objective observations even in their informal notes, as those, too, could be subpoenaed (summoned by a court).

How do you store files?

To protect access to employee information and help ease the process of supplying the government with required documents, some organizations choose to separate personnel information into specialized folders. For example, an employer may choose to store all tax documents together in one file and create a specific healthcare file to separate sensitive health records from an employee’s general information. In addition, employers can choose to store all payroll records in a separate file to ensure that the accounting department does not have access to the employee’s complete file.

Regardless of how an employer chooses to organize their filing system, all important paperwork should be carefully stored in a place that ensures long-term preservation and high confidentiality. Employers may choose to store documents electronically and/or in physical, locked filing cabinet. Considering the sensitive information within the documents, it is important that organizations use an electronic storing system that both encrypts the documents and allows employers to easily restrict access.

Who has access to files?

Access to an employee’s general file should be accessible to HR, the employee, the employee’s direct supervisor, and, in some cases, the Executive Director. The accounting department may be granted access to the payroll file but the healthcare file should, if possible, be restricted solely to HR and the employee.

It is suggested that employees have access to their files on an open or designated review period. Employers may choose to require employees review their files only in the presence of their supervisor or HR person in order to ensure the integrity of the files. If an employee disagrees with something recorded in his/her file the employee may request the opportunity to write an explanation or counter-point, which will also be stored.

Online systems

A snapshot of the basic information required about employees and volunteers can be created using simple free online tools, enabling emergency contact records to be updated on a rolling basis.

You can download the Staff Bio Spreadsheet to change the questions to fit the needs of your organization. If you choose to upload this Excel sheet to your GoogleDocs, you can then create a form by going to “Form- Create form.” This will allow VLAs and staff to easily provide their information without having to enter into the spreadsheet. When they submit the form, their answers are automatically saved in your spreadsheet.

What the form would look like:

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