Legislative Framework for Record Retention Requirements
As most HR professionals know, document retention for employee-related records—such as personnel files, payroll information, benefits records, and background checks—is a particularly complicated process, required by law, with variations from country to country. Complicating the process further, each document in each country has its own individual retention requirements, and the financial penalties for noncompliance can be significant. A carefully designed and implemented HR record retention policy is a necessary step to support an employer’s robust compliance program.
While disposing of too many records can increase a company's legal exposure, disposing of too few records may also increase legal exposure as well as the cost of storage. Employers must identify which records should be retained, how long documents should be retained and the different formats in which records may be stored. Employers must also determine how to ensure internal HR record retention policies comply with all applicable regulations and local laws.
General Recordkeeping Requirements
Keeping HR records through a robust document retention policy may be useful to employers for various reasons, including (a) maintaining the corporate memory of the company; (b) satisfying legal or regulatory requirements; (c) preserving documents with an enduring business value to the company; and (d) protecting the company against the risks of litigation and the need to preserve evidence and comply with disclosure obligations as necessary.
However, a balance must often be struck between keeping documents for a sufficiently long period of time, so as to meet an employer’s legitimate business objectives, and not keeping those documents unnecessarily, which could give rise to a breach of data protection laws or otherwise create unnecessary risk.
Section 11, Rule X of the Rules Implementing the Labor Code in the Philippines provides that “All employment records of the employees shall be kept and maintained by the employer in or about the premises of the work place. The premises of a work-place shall be understood to mean the main or branch office of the establishment, if any, depending upon where the employees are regularly assigned. The keeping of the employee’s records in another place is prohibited.” In common practice, paper originals can be stored in a remote data warehouse as long as the electronic copies remain accessible at the workplace (or main breach) in the event that there is a visitation/inspection from the Secretary of Labor and Employment.
Most countries have minimum and maximum retention periods for certain HR records. Even if there is no statutory minimum retention period for a certain category of records in a particular country, it is often recommended to retain records until the expiration of the relevant time limits for bringing legal actions or regulatory investigations (statutes of limitations).
In addition to maintaining minimum retention periods, some countries also have maximum retention periods. A record’s survival must often be limited so as to safeguard the privacy of persons whose personal data is contained in that record. In particular, records must be kept for no longer than is necessary for achieving the purposes for which the records were collected or subsequently used. After the maximum retention periods have expired, the documents should be either permanently deleted or anonymized (i.e., all references to data subjects should be redacted so that it is no longer possible to identify those persons).
Under the Personal Data Protection Act in the Philippines, employee and applicant information should only be retained as long as necessary to fulfill the original purpose(s) the data was collected, to defend a legal claim, or as otherwise required by law.
Format of Records
Multiple laws, decisions, and even everyday life practices apply when assessing the retention form of a document.
Generally, there is no law in the Philippines prohibiting keeping documents in electronic form. That said, Rule X of the Rules Implementing the Labor Code shows that employee time records are expected to be kept in paper form. Similarly, under Section 6, Rule X of the Rules Implementing the Labor Code, employers are required to pay employees by means of a payroll wherein certain information is individually shown in a paper/payslip so that employees can verify their salaries and mandatory deductions. Please note though that this is an old rule that did not take into account the advent of technology. In common practice, as long as the employer can show proof, for instance, of payment, whether in electronic form or otherwise, then electronic records are generally considered allowed.
Led by PeopleDoc’s Chief Legal & Compliance Officer, the HR Compliance Assist team relies on a network of internal and external compliance experts and lawyers, including the global law firm Morgan Lewis, to provide clients with best practices and recommendations on topics such as HR document retention, employee data privacy, and HR electronic records. HR Compliance Assist also provides local compliance monitoring and alert services in select countries where PeopleDoc’s customers have employees. HR Compliance Assist is a service exclusively available to PeopleDoc customers.