The Purpose and Contents of an Employee Payroll File

A women processing payroll files at her desk
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The employee payroll file is the repository for everything that has to do with an employee's paycheck. The main reason to create a payroll file is to limit access to the rest of the confidential information that is located in the personnel file.

The Purpose of an Employee Payroll File

The payroll file enables accounting staff to pay the employee without accessing employee confidential information. Accounting staff can keep payroll records where it makes sense for paying the employee. In instances where payroll and accounting are outsourced, this is an even more recommended practice for the employee's payroll records.

The payroll file limits accessibility to confidential employee information. The employee payroll file enables accounting and finance staff to have the information they need to pay the employee in a handy location. The location should be secure and out-of-reach to any other employees.

You need to impress on accounting staff the fact that the information in the payroll files is confidential and should not be shared without the permission and sign off from HR staff. Nor should accounting staff share any information about employee raises, promotions, bonuses, and any other information that is confidential about employees.

Human Resources does not need to monitor accounting's access to the employee payroll files. As is recommended for related employee files such as the personnel and medical files, you should limit access to the payroll file. Only people who need to have the information to do their job should see the contents.

Contents of an Employee Payroll File

This is a suggested list of what belongs in an employee payroll file.

  • Offer letter signed by the hiring manager, Human Resources, and employee
  • Pay authorization signed by Human Resources and the hiring manager when an employee contract exists
  • W-4 form
  • Paperwork and authorization relating to any employee benefit that involves a payroll deduction
  • Direct deposit authorization form
  • Salaried time accounting forms
  • Hourly weekly time sheets
  • Time clock records, where used
  • Attendance records
  • Expense reimbursement requests including documentation and receipts for travel and other authorized expenditures
  • Tuition reimbursement forms and receipts for payment, books, and so forth
  • Pay in advance request forms
  • Company loan documents and payment schedule
  • Garnishment orders and records
  • Authorization for release of private information
  • Paperwork relating to each employee raise
  • Paperwork related to any bonus, profit sharing, or recognition award
  • W-2 forms
  • Authorization for any other payroll actions that your company permits

Also Known As employee files, employee records, human resources files, documentation

Note: Susan Heathfield makes every effort to offer accurate, common-sense, ethical Human Resources management, employer, and workplace advice on this website, but she is not an attorney. The content on the site is not to be construed as legal advice. The site has a world-wide audience and employment laws and regulations vary from state to state and country to country, so the articles cannot be definitive on all of them for your workplace. When in doubt, always seek legal counsel. The information on the site is provided for guidance only.