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Employee records: who has access?

Recently I’ve had two clients contact me to enquire whether an employee has the right to access information contained in their Employee File. A good question so let’s nerd up and check the reference source.

Employee records are private and confidential. Generally, no one can access them other than the employee, their employer and relevant payroll staff.

The Fair Work Regulations is the reference source on an employee’s entitlement to inspection and copying of a record. Employers must make copies of an employee’s records available at the request of an employee or former employee.

Reg 3.42 of the Fair Work Regulations 2009 states:

(1) For subsection 535(3) of the Act, an employer must make a copy of an employee record available for inspection and copying on request by the employee or former employee to whom the record relates.

(2) The employer must make the copy available in a legible form to the employee or former employee for inspection and copying.

(3) If the employee record is kept at the premises at which the employee works or the former employee worked, the employer must:
(a) make the copy available at the premises within 3 business days after receiving the request; or
(b) post a copy of the employee record to the employee or former employee within 14 days after receiving the request.

While an employer is obligated to make a copy of an employee record should the employee request this, the employee has no entitlement to HR notes within their file. Such notes might include those documenting performance management meetings, information relating to the privacy of other employees or circumstances where providing access would pose a serious and imminent threat to the life or health of any staff member.

That’s a bucketload of information for such a simple question right? The laws around employment is often like that. And that’s why having someone in your corner who knows HR can save you time, dollars and drama.

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Note: Bare Bones Consulting provides HR services for employers. Employees seeking advice on workplace concerns should contact the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94.