The personnel file: digital or paper?

Digitisation offers many advantages. Never before has information been so quickly and so easily at our disposal. Never before have we been able to share or exchange information so readily. Never before have businesses been so quick to analyse information. But, what about the personnel file? Can everything be digitised? And can the paper file then be fed into the shredder? Is a digital agreement just as legally sound? In this blog you will learn how to approach the personnel file: digital or paper?

Personnel file: digital vs. paper

The ballpoint pen has been replaced by the Stylus. The briefcase by the sleeve. Huge filing cabinets are even more huge on websites for second-hand goods. The nostalgia for Postman Pat has increased exponentially. The maxim ‘think before you print’ has been consigned to the history books… or the history app. Welcome to the digital age!

Privacy and digital files

As an employer you are bound by the Data Protection Act. Data relating to your staff may be retained for up to two years after your employee has left your company unless a longer period of retention is prescribed by law. It is important to note in this context that the Data Protection Act requires you to adopt suitable technical and organisational measures to protect your digital files. As an employer you must know who has access to what data and you must also be able to guarantee the deletion of the files.


Documents in the paper or digital personnel file have an evidential function. Does a digital file have less evidential value than a paper file? In the Dutch legal system, the court can weigh up whether to regard the evidence supplied as conclusive. There is an exception: in the case of an authentic or private deed, the court should accept this as evidence without further ado.

Does a digital file have less evidential value than a paper file?


An example of a private deed is the contract of employment. The paper original on which both the employer and the employee have placed their signatures is deemed conclusive evidence. In the case of a digital copy, this is for the court to decide.

So, should you still keep the paper file? You don’t have to. You need to be able to convince the court, but also bodies such as the Employee Insurance Agency (UWV) and the Tax and Customs Administration, that it is not possible to manipulate the digital document. Fortunately, there are plenty of software tools available to help you with this.

If your organisation makes the right preparations, then there will be nothing to stop you from digitising your personnel files. If you are not sure how to do this properly, involve your accountant, the UWV and/or the Tax and Customs Administration in this process.