Stop for a minute and consider your immediate working environment. Is there anything lurking away in your desk draws that you would rather someone, somewhere didn’t get their hands on? For HR and payroll professionals, the answer is almost everything. The people department is a complex collection of payslips, contracts and records. The potential exposure of such information could be catastrophic for both an individual’s and a company’s reputation.

There are, therefore, good reasons to stop relying on the printed word. As well as the sensible sustainability angle, there are crucial legislative reasons why HR and payroll should not rely on paper copies – and such concerns surround constraint, cost and control.

First, constraint; your business will be legally required to keep up-to-date records that cover key staffing areas, such as pay and sickness rates. Many records will need to be kept for a minimum period of time and context added through support documents, such as contact details and employment conditions.

Keeping such records in paper format alone is simply insufficient. Paper can easily be lost or destroyed, and searching through files to locate a single record can be a mission impossible. Electronic document management technology can ensure records are electronically stored and are instantly accessible to authorised staff.

When it comes to cost and control, the Data Protection Act (DPA) 1998 stipulates how employment data must be accurate, up-to-date and kept for no longer than necessary. Recently introduced powers mean organisations can receive a £500,000 fine for each deliberate or negligent data breach that causes damage or distress.

The electronic storage of documents can ensure records are securely saved and don’t fall into the wrong hands. The right system will provide self-service, allowing employees to access and update records to ensure information is kept up-to-date. It will also quickly identify which documents need wiping after a certain period of time, in accordance with the DPA, ensuring you have full control over employee records.

Adding electronic workflow to your document management system adds additional controls to HR processes. For instance, employees now have a legal right to make a request in relation to training, such as time off work to study. To be compliant, organisations need to respond to such requests in writing in a timely fashion. With electronic workflow, training requests can be forwarded to the relevant managers for their consideration and the system can automatically prompt the managers if they have failed to take action within a specified time frame. This ensures HR is keeping control with minimal effort.

The bottom line – failure to implement suitable paperless systems that address the legislative areas of constraint, cost and control, could leave your business exposed. Perhaps a move to paperless HR is worth considering after all?