To give some back ground, I'm English, working in France for a company of around 60 people and have been here for around 7 months.

I am in the process of applying for various administrative things (social security [necessary for current job], health care, french civil partnership [PACS] with the girlfriend), for these things I require translated copies of my British birth certificate. So when our HR director told me our company offered a translation service for this I was happy to accept, and save 60€ on translation costs.

I handed my birth certificate to our HR director in person and have never seen it again. I understand the document was scanned and sent to the translators (so should never have left the HR office). I've received the translation (cool), but I'm obviously concerned about the birth certificate (You seem to be able to apply for a huge amount with this in France, and I'm concerned about identity theft etc).

I was told about this yesterday when I went to pick up the translation and the original was not with the translated documents. Our conversations have been roughly:


Me: Thanks, do you have the original?

HR: No, do we still have the original?

Me: Yes

HR: OK let me look (searches office, my file, inbox on desk etc) I can't find it... I'll let you know immediately if I find it, but I think it's lost

This morning:

Me: So, did you find it?

HR: Sorry, no

Me: Are you really, really sure it's lost?

HR: Yes, I left it on my desk before going on holiday, maybe the cleaning lady binned it if it fell on the floor.

Clearly this is a summary, but this is roughly the highlights of the conversation.

I've talked to no one else about this. I'm unsure where to go from here, but to me there seems to be a fairly crucial failure in process here (Identity documents should surely be locked up if kept for more than a few hours/ definitely overnight?). Should I alert someone to this, and if so who (only the CEO is above HR dir as I understand), and should I make demands on my employer (cover cost of Experian or similar to make sure identity is not stolen), I imagine I should not talk about this to my colleagues? Or am I blowing this out of proportion and I should accept that this happens? Any other advice on this would be welcome.

  • 3
    Start the process of getting another original copy from your home country ASAP. If its been lost the main concerns are as you pointed out Identity theft, but the other concern is you will need that document again in the future. EDIT -- nothing wrong with asking them to agree to pay any expenses related to identity theft.
    – Neo
    Commented Feb 28, 2017 at 11:53
  • 1
    @MisterPositive Thanks for the advice, this has been done.
    – Preston
    Commented Feb 28, 2017 at 11:54
  • 12
    You might want to take a look over the French Data Protection Act and see what the situation is. Here in the UK, HR allowing a sensitive document like that to be seen by a cleaner (let alone thrown away by one) would be a severe breach of policy. You might want to seek some independent legal advice.
    – user44108
    Commented Feb 28, 2017 at 11:57
  • 2
    @Lilienthal - This may depend on company culture. If the manager responds with "oh yes, HR lose things all the time", then nothing more than a sympathetic shrug will happen.
    – user44108
    Commented Feb 28, 2017 at 12:02
  • 4
    On another minor note, having the original isn't that required in Europe as they prefer having a recently issued one. I got PACsed in Luxembourg and they didn't want an original birth certificate but one that had been issued by my country of origin within the last 6 months. Also, most places require more than just a birth certificate, a birth certificate is just one of many pieces of the puzzle to prove your identity. Doesn't answer your question, but might help alleviate some fears. However, what the HR person has done is extremely wrong.
    – Draken
    Commented Feb 28, 2017 at 12:14

1 Answer 1


So the key question here is: what do you want to happen? Complaining for the sake of complaining doesn't really help. What are the specific outcomes you want to achieve? Examples could be

  1. You want HR to get slapped on the wrist so they don't do it again and you feel they deserve a slap.
  2. You want HR to improve their polcies and procedures in handling these types of documents
  3. You want the company to cover all expenses you incur in replacing the lost documents
  4. You want a few days paid leave to cover the time you need to spend on this
  5. You want the company to pay for an identify theft protection/monitoring program for a while, to make sure the lost documents doesn't get abused someplace.
  6. Something else?

Your next steps and action depend on what exactly you want to achieve. Be clear about your goals first, than take action towards the specific goal.

  • 2
    This is excellent advice for any complaint situation. Always go in knowing your objective, some resolution that is possibly achievable. Commented Feb 28, 2017 at 17:12
  • Thanks, I've gone for 2 (seems important), 3 and 5 (I think this is the aspect I personally find the most important in this situation). Great advice, thanks again
    – Preston
    Commented Mar 1, 2017 at 9:07
  • 2
    Another outcome you might want to achieve is to have someone put pressure on HR to look harder for the document. It doesn't sound to me like they looked very thoroughly.
    – mhwombat
    Commented Mar 9, 2017 at 17:09
  • 1
    @mhwombat +1 because the document was found just under 2 weeks later....
    – Preston
    Commented Mar 16, 2017 at 8:42

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