HR records: what if employee changes surname?

HR records: what if employee changes surname?
By Paul Munro on 14 February 2017 Do we require proof of a change of surname before altering our employment records?

This question was recently sent to our Ask an Expert service.

Q An employee has advised our human resources department he has changed his surname. In the past we've had employees request a name change after getting married, in which case the marriage certificate was taken as evidence of the new surname. This is the first time an employee has requested a change of surname where marriage is not the reason for the change.

What would be considered reasonable evidence for this employee to present to the company to change our records accordingly?

A A person is legally able to change his/her name. A person may use a new name without any formal steps. At common law, a person will not actually change his/her name until the person has used and become known by the new name. Under state or territory legislation, a name is changed once it is registered with the relevant authority.

Occasions arise where a person will be asked to provide proof of change of name (such as proof of identity or to obtain a passport). For these reasons a person may record their new name or alteration of their name by registering a Change of Name at the relevant state or territory Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages.

A person may choose to have their new name recorded on their birth certificate or have it registered as a “Change of Name Certificate”.

If a person alters their name or uses an additional or other name with the intention to act fraudulently, or with an intention to deceive or in any other way which contravenes the law, they may be subject to criminal proceedings.


If a woman marries in Australia a formal Change of Name is not required if the woman wishes to take her spouse’s name. A standard marriage certificate is usually sufficient evidence to have personal documentation, such as driver’s licence or passport, changed to the married surname.

This should also be sufficient evidence for an employer to change the employee’s surname on employment records. A woman may choose to be known by her previous surname for business and financial purposes and by her husband’s surname for other purposes.

If there is a breakdown in the marriage/relationship or for any other reason, a woman may choose to assume a new name or revert to her surname shown on her birth certificate without doing anything further.

The bottom line: While an employee does not need to take formal steps to change their name, it is common for a person to have their change of name formalised through the relevant state or territory Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages.

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