Yes Appointment letters are to be given in print format, on company's letter head and should cover the following areas:
1. Date of issue of appointment letter
2. Name and designation of the candidate
3. Date of joining
4. Salary structure
5. Some important policies like office time, work days, employment by will clause
6. It should be mentioned that the detailed HR policies are covered in the HR manual.
7. Probation period.
8. Separation policy on both ends for both probation period and confirmation period.
9. Any exceptional policies that you have,
10. Sign of the CEO or Recruitment Head or other responsible person.
11. On a duplicate copy take sign from the candidate after he read the whole document is ready to abide by same.
Employee documents are to be filed for all the purposes the best of all is HR Auditing.
HR Auditing is similar to financial auditing wherein the HR Auditors inspect if proper documents are filed and kept and if things are running as they should be.
Honestly, if a company is not assingning an appointment letter, I would not like to work with them. For me as a person, the only relevance and proof to my work experience is my appointment letter in the absence of which it becomes difficult to prove my employment. I am sure there would be people who wouldn't be happy with the management not giving appointment letters and if you are in HR I would suggest that you start educating your employer about the pitfalls of not keeping documents.
On the employers side too since you have not given me appointment letter, I do not have the need to serve you the notice period before I resign. As a result I am free to abscond and there won't be proper hand over of things.
24th April 2013 From India, Mumbai