Developing A Document Retention And Disposal Schedule

Developing a good document retention and disposal schedule should be a key part of a business’ document management strategy. In some sectors (such as medical and public sectors) it is required by law that businesses have an approved retention and disposal schedule in order to comply with data protection legislation.

Implementing a successful retention and disposal schedule also brings a range of benefits to a business, helping to improve operations all round. Firstly, the schedule will help employees have a clearer view of the records currently being held by the organisation and raise awareness of the importance of data protection and security issues. A schedule can also help a business to save money by freeing up resources and storage space through the destruction of documents that no longer need to be held.

A retention schedule details the specific amount of time that a company must keep certain documents and this schedule will vary with each type of document and the business that holds it. In order to assign a retention period to a document you must first assess the document (A document can be anything from an invoice to an email) and the function or activity that the record documents. The document should then be filed and stored under the appropriate classification within your records management system- in some cases the record may fit into more than one category.

The records manager should then consult legislation pertaining to the business and its records to determine how long each type of document must be held for. In some cases the business may not be required by law to retain a document but may wish to do so for best practice and day-to-day running procedures. This should also be taken into account when attributing a retention period to specific types of documents.

Each type of document should also be given a disposal class, outlining the processes that must be taken to dispose of the document correctly. For example, records containing highly sensitive data must be kept secure at all times and correctly disposed of, ensuring that the data does not fall into the wrong hands.  If the record fits into more than one disposal class you should attribute it with the class that requires the longest retention period.

A trigger event should then be allocated within the records management system to the document in question. This could be any significant event connected to the document and the business, or simply a yearly review for documents being held over long periods of time. When the trigger event occurs the system should then remind the business to review and assess the document. If it is still valuable to the business or must be retained for legal purposes, a further trigger event can be assigned for future review. Or, if the document has become redundant it can then be securely disposed of using the right data destruction services.

This process should be repeated for each and every record held by a business until a comprehensive retention and disposal schedule has been created.

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