The Record and Information Retention Schedule
The Information Management Programme
If you have read our previous blog article, The Record and Information Appraisal, you will be familiar with the basics of carrying out an appraisal of your records as part of your Information Management Programme.
Once you have completed an appraisal you should have most of the required data to develop a Record and Information Retention Schedule.
What is a Record and Information Retention Schedule?
In short, a retention schedule helps you keep track of how long your records need to be kept in order to comply with the relevant legal requirements.
Your retention schedule can include retention periods for both records* and non-records* – the latter have no legal retention periods and are based on timelines of usefulness for your business.
You may also choose to create retention schedules for each department and combine these into a master schedule, which will allow top-level management to view retention periods for all departments easily. Doing this will largely be determined by the size of your company as the number of records will differ.
An Information Management Retention Schedule that is based on accurate appraisal and is well thought out will allow you to comply with the applicable legal requirements. It will also prevent you from wasting money through the storage of non-record information that does not need to be retained.
Retention Period Challenges
While the retention periods for your non-record information can be determined at your discretion, this is not so for your records. Laws instituted by government determine the retention periods for company records.
So many Regulations, so hard to find
Given the number of regulations in play, and the fact that these change from time to time, and new regulations are introduced each year; knowing how long to keep each record is not easy.
To find out about the correct retention schedule for your records you may have turned to the Internet. The Internet may have provided you with some useful information, but it probably did not give you certainty.
The better idea is to consult with an attorney or a Records Management Company who will be better able to advise you.
Non-compliance with retention period regulations can land you and your business in hot water. Complying with regulations is much like the principle of having a life jacket – it is better to have one and not need it, than need it and not have one.
So many Records, so much time
The fact that there are so many types of records often makes it difficult or impractical to assign a retention period to every single record. This has given rise to schedules that group records by function and or processes and then assigns the most common retention period to the group.
While grouping records results in fewer records on your schedule it also means that some records may be kept longer than needed or perhaps not long enough. A records management specialist can help you weight up the risks and benefits.
* Records could be said to be any information that is subject to legal requirements or regulation. Examples include invoices, tax returns, BBBEE certification, contracts, etc.
** Non-records are not subject to any legal requirements but could still be important to the activities of your company. Examples may include marketing materials, planning documents, etc.
Note: Records and non-records may be paper or electronic.