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Staying on the right side of the law when it comes to document retention
/ Categories: Data Protection

Staying on the right side of the law when it comes to document retention

document retentionThere are over 2.45 million businesses registered in the UK, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). Within each of these businesses, thousands of documents are handled and filed each year. But, once they are no longer needed, what happens to these documents?

There is no denying that documents take up storage space, both physically and online. With this in mind, effective document management can free up much needed work space creating a more pleasant and efficient environment for employees. Yet more importantly, disposing of documents which are no longer required can also keep businesses on the right side of the law.

Data Protection Compliance

The Data Protection Act states that “personal data processed for any purpose shall not be kept for longer than necessary”. This is just one of many regulations in place to protect personal information and data stored by organisations.

However, you might be surprised to know that, depending on the documents being stored, there are varying retention periods. Take VAT records, for example, these must only be kept for a period of 6 years, whilst insurance records such as an employers’ liability policy should be retained permanently.

The varying retention periods can be confusing, but there is good reason for this as documents are often required for different purposes. Just some of the requirements for documents such as these include taxation and financial reporting, inspections and audits, and internal business operations.

Identify and catalogue all your documents

Before you can decide what to do with your documents, you have to find them! Conduct a full document audit across your business and all its locations. You’re sure to be surprised by some of the items you find but when you’re finished, you’ll a complete picture of what you have and where.

Our free document audit guide provides step by step help on how to conduct a comprehensive audit.

Staying on top of relevant legislation

With new legislation frequently coming into force, it can be difficult for businesses to stay abreast of new rules and regulations.

Having a document retention policy in place can help provide an organisation with a structured way of managing records – make use of our document retention guide to ensure your compliance with legislation. An effective policy should contain a minimum of three essential elements, including:

  1. A description of the record
  2. How it should be retained
  3. The retention period

Destroying documents securely

Once a retention period has come to an end, the document or file must be destroyed securely by an approved method. Secure destruction can take the form of shredding which is provided on-site or off-site by a specialist supplier.

For more information on destroying your confidential documents, visit our shredding service overview page. To talk to someone about how we can help you stay compliant call 0808 278 6934.