When is the right time to destroy records?

The way that records are managed is important, not just to ensure that your business is correctly and safely handling data but also when it comes to compliance. Most records will have a specific lifespan and it’s vital that your business deals with them properly. Where records are held for too long, or not long enough, there may be legal penalties and problems can arise with respect to business reputation. So, what do you need to consider when it comes to the right time to destroy records?

The statutory retention period

The statutory retention period will depend on the nature of the record - there are specific time periods that are legislated for and you will need to ensure that you’re clear about how these apply to you. For example, financial records - such as pension and VAT records - must be retained for six years before they can be safely destroyed. The same time period applies to records such as contracts. One of the simplest ways to ensure that you’re complying with statutory retention periods is to put them in writing. Creating a records retention policy will provide a clear guide for the business, and employees, with respect to the legal obligations that arise.

The needs of the business

Once the statutory retention period has passed, records can be securely shredded without any compliance consequences. However, you may still need to bear in mind the requirements of the business when deciding when this should take place. When you’re identifying the best time to destroy records these are some of the options to consider:

The business has no need of the records anymore.

Securely shredding records when they are beyond the statutory retention period and no longer required internally will keep whatever data they contain secure and protect the business.

You need to dispose of hard copies.

The process of digitisation has meant that many businesses today now have digital copies of all records. If that’s the case then destroying hard copies of records is a logical next step and one that will improve security and free up storage space.

The document is particularly sensitive.

There are big risks for businesses that don’t take the threat of data theft seriously, especially when it comes to records that contain sensitive or confidential data. You should ensure that records like this are destroyed as soon as any statutory retention period has passed so that you’re not exposing your organisation to any unnecessary risk.

Why is record disposal so important?

It’s difficult for any organisation to be efficient if there is no system in place to destroy obsolete records. Out-of-date documents like this can cause confusion, create a security risk and slow down systems, whether they are paper or electronic. Secure document destruction helps to minimise storage and maintenance costs, create a reliable records system and ensure that data doesn’t end up in the wrong hands.

When it comes to destroying records this will be different for every business but it’s vital to ensure that you have a clear system in place.

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