Document Retention Guidelines

Do you know which documents to shred and which to keep?

  • Businesses in the UK must comply with many levels of legal requirements in order to operate. From protecting personal data – such as confidential client and employee details – to safeguarding sensitive company information and abiding by sector-specific regulations. Failure to comply at any level can impact business continuity, reputation and the bottom line, as well as incur severe punitive and criminal damages.
  • Shred-it understands the importance for businesses across all industry sectors to protect confidential information. We also recognise the significant challenge that many of them face in knowing how long documents should be kept before they need to be securely destroyed.
  • A document retention policy is the best way to keep track of the various minimum legal requirements.
  • It also ensures that confidential information is not kept for so long that it becomes a risk in the event of security breach; or contravenes Data Protection Act Principle 5 which states, personal data should not be kept for longer than is necessary for the purpose it was originally collected.

    The factors to consider include:
    • Your type of business
    • The categories of documents
    • The minimum legal retention periods for each document type
    • The document lifecycle from your business perspective
    • The secure destruction process once the retention period is over

    Since the Data Protection Act also governs the proper destruction of personal data, as well as how it is collected and processed, the only acceptable way to discard your documents and mitigate risk is to ensure they’re irreversibly destroyed. The Information Commissioner’s Office recommends shredding paper documents. You’ll also want a Certificate of Destruction to adequately document your compliance.

    To help you create the right retention schedule for your business, here’s a list of documents that contain confidential information, along with the recommended retention period for each type in accordance with certain legal requirements. These recommendations on document retention are general guidelines only. They are not intended to represent legal advice. Contact your legal expert(s), regulatory authority, government body or association to ensure you are following current legal requirements for your area.

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