A key tool to assist with records management is the record retention schedule A key tool to assist with records management is the record retention schedule

 Once it is clear from the information audit what records are held, who is holding them, and what they are being held for, we need to decide how long to hold the records for (during the semi-active stage). The records retention schedule (RRS) records the retention periods for particular record types.

Introduction

Records of the University's business activities pass through a well-established records management lifecycle from creation, active use, semi-active use through to final outcome (usually disposal or permanent retention or archiving) . The records retention schedule determines how long a record should be kept relative to a defined trigger through the active and semi-active stages in the lifecycle, and what action should be employed to the record at the end of the retention period.

The RRS is essential for effective records management. It sets out the policy on retention of business records, and helps establish consistent practice across the organisation. The schedules ensure business records are kept for as long as they are needed (accounting for effective operations, legislative compliance, regulators' compliance, demonstrable accountability). They are also kept only for as long as they are needed (and not longer), so storage space (both physical and virtual/electronic) is used effectively.

This RRS is based upon a generic schedule developed by JISC and published on the web at http://bcs.jiscinfonet.ac.uk/he/. It is divided into business areas and within each business area, a number of record types are described.

The retention periods specified in UEA policies are the minimum recommended periods for particular record types, and are based on relevant legislative requirements. Under certain circumstances, longer periods may apply to certain groups of records, such as where the records are subject to a Freedom of Information request, an audit or existing business requirements. There may also be situations where records are subject to external regulatory requirements determining a different (longer or shorter) retention period.

For these reasons, it is recommended that care is taken when applying automated systems to dispose of records at the end of the retention period.
 

Record groups

The following table headings are used within the RRS:
 
  • Activity. A high level description of the business activity which generates the records.
  • Record group. The types of records generated by the activity.
  • Retention period. The length of the period for which the records of the particular record group should be retained. The Retention periods contain two elements: starting point or trigger and a period of time. For example, 'Current tax year + 3 years' or 'Termination of contract + 6 years'. Where the periods are defined by legislation, these are minimum periods. If there isn't a prescribed period, then one is defined based on the professional judgement of the authors of the schedule. Retention periods apply to the official copy of the record. Duplicates do not need to be kept so long.
  • Action at period end. What action should be taken to the records when they pass the end of the retention period: disposal, reduce to core elements, archive, or review for archival value. Professional archivists should review University records for their archival value.
  • Authority. Where relevant, there is a reference to the appropriate statute, statutory instrument, standard or guidance document which prescribes the retention period.
  • Notes. Further information about the retention schedule such as reasons for the period, issues requiring highlighting or any other additional information.
 

Determining the retention period

To determine how long to keep records, the following should be considered:
 
  • operational needs
  • legislative or external requirements or recommendations
  • long-term research needs

Where there is no guidance, determining an appropriate period is a matter of risk assessment (retention v disposal) balanced against the cost of keeping the records. Records which are not official copies and which have no significant value are transitory records, and should be routinely destroyed (except where subject to a current FOIA request or relevant to legal action).