Store it or Shred?
Not too long ago, the answer to the question “how long should I retain these records?” was as simple as keeping them around forever. Due to the growing number of privacy rules and the penalties associated with noncompliance, disposition is now being examined more closely as a component of the information lifecycle.
Disposition is defined as follows in the world of GARP (the Generally Accepted Recordkeeping Principles):
Records that are no longer required to be retained by laws and organizational policy must be disposed of in a secure and suitable manner, according to an organization.
This basically means that after the record has been maintained long enough, it should be dispositioned as stated by your company policy.
Disposition is frequently associated with destruction or, in the case of electronic records, deletion. There are some exclusions. For instance, the record should be stored rather than destroyed if it has historical value. Additionally, destruction would not apply if your company decides to sell those records as part of a merger or acquisition.
How long should this record be kept?
If you don’t know how long to retain a record, you can’t dispose of it correctly. This is a problem that many organizations encounter all too frequently. Knowing what records you have, what format they are in, and where they are all located will help you understand how long you should retain them.
Conducting an audit is the first and most crucial step in determining how long you must keep the records. As organizations delve deeper into the records they have, there are many factors that increase the complexity, including:
- The length of time the organization has been in business
- The number of locations the organization has
- Whether the records are stored onsite, offsite, or both
- The number of systems of record there are and what formats they are in.
Making a Simple Records Retention Schedule
You must check that the records’ have the appropriate metadata attached as part of the audit. A records retention schedule should, at the very least, address the following issues:
- Who is in charge of maintaining the retention schedule?
- What data are recorded?
- How long does this record need to be kept?
- Where is it stored?
Engage the individuals who are the most knowledgeable individuals in your business, who are aware of what is stored where and the importance of each record. As you assess your inventory, you’ll be able to ask better questions and receive better answers as you learn more knowledge regarding the documents of importance.
A cascading effect will occur as your schedule and inventory develop, leading to a more comprehensive inventory and a more reliable record retention schedule.
Your disposition policies and procedures must be documented.
Write a detailed outline of your policies and processes for specific types of records after you have a thorough records retention plan and inventory. Although it might seem redundant, remember that the procedure is distinct from your retention timetable. Procedure explains how to approach disposition methodically. This need must be adhered to by your organization, and it must be documented. This defends against and lessens the hazards that courts, auditors, and other sources pose to your organization.
This step can be made simpler by working together with your organization’s management and legal counsel to make sure all relevant bases are covered.
Additional Pointers for Record Retention and Disposal
- If you plan to keep something, give yourself a good reason.
Learn the privacy regulations that apply to your sector or profession. If laws don’t exist yet, rest assured that they will soon.
- Stick to your plan and watch out for inconsistent or excessive disposition, particularly when responding to discovery or audit requests. If these items appear, it damages your credibility and forces you to justify why you aren’t according to your plan.
Request an estimate on our website or by calling 860-627-5800 to learn more. Our experts will ask you a few questions to better understand your requirements, after which they will tell you exactly what to expect from start to finish, including the cost.