What Is It?
A records retention policy is a systematic process that is in place and a part of a written system that allows everyone to know each step to follow in correctly handling sensitive information.
The policy identifies documents that need maintained for a determined time frame and allows them to be destroyed at the end of specified life cycle, keeping the company in compliance with all regulations (state and federal) avoiding stiff fines and penalties.
How Can A Records Retention Policy Save Your Business?
Heaven forbid you would ever need any of these documents for litigation purposes, but if you did having a written policy that is followed by all, can indeed save the company from its demise. Being able to present to authorities your written plan will cover you when you do not have documentation requested as long as your policy correctly states those documents have been properly destroyed.
No written policy is a worse case scenario in these situations. You could be required to produce documents no matter the age as it could be determined that no destruction policy could default to a KEEP ALL policy.
Things To Consider When Writing a Records Retention Policy.
What type of documents are you dealing with? Medical, Legal, PO’s, Accounting? All of these documents will have different times frames that are required by legal entities for retention. Check with your legal advisor to ensure you are compliant with regulations for your industry.
Can the documents be reliably reproduced in a legally acceptable manner should the need arise? If so, do you need to keep the printed original at all?
Is the policy written in a manner that can be readily followed by all staff? A system that is difficult to follow will be challenging to implement. Keep it simple to maximize staff buy-in.
Once the policy is written, be sure to educate everyone to the benefits not only the company but to themselves and the clients to ensure everyone’s information remains protected and the company is here for years to come.
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