4 Things to Avoid When Establishing a Document Retention Policy

by | Jul 28, 2017 | Retention Articles and Information

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The legal requirements for document retention might appear to be super complicated, or perhaps a no-win situation. You run the risk of being penalized if you don’t keep the right documents for the required length of time. Perhaps you are considering the alternative, of keeping everything forever as a safer option. But storing and keeping documents forever comes with its own risks.

To help businesses understand what not to do when establishing a record retention schedule, at Information Requirements Clearinghouse, we’ve outlined four common mistakes to avoid when determining a record retention schedule that works best for you and your organization.

  1. Not being able to respond quickly to requests for documents.

Record retention can become extremely expensive when you’re served with a subpoena or notice of a regulatory audit of your records. The time spent going through documents and backup files individually can cost millions of dollars. What’s even worse is not being able to produce the required documents as requested by a judge. During a legal discovery process, businesses will have weeks, not just hours, to produce the required documents. Failure to produce the required documents, or not meeting the timeline given, can result in penalties, fines, or legal repercussions.

 

  1. Having a policy in place that can’t be followed.

It is better to have a policy that is laxer when it comes to what is kept and for how long, rather than having a strict policy that is hard to follow. A key component of successful document retention is having a policy that is customized to your particular company, cultural environment and regulatory environment that can be reasonably followed by everyone.

 

  1. Offering no guidance on how old records are to be destroyed.

A record retention policy will offer guidance on when and how documents are to be destroyed. For public information that is no longer useful, or has lived past the required time to be kept, it can simply be deleted. For information that is deemed to be classified or confidential, the records must be shredded, burned, degaussed, or overwritten to Department of Defense level standards.

 

  1. Authorizing information to be destroyed at the wrong time.

If a company learns that they are under discovery, subpoena, or audit, anything that is destroyed could give the illusion that you are trying to hide information. Having a document retention policy in place can help to mitigate the risk of destroying documents at the wrong time. A retention policy that is in place and followed can potentially protect you in the event that you are subpoenaed or under audit for documentation that you no longer have.

A retention policy that meets the legal requirements for document retention can prove to be a valuable policy for any organization. If you need help establishing a document retention schedule, or are looking for a solution to your document retention problems, contact the experts at Information Requirements Clearinghouse today to get started!

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