Published 8th of November 2021
One of the most common questions that customers ask us is ‘when should a record be destroyed?’
Destroying records is an essential task to help maintain an effective record system, but it’s imperative that records are not destroyed without authorisation beforehand. Most records need to be kept for a certain amount of time to comply with GDPR standards and statutory retention periods.
There are penalties involved if you destroy documents too quickly or hold them for longer than necessary. Failing to destroy records that contain sensitive information can ruin a business reputation and severe financial penalties.
Here are some things to consider before destroying a record:
Has your statutory retention period passed?
If you’re wondering about when a record should be destroyed, it’s important to understand that there are a set of dates and regulations that outline exactly when you are legally required to destroy certain types of documents. Once the dates have passed, the document no longer needs to be kept and can be destroyed.
All business agreements and contracts (for instance employment contracts) should be retained for six years before you can destroy them. Many financial records (like VAT records and pension documents) must be kept for at least six years after they’re created, keeping both digital and physical copies to help remain compliant.
We recommend creating a retention policy for your business as this helps set clear regulations for employees to follow. Consult our guide to document retention policies to learn about retention periods for different industries and types of documents. This will assist with implementing a policy that can relate specifically to the work you do and the documents you handle.
When should you destroy your business documents?
When you no longer need them
As mentioned previously, when the retention period ends or when you no longer need a document or a set of documents, you should securely destroy them. As long as they don’t relate to customers or contain employees’ personal details/company information, you are able to destroy them as soon as the retention period is up.
You have multiple copies of a document
Many businesses now digitise their hard copy documents to minimise risks of a data breach and for the environment. If you are a business that mainly uses digital records, you may want to dispose of your hard copies, which is allowed providing you have backup copies before destroying.
When a document contains sensitive and confidential information
Any records that contain confidential information that should not be seen by others should be securely destroyed. Leaving hard copies lying around, sending an electronic document to your trash, or filing it away in an old folder can put you at risk if it’s not destroyed. Professional hackers or data thieves are always going to be able to retrieve data if it’s not properly destroyed.
The importance of destroying records
Keeping out-of-date records only creates confusion, making it difficult for employees to know which records are most up-to-date and which are no longer needed for business.
Obsolete records need to be destroyed in order to:
- Ensure official records systems are reliable and efficient.
- Reduce risk of sensitive or personal information falling into the wrong hands.
- Reduce maintenance and storage costs.
- Show accountability and consistency in implementing destruction decisions.
- Improve the efficiency of paper and electronic record systems by removing unwanted records.
How to destroy documents securely
The best practice for any business is to have specific measurements in place for the destruction of sensitive records, to prevent data being misused. These measures ensure you are compliant with the rules and reduces the risk of a data breach.
Hiring a professional to take care of the destruction is the easiest way to give you a peace of mind that your documents are 100% being destroyed and can’t be pieced back together. Shredall SDS Group is able to provide shredding console bins for your office, which can be collected as regularly as you need. Once the paper is shredded, a certificate of destruction is provided as proof and the paper is recycled at UK paper mills.
This guide has explained when a record should be destroyed, as well as offering some top tips on the importance of destroying files and how to go about it.
Shredall SDS group is fully compliant with the GDPR standard and wants to ensure customers are too. Experts in confidential waste disposal, we can help your business destroy any form of sensitive information in a secure manner.