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A Guide To Records Retention And Disposal By Industry

by securedatamgt | 11 Jul 2013

Shredded Paper on white background

Why spend precious time and money storing unnecessary documents? Your office may be filled with hard copy papers that are taking up room which could otherwise be utilised more effectively.

Records retention might seem like a complicated process, but it needn’t be. Depending on your business and industry, you will have different types of papers that require varied retention deadlines and methods of disposal. We have picked out some of the most common document types for different industries to give you a guide on how long to keep them, and how to dispose of them effectively.

General documents

These are just some of the files that organisations will have regardless of the industry.

Invoices – 6 years from receiving the invoice.

Change of address – If any of your employees change address during employment, these details need to be retained for at least 2 years.

Application forms – Any employee application forms need to be kept permanently.

Bank statements – Any bank statements must be kept for 2 years.


If you work in the Medical industry, most documents contain highly sensitive patient information, making it all the more important to keep them archived for the necessary amount of time.

Vaccination records – Patient vaccination records are kept for 10 years.

Armed Forces Personnel – any medical records for Armed Forces Personnel are kept permanently.


Some Property papers need to be retained for a long time, even if the need to keep them does not seem immediately apparent.

Planning Permission – After an application of interest ends, the planning permission paperwork must be retained for 12 years.

Architect/builder agreements – contractual agreements with architects or builders must be kept for 6 years after the contract ends.


Within the Loans industry, as well as Finance, there are naturally a lot of figures involved. To maintain an audit trail, the retention timescales are incredibly important.

Arrears schedule – an arrears schedule must be kept for 6 years.

Individual debtor accounts – These must be kept permanently.

These are just a few examples of different document types and how long they must be retained. Legally, an organisation must abide by the retention schedule of all papers. If you are ever in doubt, a document storage supplier can provide an auditing service to help determine what is necessary to keep stored. With a clear audit carried out, you will end up saving your organisation a lot of trouble, not to mention the admin hours and money saved.

Disposing of documents

There are several different methods for disposal, but the most commonly known and used is shredding. Shredding allows you to easily destroy paperwork that might contain sensitive information such as account numbers or personal details. Again, it is a legal responsibility to destroy documents in the appropriate way. Never just throw them in the bin when they contain such information.

If you have a high volume of papers to be shredded, you may want to consider outsourcing the shredding to an outside company. Alternatively, here at Secure Data Management we can supply you with free shredding bins, where you can store all the documents that you need to have shredded and we will take them away and shred them for you. If you are already one of our clients, we will collect your paperwork for shredding for free when picking up papers that need to be archived. Any documents that require destroying after 6 years will also be disposed of for free. Otherwise, a small fee is incurred per bag. We can collect at your convenience too.

If you want to find out more about the retention time scale of other types of documents and how to dispose of them using our services, get in touch.