Document Retention Policies: Best Practices for Effective Management and Compliance

A document retention policy is a set of guidelines that dictate how long a company must keep records and when it’s safe to dispose of them. It’s crucial to have a document retention policy to comply with legal requirements and ensure that sensitive information is secure. Different laws and regulations may require different retention periods for different types of records.

In Singapore, various laws and regulations govern document retention policies, such as the Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA), the Employment Act, the Work Injury Compensation Act (WICA), the Companies Act, and the Income Tax Act. 

Under the PDPA, organizations must take reasonable measures to ensure that personal data is securely disposed of and kept only for as long as necessary to fulfill its collected purposes.  In the Employment Act, employers must maintain certain employment records for each employee, including their name, identification number, date of birth, job title, salary, and work hours. Companies should also keep other HR records related to employee performance, disciplinary actions, and training for a specific period. These records can help companies to defend themselves against any legal claims that may arise in the future. The WICA requires that employers maintain records of workplace injuries and compensation claims for at least five years from the date of the accident or illness. These records should include details such as the nature of the injury or illness, the date of the accident, and any medical treatment provided.

In addition to these specific laws, companies in Singapore are also subject to general data protection principles, including the obligation to keep personal data secure, accurate, and current. Companies must also have appropriate measures to prevent unauthorized access, disclosure, or misuse of personal data.

Failure to comply with these laws can result in legal consequences such as fines, legal action, or even criminal charges. There are several potential disadvantages for a company that does not have document retention policies such as:

  • Increased risk of non-compliance could result in fines, legal action, or damage to the company’s reputation.
  • Increased risk of data breaches as companies may be storing sensitive or confidential information for longer than necessary.
  • A business may be storing documents indefinitely, leading to inefficient use of storage space and increased costs associated with document management.
  • Employees may have difficulty retrieving relevant documents when needed, leading to delays or errors in decision-making or other business processes.

Key Components of a Document Retention Policy

A policy establishes rules for creating, retaining, storing, archiving, and destroying documents. It provides a framework for ensuring compliance with legal and regulatory requirements and typically includes the following components:

  1. Purpose: The policy’s purpose, including why the organization needs to have a documented policy.
  2. Scope: The scope of the policy, including the types of documents and records covered by the policy.
  3. Roles and responsibilities: Define the roles and responsibilities of individuals and departments responsible for implementing and adhering to the policy.
  4. Document classification: The criteria for classifying documents and records based on their importance, sensitivity, or other relevant factors.
  5. Retention periods: Specify the length of time that documents and records should be retained based on their classification and regulatory requirements.
  6. Storage and access: Guidelines for storing and securing documents and records, including who has access to them and how they can be accessed.
  7. Archiving: Procedures for archiving documents and records no longer in active use, including how they should be stored and accessed.
  8. Destruction: Define processes for destroying documents and records that have reached the end of their retention period, including how they are disposed of and the person responsible for carrying out the destruction.
  9. Review and update: Procedures for regularly reviewing and updating the policy to remain current and relevant.

To ensure compliance with legal requirements, companies must develop a document retention policy that is comprehensive and specific to their industry and location. A policy should cover all company records, including financial, legal, employment, and other sensitive information.

Benefits of using a DMS for Document Retention

A document management system (DMS) can help organizations to manage their document retention policies by providing a centralized platform for storing, organizing, and retrieving documents. 

Automated retention schedules

A DMS can be configured to automatically apply retention schedules to documents based on their type, content, or other characteristics. This helps ensure that documents are retained appropriately and securely disposed of when they are no longer needed.

Tracking document lifecycle

Track the entire lifecycle of a document, from creation to archiving or disposal, ensuring that the document is properly handled and that any retention policies are applied.

Secure destruction of documents

Ensure that documents are securely destroyed when their retention period has expired. This can be achieved through automated processes, such as automatically deleting records, or through manual processes, such as generating a report of documents due for destruction.

Audit trails

A DMS provides an audit trail of all actions taken on a document, including when it was created, who accessed it, and when it was deleted or disposed of. This can help organizations demonstrate compliance with document retention policies and legal requirements.

Document retention policy management

Provides a centralized platform for managing document retention policies, including setting retention periods, applying retention schedules to documents, and reviewing and updating policies as needed.

Taking Control

KRIS Document Management System (DMS) is an effective solution for managing an organization’s document retention schedules. It helps automate the process of document retention scheduling, making it easier to adhere to regulatory requirements and ensure compliance. Our DMS can be configured to ensure documents are retained appropriately and securely disposed of when they are no longer needed. Furthermore, employees have access to a centralized platform for storing and retrieving records, making it easier to find relevant documents quickly and easily.






Find out how a Document Management System can simplify your everyday office processes.