Description of Business Function
The function of managing the organisation’s workforce and its contractual relationship with individual employees, including the activities involved in recruiting employees to fill vacant positions.
Basis of Retention and Disposition
The standard rule is to retain personnel records for a minimum of 6 years after the end of the employee relationship, then destroy unless there is an ongoing Legal Hold, Tribunal or other open matter relating to the employee or organisation’s rights and obligations. This is based on treating the employee relationship as an ordinary contract under the Limitation Act 1980, c. 58, s. 5, for which the standard limitation period for legal action is 6 years, as well as taking into account Data Protection Principles for shorter period and general evidential requirements and the obligations of Health and Safety legalisation for longer periods.
However, certain records containing personal data will need to be destroyed earlier based upon Data Protection obligations.
Certain records will need to be retained indefinitely where they evidence pension or other benefit entitlements and/or are related to employee occupational health and medical matters.
Please note that within Scotland the period for limitation could be 5 years rather than 6 based upon the short negative prescription period within the Prescription and Limitation (Scotland) Act 1973.
Please also see the Pensions Records page of the wiki.
Retention Rules Per Record Type
|Record Type||Minimum Retention Period||Rationale|
|Industrial / Employee Relations – Meetings||Indefinite||Evidence and reference purposes. Exceeds 10 years Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development guidance|
|Industrial / Employee Relations – Staff Grievances (which do not relate directly to their own contracts of employment)||Last action on case + 6 years||Legal accountability based on limitation period for legal action|
|Industrial / Employee Relations – Surveys – Records documenting the design of workforce surveys and consultations||Completion of survey/consultation + 6 years||Legal accountability based on limitation period for legal action|
|Industrial / Employee Relations – Surveys – Records containing (identifiable) individual responses to workforce surveys and consultations||Completion of analysis of responses||Data Protection|
|Industrial / Employee Relations – Surveys – Records containing summary (anonymised) results of workforce surveys and consultations||Completion of survey/consultation + 6 years||Legal accountability based on limitation period for legal action|
|Occupational Health – Health Surveillance, Assessment, Medical Records||Indefinite||There is the need to keep health surveillance and medical records for long periods of time; this exceeds lengthy retention periods within legislation such as COSHH, PUWER, RIDDOR, Control of Lead at Work Regulations 2002, Ionising Radiations Regulations 1999 and the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006 etc.|
|Personnel Management – Personnel File||Employment Ceases + 6 years||Based on treating the employee relationship as an ordinary contract under the Limitation Act 1980, c. 58, s. 5|
|Personnel Management – Patent agreements and secrecy agreements with staff||Employment Ceases + 20 years||TBC|
|Personnel Management – Discipline and grievance||Time in force||Acas guide on ‘Discipline and grievances at work’, aligned to Data Protection|
|Personnel Management – Overseas Employee work permits and Visas||Expiry + 6 years||Limitation period for legal action – Exceeds need to keep documents proving the right to work in the UK for 2 years after employment ceases – Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006|
|Personnel Management – Contractors (work permits/passes)||Contract end + 6 years||Limitation period for legal action|
|Recruitment – Authorisation||Vacancy Filled + 6 years||Evidence and limitation of legal action|
|Recruitment – Adverts||10 years||Business need for reference|
|Recruitment – Unsuccessful Applicants||filling of vacancy and notifying applicants + 12 months||Applicants have 12 months to make claim via Tribunal if unsuccessful. Aligned to the Equality Act 2010 Code of Practice, Employment Statutory Code of Practice, Chapter 16|
|Recruitment – DBS/CRB Checks||Recruitment decision + 6 months||Home Office Code of Practice For Registered Persons and other recipients of Disclosure Information + The Information Commissioner’s Office, Employment Practices Code (data protection)|
|Recruitment – Successful Applicants||Transfer to Personnel file||See above|
|Recruitment – Records documenting enquiries about vacancies and requests for application forms||Completion of recruitment process||Business need (no legal considerations)|
Please also see Employee records retention and disposal schedule published by The National Archives
Please also see the CIPD Retention of HR records Factsheet
Limitation Act 1980, s. 5, Time limit for actions founded on simple contract, “An action founded on simple contract shall not be brought after the expiration of six years from the date on which the cause of action accrued”.
The Prescription and Limitation (Scotland) Act 1973, Negative Prescription, s. 6, Extinction of obligations by prescriptive periods of five years, “(1)If, after the appropriate date, an obligation to which this section applies has subsisted for a continuous period of five years— (a)without any relevant claim having been made in relation to the obligation, and (b)without the subsistence of the obligation having been relevantly acknowledged, then as from the expiration of that period the obligation shall be extinguished”
The Prescription and Limitation (Scotland) Act 1973, SCHEDULE 1, Obligations Affected by Prescriptive Periods of Five Years under Section 6, “1Subject to paragraph 2 below, section 6 of this Act applies—S (a)to any obligation to pay a sum of money due in respect of a particular period— (i)by way of interest; (ii)by way of an instalment of an annuity; (iii)by way of feuduty or other periodical payment under a feu grant; (iv)by way of ground annual or other periodical payment under a contract of ground annual; (v)by way of rent or other periodical payment under a lease; (vi)by way of a periodical payment in respect of the occupancy or use of land, not being an obligation falling within any other provision of this sub-paragraph; (vii)by way of a periodical payment under a land obligation, not being an obligation falling within any other provision of this sub-paragraph;”
Acas guide on ‘Discipline and grievances at work’, aligned to Data Protection. http://www.acas.org.uk/CHttpHandler.ashx?id=1043
There is the need to keep health surveillance and medical records for long periods of time; this exceeds lengthy retention periods within legislation such as COSHH, PUWER, RIDDOR, Control of Lead at Work Regulations 2002, Ionising Radiations Regulations 1999 and the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006 etc.
Data Protection Act 1998, Sch. 1, Part I, 5th Principle, “Personal data processed for any purpose or purposes shall not be kept for longer than is necessary for that purpose or those purposes
The Act does not set out any specific minimum or maximum periods for retaining personal data
The Information Commissioner’s Office, ‘Employment Practices Code’ 2005, Retention of records, “In setting retention times employers must ensure that personal information is not kept for longer than necessary but equally that it is not deleted where there is a real business need to retain it.” http://www.ico.org.uk/for_organisations/data_protection/topic_guides/employment
+ FAQ no. 11 This [i.e. keep for only as long a necessary for purpose] does not rule out keeping information to protect against legal action.
Home Office Code of Practice For Registered Persons and other recipients of Disclosure Information, https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/143662/cop.pdf
Home Office Code of Practice For Registered Persons and other recipients of Disclosure Information http://www.ico.org.uk/for_organisations/data_protection/topic_guides/employment 1.7, Retention of Recruitment Records, “1.7.1 Establish and adhere to retention periods for recruitment records that are based on a clear business need…ensure that no recruitment record is held beyond the statutory period in which a claim arising from the recruitment process may be bought unless there is a clear business reason for exceeding this period 1.7.2 Destroy information obtained by a vetting exercise as soon as possible, or in any case within 6 months. A record of the result of vetting or verification can be retained. 1.7.3 Consider carefully which information contained on an application form is to be transferred to the worker’s employment record. Do not retain information that has no bearing on the on-going employment relationship. 1.7.4 Delete information about criminal convictions collected in the course of the recruitment process once it has been verified through a Criminal Records Bureau disclosure unless, in exceptional circumstances, the information is clearly relevant to the on-going employment relationship. 1.7.5 If it is your practice to do so advise unsuccessful applicants that there is an intention to keep their names on file for future vacancies (if appropriate) and give them the opportunity to have their details removed from the file. 1.7.6 Ensure that personal information received during the recruitment process are securely stored or are destroyed.”
Equality and Human Rights Commission, Equality Act 2010 Code of Practice on Employment, Ch. 16, Avoiding discrimination in recruitment “16.44 Employers should also keep records that will allow them to justify each decision and the process by which it was reached and to respond to any complaints of discrimination.” Selection, assessment and interview process, “16.45 In deciding exactly how long to keep records after a recruitment exercise, employers must balance their need to keep such records to justify selection decisions with their obligations under the Data Protection Act 1998 to keep personal data for no longer than is necessary.” http://www.equalityhumanrights.com/uploaded_files/EqualityAct/employercode.pdf
The Information Commissioner’s Office, Employment Practices Code (data protection) http://www.ico.org.uk/for_organisations/data_protection/topic_guides/employment