There is actually no specific time period set out in law for documentation retention. The Data Protection Act provides that personal data should not be kept for “longer than is necessary for the purpose for which it is processed”.
Information Commissioner’s Employment Practices Code considers data protection in employment records and makes a number of recommendations that an employer should consider when deciding on the retention of employee records, balancing an employer’s need to keep records and a worker’s right to respect for their private life.
The Information Commissioner points out that retention periods must be based on business need, should take into account any relevant professional guidelines, and that employees should be aware that the DPA does not override any statutory requirement to retain records, for example in relation to income tax or certain aspects of health and safety.
Below is a really useful table provided within the Code.
|Type of employment record||Statutory or Code of Practice reference||Format and location||Retention period or recommendation|
|Job applications and interview records of unsuccessful candidates||The Information Commissioner: Employment Practices Code Part 1: recruitment and selection (1.7.5)||Paper or electronic||A short period, perhaps 6 months after notifying unsuccessful candidates (or longer, if there is a clearly communicated policy to keep candidates CVs for future reference). Application forms should give applicants the opportunity to object to their details being retained|
|Personnel and training records||N/A||Paper or electronic||While employment continues and up to six years after employment ceases|
|Written particulars of employment, contracts of employment, and changes to terms and conditions||N/A||Paper or electronic||While employment continues and up to six years after employment ceases|
|Working time opt-out forms||Regulation 5 and 9, Working Time Regulations 1998 (SI 1998/1833) (WTR 1998)||Paper or electronic, originals are not required by the WTR 1998||Two years from the date on which they were entered into|
|Records to show compliance with the WTR 1998||Regulations 5, 7 and 9, WTR 1998||Paper or electronic||Two years after the relevant period|
|Annual leave records||N/A||Paper or electronic||Six years or possibly longer if leave can be carried over from year to year|
|Payroll and wage records for unincorporated businesses||section 12B, Taxes Management Act 1970||Paper or electronic||Five years after 31 January following the year of assessment|
|Payroll and wage records for companies||Schedule 18, paragraph 21, Finance Act 1998||Paper or electronic||Six years from the financial year-end in which payments were made|
|PAYE records||Regulation 97, Income Tax Regulations 2003||Paper or electronic||Not less than three years after the end of the tax year to which they relate. However it may be sensible to keep them for six years as they may fall within the definition of payroll and wage records (see above)|
|Collective workforce agreements and past agreements that could affect present employees||N/A||Paper or electronic||Permanently|
|Works Council minutes||N/A||Paper or electronic||Permanently|
|Maternity records||Regulation 26, Statutory Maternity Pay (General) Regulations 1986 (SI 1986/1960)||Paper or electronic||Three years after the end of the tax year in which the maternity pay period ends|
|Current bank details||N/A||Paper or electronic||No longer than necessary|
|Record of advances for season tickets and loans to employees||N/A||Paper or electronic||While employment continues and up to six years after repayment|
|Death Benefit Nomination and Revocation Forms||N/A||Paper or electronic||While employment continues or up to six years after payment of benefit|
|Any reportable accident, death or injury in connection with work||Schedule 1, Part II, Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (SI 2013/1471)||Paper or electronic||For at least three years from the date the report was made|
|Records in relation to hours worked and payments made to workers||Section 9, National Minimum Wage Act 1998.
Regulation 59, National Minimum Wage Regulations 2015 (SI 2015/621)
|Paper or electronic||Three years beginning with the day upon which the pay reference period immediately following that to which they relate ends|
|Consents for the processing of personal and sensitive data||Schedule 1, DPA||Paper or electronic||For as long as the data is being processed and up to 6 years afterwards|
|Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS), formerly Criminal Records Bureau (CRB), checks and disclosures of criminal records forms||ROA and Information Commissioner’s Employment Practices Code Part 1.7.4 and 2.15.3||Paper or electronic||Should be deleted following recruitment process unless assessed as relevant to ongoing employment relationship. Once the conviction is spent, should be deleted unless it is an excluded profession|
|Immigration checks||Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006||Paper or electronic||Two years after the termination of employment|
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