Policy: Records and information management

18 October 2011

This document outlines Ofcom's commitment to maintain records of its activities, the key principles for managing records in all media, and the roles of all colleagues in its management.

Who is responsible for Ofcom's records?

  • All colleagues must ensure that comprehensive records are kept of all Ofcom's activities, in accordance with current guidelines and for as long as required by the retention schedules.
  • Line managers must ensure that all colleagues in their team carry out their responsibilities in managing records and information, and are appraised on their performance.
  • Project Managers must ensure that a complete record of each project is maintained in accordance with records management and project management guidelines.
  • Local Information Managers in each business group ensure compliance with the policy and procedures, and promote effective information management within their team.
  • The Records and Information Management (RIM) Team operates a records and information management programme to comply with relevant legislation and standards, providing clear guidelines and practical procedures for all teams.
  • The Secretary of the Corporation as SIRO (Senior Information Risk Owner) is responsible for Ofcom's records and information management framework.

Why do we keep records?

Ofcom must maintain a complete set of records for as long as required to:

  • Comply with relevant legislation such as the Public Records Act, Data Protection Act, Freedom of Information Act and the Code of Compliance on Records Management.
  • Provide evidence of Ofcom's activities and decision making
  • Support and defend Ofcom's position in litigation
  • Enhance business efficiency
  • Promote collegiality and knowledge sharing

Ofcom's records management principles:

  • Records and information are owned by Ofcom, not by the individual or team
  • Keeping records is an integral part of all business activities
  • A complete record of all activities must be securely stored in a shared location, easily identified and accessible to those who need to see it
  • The complete record may be in any format, but preferably electronic – significant emails are held alongside other information and must not be stored solely in personal mailboxes
  • Information will be held only as long as required, and disposed of in accordance with the record retention policy and retention schedules
  • Practical guidance is made available to enable teams to manage their information.

Monitoring the policy:

Failure to manage information in accordance with relevant legislation could have serious consequences for Ofcom, its stakeholders and consumers.  To ensure Ofcom meets the requirements:

  • the RIM Team will regularly monitor compliance within each team or group
  • Action plans will be developed with teams where improvements are required
  • Records due for disposal under the records retention policy will be reviewed with each team or function on a regular basis, at least annually.
  • The policy and related guidelines will be reviewed annually.

Record retention policy

As a public body, Ofcom is obliged by law to manage its records effectively and to retain them only as long as necessary to meet business needs and statutory requirements.  To comply with this requirement Ofcom allocates retention periods to its records, to ensure that records for each function are retained for the appropriate length of time but no longer.  These retention periods are listed in Ofcom's retention schedules.

What is a retention period?

A retention period is a specific time period after which a document or file can be disposed of.  It comprises 3 elements:

  • Time period – expressed in years or sometimes months
  • Trigger –date of a document, end of financial year or closure of a project
  • Action – destroy/delete, review, or transfer to National Archive.

The review action is most often needed for policy project files where it is difficult to predict in advance which projects will have a lasting significance.  Ofcom will review these files either 5 or 10 years after closure of the project, destroy those files which have no lasting value and retain the more significant projects for a further period.

Decisions on retention periods for records

Ofcom aims to ensure that decisions on retention of records are thoroughly researched, that input is obtained from all interested parties and that decisions are approved at a senior level.    

Record retention schedules

Retention periods are available to all groups and teams, stating the period for which their records should be retained.

Retention of emails

Significant dialogue and decision making now often takes place by email. Storing such emails in personal Outlook mailboxes means they cannot be shared appropriately with other colleagues.  Actively retaining emails of record and minimising the accumulation of trivia will allow colleagues to access relevant information more efficiently and improve compliance with information management codes.

  • substantive emails should be saved to a shared location or placed on paper files
  • copies of substantive emails may be kept with other email messages in email folders
  • team retention policies should be applied to material in email folders
  • ephemeral emails which will not become a matter of record must be deleted as soon as possible.

Automatic deletion of emails

To ensure that email folders do not simply accumulate trivial exchanges of no substantive value, in other words those emails which colleagues do not retain for the record, emails left unclassified (i.e. not saved in named email folders or stored in read-only format on shared drives) in in-boxes, sent boxes or deleted boxes, will be automatically disposed of after 60 days.

Disposal of records

Once the retention period given in the retention schedules has passed, Ofcom must dispose of its records.  Ofcom is a public body and must transfer certain of its records to the National Archives (TNA) once they are no longer required for operational reasons, rather than shredding or deleting them.

Disposal is the stage at which our policies cease to be theoretical and are applied to real files or documents.  It is important to ensure that decisions on disposal are made with due consideration and that no one person is solely responsible for these decisions.  The record disposal processis co-ordinated by the RIM Team.

All paper records to be destroyed will be disposed of securely.

Electronic files in shared drives must be destroyed according to the same retention criteria as paper records.  A target time period for electronic review is being agreed with each team. The Records and Information Management Team will remind teams when this approaches.

Individuals are responsible for weeding their Outlook mailboxes and disposing of emails according to the retention periods for the matters to which the emails relate.