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Understand Procedures for archiving documents

1.1 Explain why and when required information should be archived

Archiving information involves removing old inactive files from the main filing system, thereby freeing space for current 'active' files that need to be accessed regularly but with the advantage that they can be retrieved at a later date if required.

1.2 Explain the purpose of agreeing retention periods for archiving information

Usually it is easy to predict when something needs to be archived (When the need to retrieve the record on a daily basis drops below a certain threshold) but retention periods are agreed so that everybody in an organisation knows how long to keep certain types of information and when they may dispose of them. For this reason it is essential that all staff are aware of the correct retention periods for different types of information. These depend on a range of fators including:

  • Type of organisation
  • Size of organisation
  • Space available in the live (or current) filing system
  • Space available in the archive storage
  • Type of information concerned

1.3 Describe procedures to be followed for archiving information, including legal requirements, if required.

Information for archiving must be boxed in designated archive boxes. Be packed in alphabetical or chronological order so they are easy to retrieve. Boxes must not be over filled and all boxes must be labelled with details such as the contents, date of archiving and retention period. Legal requirements state that:

  • Human resources records must be retained by an organisation for six years from the end of employment of the member of staff
  • Health and safety records must be retained permanently
  • Accounts records must be kept for between three and six years depending on the type of organisation

1.4 Explain the purpose of organisational and legal requirements for the security and confidentiality of archived information

It is important that rules are put in place regarding the security and confidentiality of archived information because it may contain personal data such as

  • Employees personal records
  • Payroll Records
  • Human Resource Records
  • Financial Data

All of this information is sensitive and protected by the Data Protection Act 1998. Should it get into the wrong hands, not only would it be breaching data protection laws but it could pose a threat to the business and its customers. Therefore archived information should be treated as it was before archived.

1.5 Explain the purpose of deciding and agreeing information to be archived

The purpose of agreeing on information to be archived is that it is not practical to archive everything. The decisions will depend on the information and legal requirements. Some things have a retention period and some things need to be deleted indefinitely.

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1.6 Describe procedures for recording and keeping archived information

Each box of information should be marked clearly to show what it is, and stored in alphabetical/chronological order, also be recorded on a data base, doing so makes information easy to retrieve in the future if needed. Keeping a data base helps to keep track of archived information and identify files which have passed their retention period and need to be destroyed.

1.7 Explain hot to retrieve archived information

Every organisation has their own procedures surrounding archived files and how to retrieve them. You cannot simply enter an archived area and take files without permission. To get access to archived files you would have to speak to the person in charge of archived content and give them details such as:

  • Name of your department
  • Archive box number
  • Archive date
  • Contents of file
  • Reason for wanting access

You will then give it back to the relevant person after use to be re-archived.

1.8 Describe how to delete information from an archive system

Files in an archive system cannot be deleted until their retention period has expired. Once files have passed their retention period, they can be removed and destroyed. This is usually carried out by an annual cull of all archiving which is no longer needed. A report is produced (usually annually) from the organisations archive database showing all of the archive boxes which now qualify for removal. These boxes can then be taken out of archive and are disposed of in a secure manner such as shredding. The empty archived boxes then have their labels removed and can be recycled for future use.

1.9 Describe problems that may occur with systems containing archived information and how to deal with them or refer them

Problems that may occur in archive systems include, Data not being stored correctly. e.g. in wrong order, unnecessary files being archived, duplicates being stored or files being missing all together. All of these problems make it difficult to quickly sort through information and locate the relevant files you are looking for.

It is important that staff responsible for preparing files for archiving are given guidelines for correct archiving procedures and that they follow the. Another way to prevent problems from happening is to start a system of regular checking and clearing out of unwanted files such as those which no longer need to be kept. Serious problems such as whole sections of files being missing need to be referred to a manager for investigation as files could have been stolen. Since files may contain sensitive or confidential information, this could represent a serious breach of security in the organisation.

1.10 Describe the purpose of conforming to requirements of an external archive system, if outsources from the organisation

Sometimes, organisations outsource their archives which mean they hire another company or third party to store the archives. This can be because of lack of space in the business or where there is not enough staff to look after the archives. Archive management still require you to put information in labelled boxes before they remove them from your premises in order for them to file them in the correct order. The company will also require you to follow its procedures for requesting files to be retrieved so that they can get information to you as promptly and efficiently as possible and to ensure that they are only giving information to relevant, authorised people.

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