The University of Western Ontario
The University of Western Ontario’s Records Retention and Disposal Schedules (hereafter Western Retention Schedules) are designed to support effective management of the University’s recorded information. They specify how long specific records should be kept, where they should be retained and by whom, and whether they should ultimately be destroyed or preserved in an archives. They apply to all records, regardless of format, in all locations. Once they are approved, adherence to the provisions of the Western Retention Schedules is mandatory, as they represent the University’s official policy with respect to records retention and disposal.
For more information on their development and structure, see Introducing Western’s Records Retention and Disposal Schedules. For a glossary of records retention and disposal terms, see Glossary of Terms.2. Coordinating Implementation
It is strongly recommended that each unit designate one person to be responsible for implementing the Western Retention Schedules. This will assist others to apply records retention and disposal practices appropriately and consistently. This person can also act as the main contact with Western Archives for all other records management services.3. Locating the Schedules
The Western Retention Schedules are available on the Western Archives website. Approved schedules have full contents provided; draft or proposed schedules are identified by title only.
To locate the relevant schedule, determine the subject of the records or the function or activity that they support, identify the corresponding category, and consult the numerical list of schedules. An index to approved schedules is being developed.
As unit records may not be organized into distinct series that mirror the structure of the schedules, it is possible that more than one may appear to apply to the same records. If so, the schedule with a final disposition of archival retention should be followed. If more than one prescribes archival retention, the schedule with the longest total active and semi-active retention period should be used.4. Understanding Active Retention Periods
The active retention period defines the length of time records are to be retained in the office, or on-line in an electronic environment, in order to meet day-to-day needs. All records have an active retention period.
Responsible and Delegated Units
The active period can be a fixed period of time or it can be based upon completion of a specific task or event (see examples below). Depending on the administrative and operational needs of a unit, it can range from a few weeks to many years.
The active period is normally a fixed period of time and is usually quite short. It often reflects a local need to keep reference copies of records generated and/or filed elsewhere.
Unless an individual schedule provides specific direction to the contrary, records must be retained in their entirety until the expiration of the active period
- Fiscal Year + 2 Years: Records are retained for the balance of the fiscal year in which they were created or to which they apply, plus an additional 2 years.
- A series of invoices dated between December 1, 2005 and January 31, 2006 must be retained until the end of the 2005-06 fiscal year (i.e., until April 30, 2006) plus 2 more years. Its active retention period ends on April 30, 2008.
- A series of reports written in 2005 must be retained until the end of the 2005 calendar year (i.e., until December 31, 2005) plus 1 more year. Its active retention period ends on December 31, 2006.
- A series of project files on a reorganization that was initiated in 2004 and implemented on June 15, 2005 must be retained for an additional 2 years. Its active period ends on June 15, 2007.
- A series of procedures for implementing provincial regulations is retained as long as the regulations are in effect. As no additional time period is specified, the active period ends as soon as the regulations are updated or rescinded.
5. Understanding Semi-active Retention Periods
The semi-active retention period defines the length of time records are retained in central storage under the auspices of Western Archives’ records centre service, or kept near-line or off-line in an electronic environment. Not all records have a semi-active retention period.
Responsible and Delegated Units
The semi-active period is normally a specific number of years. During this time records are kept in storage and can be retrieved as required by the originating unit only. Often this period reflects the remainder of a legally imposed retention requirement, although it can be based exclusively on administrative or operational needs.
There is often no semi-active retention period. If one is specified, it is usually short.
- Unless an individual schedule provides specific direction to the contrary, records must be retained in their entirety until the expiration of the semi-active period.
- If there is no semi-active retention period, records are eligible for final disposition as soon as the active period ends. They will not be accepted into semi-active storage by Western Archives under the auspices of its records centre service.
- The semi-active retention period defines how long records must be kept after the active period ends, not how long they must be kept in the records centre. For example, if records with a semi-active retention period of 3 years are not sent to the records centre until 1 year after the active period ends, they need only be kept there for the balance of the semi-active period (i.e., 2 more years), not another 3 full years.
- 2 Years : Records are retained for 2 years after the active retention period ends.
- A series of reports written in 2005 with an active retention period of calendar year + 1 year must be retained for an additional 2 years after the active retention period ends on December 31, 2006. Its semi-active retention period ends on December 31, 2008.
6. Understanding Final Disposition
The final disposition is what happens to the records after the completion of the combined total of the active and semi-active retention periods. It is either archival preservation (in whole or in part) under the auspices of Western Archives or destruction (recycling or some means of confidential destruction, such as shredding, as appropriate).
Responsible and Delegated Units
The final disposition may be any one of recycling, confidential destruction, full archival retention or selective archival retention (see examples).
The final disposition is usually recycling or confidential destruction.
- Recycling: Records are destroyed using the most economical and environmentally responsible means available.
- A series of obsolete government regulations can be put in the blue-box.
- Confidential Destruction: Records are destroyed in a manner that ensures that the information cannot be retrieved and used. The particular method of confidential destruction (e.g., shredding, electronic erasure, disintegration) should reflect recording medium and the sensitivity of the contents of the records; it may be specified in the schedule.
- A series of employment application files must be shredded.
- Full Archival Retention: All records are preserved in Western Archives, subject to removal of duplicates and non-record material.
- A series of original committee meeting minutes are retained in their entirety.
- Selective Archival Retention: Some records are preserved in Western Archives, after being weeded or sampled by Archives staff, followed by confidential destruction of the remainder.
- A series of annual financial statements are retained, but drafts and supporting documents used to produce associated reports are shredded.
As noted above, unless a schedule specifies otherwise, records must be retained in their entirety in the office or on-line until the expiration of the active period.
- If the active period is a specific amount of time (i.e., fiscal year + 2 years) the records must be retained in the office or on-line until the full prescribed time period has passed.
- If the active period is based upon completion of a specified task or event (i.e., end of a project + 2 years) the onus is on the unit holding the records to determine when the task or event is over. The records are then considered ‘closed’ and any additional time period begins to run, during which the records must remain in the office or on-line.
- If the active period is based on the records becoming superseded or obsolete, the onus is on the unit holding the records to decide when they are no longer needed. They are then considered ‘closed’ and any additional time period begins to run during which the records must remain in the office or on-line.
Once the total active retention period is completed, the records are ready for the semi-active retention period to be applied. If there is no semi-active retention period, they are immediately ready for final disposition.
If there is a particular need for regular access to records after the active retention period ends, units can delay applying semi-active retention. However, the combined total of the active and semi-active retention periods cannot be exceeded. Units are responsible for providing storage space for any records retained on-site after the end of the active period. If this need proves to be ongoing, an amendment to the schedule should be requested (see Introducing Western’s Records Retention and Disposal Schedules).
As noted above, records should be transferred to central records centre storage, or moved to near-line or off-line electronic storage, after the active retention period ends. Unless a schedule specifies otherwise, they must be retained there in their entirety until the expiration of the semi-active period.
Once the active retention period is completed, the unit is responsible for initiating the transfer to semi-active storage. For most records, this involves submitting a storage request through Western Archives’ records centre service (see the Records Centre Services Guide, and completing a Scheduled Records Transfer Form (ARC-08).
Once the records are in storage, Western Archives tracks the balance of the semi-active retention period. If a unit opts to retain the records, rather that storing them in the records centre, it is responsible for tracking the balance of the semi-active retention period.
After the semi-active retention period is complete, records are ready for final disposition.9. Applying Final Disposition
As noted above, final disposition consists of either preservation (in whole or in part) under the auspices of Western Archives or destruction.
The final disposition provisions defined in the schedules are mandatory; units do not have the discretion to waive or change them. However, units can delay their application to specific records for up to one year in order to address one-time needs. If there are ongoing concerns about the final disposition provisions for a particular series of records, an amendment to the schedule should be requested (see Introducing Western’s Records Retention and Disposal Schedules ).
Records Stored with Western Archives
For records stored under the auspices of the records centre service, Western Archives tracks the semi-active retention period, identifies when the stored records are eligible for final disposition, and initiates the disposal process.
Prior to the end of the semi-active retention period, Western Archives notifies the originating unit that its records are or will soon be ready for final disposition. This notification identifies the specific records, the relevant schedule number and title, the prescribed manner of final disposition, and the effective date. A specific deadline for feedback is provided in order to give the unit an opportunity to comment on any records for which a delay in final disposition may need to be considered.
Once the deadline for feedback has passed, and any comments or concerns received are addressed, Western Archives implements final disposition in accordance with the specifics of the schedule by taking the following steps:
- Recycling : removing records from storage and disposing of them via recycling bins.
- Confidential Destruction : removing records from storage and destroying them by shredding, or an equivalent method for non-textual records, normally using the services of an external service provider.
- Full Archival Retention : accessioning records into the permanent holdings of Western Archives.
- Selective Archival Retention : accessioning records into the permanent holdings of Western Archives, with the proviso that those not deemed to merit permanent retention will be subsequently destroyed confidentially.
Records Retained by a Unit
If records have no semi-active period, or if a unit has chosen to retain them for the full semi-active period instead of transferring them to central storage, the unit is responsible for implementing the scheduled final disposition by taking the following steps:
- Identify and review the appropriate schedule(s) and verify that the records correspond to the content description(s).
- Complete any internal unit review and/or approval procedures.
- If the final disposition is destruction, implement it in accordance with the method specified
- Recycling : dispose of the records via recycling bins
- Confidential Destruction : destroy the records by shredding or an equivalent method for non-textual records, either directly or under the auspices of Western Archives
Note: Units identified in the schedule as “Responsible” or “Delegated” must also prepare and retain on file a Scheduled Records Destruction Certificate (ARC-15). This requirement does not apply to units identified as “Other.”
- If the final disposition is full or selective archival retention, implement it by arranging the physical transfer of the records to Western Archives. To initiate this process, contact the Records Archivist assigned to the unit (see below for a link to the staff list of unit responsibilities).
Questions? For more information on Western’s records management program and services, please contact your assigned Records Archivist. For a staff list with corresponding unit responsibilities, see: Records Management Contact Information