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8. Details of Individual Metadata Elements

8.38 Retention Period

Attributes

Attribute

Value

Identifying Attributes

Name

retentionPeriod

Label

Retention Period

Defined by

Government of Canada Records Management Metadata Standard - retentionPeriod

Element URI

[To be actioned by Treasury Board of Canada, Secretariat before publication]

Definitional Attributes

Definition

The period of time a record or file must be retained before authorized disposition.

Purpose

To ensure records and files are retained for a specified period of time thereby complying with legal/legislative, policy and business requirements.

To assign a retention period on record creation to facilitate the records disposition process.

Rationale

"Organizations should institute and carry out a comprehensive records management programme which includes  j) ensuring that records are retained only for as long as needed or required " ISO International Standard 15489-1, s. 7.1

"Records systems should be capable of facilitating and implementing decisions on the retention or disposition of records." ISO International Standard 15489-1, s. 8.3.7

"At the point of record capture, key elements of records management metadata, such as retention and disposal authorisations  should be identified and applied in order to facilitate the ongoing accountability of an organization for, and the ongoing management of, records." ISO Technical Specification 23081-1, s. 9.6.1

Value Domain

Enumerated strings of text representing retention periods.

Datatype Name

String

Constraint

Applicable at record level or file level. Must be applicable for at least one level; may be applicable at both levels.

Obligation

Mandatory at record level or mandatory at file level. Must be mandatory for at least one level; may be mandatory at both levels.

Relational Attributes

Encoding Scheme

Institution-specific retention schedule

References

-

Linkages

Event Type; File Code; Retention Trigger; Retention Trigger Date

Conditions of Application - Record

Format

Text, based on encoding scheme.

Modifiable

Pre Record Declared Locked

Post Record Declared Locked

Yes, by authorized official only.

Yes, by authorized official only.

Occurrence

Not repeatable

Conditions of Application - File

Format

Text, based on encoding scheme.

Modifiable

Yes, by authorized official only.

Occurrence

Not repeatable

Comments and Guidance

a) Explanation of Definition/Usage

The retention period represents the length of time records and files are maintained by an institution based on the value of the records or files (i.e. based on operational, administrative, legal or other requirements).

The total retention period includes both active and inactive retention periods. An active retention period indicates the length of time records or files may be kept close at hand for easy access because they are used continuously. For analog records, they may be kept at the employee's desk or in a nearby file cabinet. For digital records, they may be kept in on-line storage (e.g. on a file server). An inactive retention period indicates the length of time records or files will be kept in onsite or offsite storage in order to satisfy the requirements of their retention period. For analog records, they may be kept in boxes in a safe, controlled storage environment. For digital records, they may be transferred to off-line storage (e.g. on tapes, CD-ROMs, etc.)

Upon completion of the total retention period, a Records Disposition Authority (RDA) can be applied to the record or file for its final disposition (i.e. destroy, transfer or alienation).

b) Best Practices

All records and files within an EDRMS require the use of this element at some time in their existence. It may not be possible to provide the information required by this element at the creation of a record for a variety of reasons, including the unavailability of relevant disposition authorities and/or institutional policies that preclude an assignment of a retention period at record creation.

An approved retention schedule is linked to the institution's classification scheme / file plan. If there is no approved institution-specific retention schedule for the record or file, or if the retention schedule is under development, the default value 'To Be Determined' shall be applied to this element. Records that are not covered by a retention schedule must be retained.

In the case of a moratorium on disposition activity, an authorized official shall be permitted to override the retention period specified in a retention schedule.

In the event that the retention period is either suspended (e.g. in the case of a moratorium because of an Access to Information Request) or changed (e.g. in the case of a change in legislation), the action shall be logged in the element Event Type. Clarification, if necessary, should be recorded in the element Event Description.

Retention periods for the Common Administrative Records of the Government of Canada can be found in the retention guidelines for Common Administrative Records developed and maintained by Library and Archives Canada.

Recommended best practice is to select a value from an institution-specific retention schedule.

This element is generally applied at the file level, with the records in the file inheriting the value. It can, however, be applied at the record level. It must be applied to at least the file or record level and may be applied at both. Some records within a file may have a Retention Period different than that of the file itself (e.g. policy records that have a superseded criteria within a file that has a retention period of 6 fiscal years). Further, some institutions base their retention and disposition processing at the record level rather than the file level.

c) Obligation

This element is a fundamental records management element and therefore is mandatory.

d) Default Values/Auto-populate

This element will be auto-populated based on the application of an institution-specific retention schedule to the classification scheme / file plan.

If there is no approved institution-specific retention schedule for the record or file, or if the retention schedule is under development, the default value 'To Be Determined' shall be applied to this element.

e) Linkages

This element is linked to the element File Code because it is at the File Code that retention is applied. It is linked to the elements Retention Trigger and Retention Trigger Date because all three are necessary for the processing of retention and disposition.

Retention Period is also linked to the element Event Type in cases where a change to the retention period of the record or file must be noted in the management and event history log (e.g. a suspension of the retention period).

f) Examples

  1. "2 years active / 3 years inactive"

  2. "5 years after superseded"

  3. "6 fiscal years"

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