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July 21st, 2004:

Employment and other workplace records

Practical & legal record-keeping strategies

By Yosie Saint-Cyr, Editor HRinfodesk - Canadian Payroll and Employment Law

July 21, 2004


First Reference Inc.

First Reference is a publisher of Canadian employment law reference manuals that are comprehensive, updated and practical.  Publications include The Human Resources Advisor, Human Resources PolicyPro and the HRinfodesk Bulletin and website.  For more information about our publications, go to www.firstreference.com.


Records retention is a complicated issue. Time requirements for retaining books and records vary by jurisdiction and across legislation. Compliance issues also exist with regards to the method of retention and location of books and records such as hard copy and/or electronic accounting information. There are also several statutes that require employers to basically keep the same employee information with different retention timelines. In addition, employers need basic information about their employees to ensure that work is being done efficiently and safely. Accordingly, employers must keep written records of performance appraisal and other HR decisions. This article provides clarification on tricky record-keeping topics related to the employment relationship, including a quick reference chart for HR managers and employers.


This article is dated July, 2004.
Time requirements for retaining books and records vary by jurisdiction and across legislation. Compliance issues also exist with regards to the method of retention and location of books and records such as hard copy and/or electronic accounting information. There are also several statutes that require employers to basically keep the same employee information with different retention timelines. In addition, employers need basic information about their employees to ensure that work is being done efficiently and safely. Accordingly, employers must keep written records of performance appraisal and other HR decisions.

From document creation to storage and destruction, there are legal requirements and strategic reasons to be concerned about records and information. Proactive information management (Record Keeping and Retention Systems) should be a priority for all companies.

 

This article provides clarification on tricky record-keeping topics related to the employment relationship, including a quick reference chart for HR managers and employers.

 

Article highlights

  • What is a record?
  • What should be documented in the workplace?
  • Legal record keeping requirements
    • Taxation and payroll records
    • Employment and labour standards records
    • Labour relations records
    • Health and safety records
    • WHMIS records
    • Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB)
    • Employment equity records
    • Pay equity records
    • Human rights records
    • Pension records
  • Ways of keeping records 
  • Conclusion
  • Quick reference chart
     

What is a record?

According to Don McGowan, a lawyer at the Toronto law firm Osler Hoskin & Harcourt LLP, obligations with respect to records are quite broad under federal and provincial law. Under the federal Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) as well as the rules of court of most provinces, a "record" includes any documentary material and any copy of that documentary material. Québec’s Act to establish a legal framework for information technology states that information inscribed on a medium constitutes a document. The mere fact that no paper copy exists does not mean that a particular item is not a record. Given the breadth of the statutory definitions, it is best to think of a "record" as being a piece of information. Once a piece of information comes into existence—however that may happen—a company becomes obliged to deal with it as though it is a record.

The purpose of a record is to document the business processes carried on by an organization. Each record must contain sufficient, accurate and usable information for anyone to discern how it was used in the business process; including how the record was made (format) and in which context it was created.

 

What should be documented in the workplace?

In addition to what is required in several statutes (which is dealt in detail later), employers and HR managers must keep all types of employee information related to the employment relationship. Employers need basic information about their employees for things like pay and benefits or other entitlements, and they have to be able to ensure that work is being done efficiently and safely. For that reason, employers must keep written records of performance appraisal and other HR decisions such as:

  • Orientation and training received
  • Promotions
  • Pay increases
  • Transfers
  • Discipline including verbal, written warnings, suspension and demotions, or firing
  • Work refusals
  • Leaves of absences
  • Attendance records
  • Special or work-related requests made by the employee or employer such as a request for accommodation 
  • Changes in the terms and conditions of employment
  • Violations to company policy, acts and regulations
  • Major events and incidents
  • Key management decisions and the events that influence them
  • Work related injuries and/or illnesses including medical information and WSIB claims
  • Meetings and other conversations initiated by the employer or employee regarding discipline, pay, transfer and promotions, among other things
  • Modifications or removal of policies and procedures in employee handbook 
     

These documents are recorded and retained to manage the employment relationship and in case any legal claims for discrimination or wrongful dismissal are brought about; records will show that the employer treated the employee fairly and appropriately. The aim is to have accurate records that are professional, concise and solely based on work-related issues. Although nothing is specified in law, for some of the above documents and agreements, they would have a long-term retention period that may last during the currency of the agreement or employee’s employment and 3 years after its termination.

 

Employers or HR managers should also consult any specific laws or regulations that govern the industry or profession in which they are engaged through their associations, professional bodies, or regulatory boards.

 

When records are taken, document what both the employee and the employer say; this does not have to be “word for word”, but in general. Note the outcome of the conversation. When a written warning is required, a copy of the warning must be signed by the employee, and should be part of your documentation. Allow time and space within the written warning for the employee to respond. All documentation must be created and dated at the time of the event, incident or when the corrective measure is taken—not months down the line or when you need to justify and prove an action in court. Notes made after the fact lose credibility.

 

All documentations should go into the employee’s personnel file; however, if confidential information is found in any documentation, it should be kept in a different employee personnel file where confidential information is stored and secured, and only accessed on a need to know basis.  The employee’s personnel file usually contains data considered to be personal information that the employee is or should be aware of, such as employment application, dependent information, salary or wage adjustments, job history, transfers, promotions, job performance evaluations, leave of absence requests and authorizations, employee training records, disciplinary records and attendance and absenteeism records. This is the file employees should be allowed to access and view.

 

Employers should consider keeping several separate files for each employee containing medical information, workers’ compensation, and confidential data. These files contain sensitive information and access to these files should be restricted to authorized individuals only. The confidential data file contains information such as reference checks, notes, observations or other data compiled by supervisors or other appropriate personnel resulting from an investigation and may reveal personal information about a third party. This information must not be disclosed and is exempted from the access provisions of both provincial and federal privacy legislation.

 

Note that access to documentation in an employee’s normal personnel file should be limited to the employee, employer, and immediate supervisor or HR department. No one should view the information unless they have a specific reason to do so.

 

Many employers and HR managers are assessing their data collection and retention needs in light of privacy requirements, where the need to provide notice to employees of the purposes for which personal information is collected, used, and disclosed will likely lead to a re-evaluation of what information is reasonably required to manage the employment relationship. There is also a need to examine data retention protocols, as maintaining and storing personal information after it has served its useful purpose could be a liability.

 

Legal record keeping requirements 

How federal and provincial employment laws (and other related statutes and regulations) affect the length of time records should be kept.

1) Taxation and payroll records

Federal

Under the Income Tax Act, Employment Insurance Act and the Canada Pension Plan, employers and payers who have to withhold or deduct CPP contributions, EI premiums and taxes are required to retain adequate employment and payroll records and books of account (including electronic records in readable format even when hard copies are retained) for at least six years from the end of the last taxation year (fiscal period and/or calendar year) to which the records relate. This also applies to the federal sales tax GST/HST.

 

As a rule, neither these Acts nor the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) specifies the records and books to be kept. However, the records that are kept must allow you and the CRA to verify and/or determine how much tax you owe, or the tax, duties, or other amounts to be collected, withheld, or deducted or any rebate or refund to which the employer and/or employee is entitled.

The records must be supported by original documents such as:

  • Receipts
  • Sale invoices
  • Purchase invoices
  • Vouchers
  • Banking information
  • Cheques
  • Directors and shareholders minutes
  • General ledger
  • Special contracts
  • Agreements
  • For EI purposes SIN number of each person insured 
     

Records must be kept in Canada, or made available in Canada at the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) request for verification purposes. However, records and books of account kept outside Canada and accessed electronically from Canada are not records and books of account in Canada. Access to electronic records means direct, physical contact to the medium on which the record is stored.

 

Additional information can be found at Books and records and IC78-10R3 - Books and Records Retention / Destruction on the CRA website.

If the company wants to destroy the books and records before the six-year period is over, they must obtain permission from the director of any Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) tax services office. For more information read: T137 - Request for Destruction of Books and Records. Violation of the requirement is a punishable offence and the business may face summary conviction with a fine and/or imprisonment not exceeding 12 months. The organization may also lose tax benefits for the period under assessment.

 

Ontario

Provincial income tax, sales tax and employer health (payroll) tax statutes require that taxpayers, and corporations maintain adequate records to support amounts payable, charged, collected, and remitted in such form and containing such information as will enable tax payable and refundable tax credits to be determined for at least seven years.

 

Earlier destruction of the records is allowed with Ministry approval and if certain conditions have been met. For more information, click here or go to TRD - 2111 - Retention/Destruction of Books and Records. Violation of the requirement is a punishable offence and the business may face summary conviction with a fine and/or imprisonment not exceeding 12 months. The organization may also lose tax benefits for the period under assessment.

 

2) Employment and labour standards records

Under Labour Standards—Canada Labour Code Part III all federally regulated employers must keep written records about each person they hire. The information that must be kept is:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Date of Birth
  • Sex
  • SIN
  • Occupation Classification
  • Starting date of employment
  • All hours of work including hours per day and overtime hours
  • Wage rate
  • Date and particular of changes in rate
  • Gross, Net and Overtime wages
  • Nature and amount of deductions; work period corresponding to payment; nature and amount of Bonus, Premiums, Allowances, Commissions and other payments
  • Date wages were paid and work period corresponding to payment
  • Vacation reference year; dates and duration of vacation; dates and amounts of vacation pay paid; vacation time carried over from previous years; vacation time earned and taken; vacation taken in the vacation year; vacation time remaining and available to the employee at the end of the vacation year; the amount of wages on which the vacation pay was calculated; and the period of time to which the wages relate
  • Leave of absences including maternity/parental leave dates
  • Written agreement to waive or postpone vacation
  • Public holiday paid, worked/not worked
  • Notice of substitution of public holiday and proof that at least 70% of affected employees agreed to the substitution if not subject to collective agreement
  • Date of substituted day off
  • Termination date of Notice; last date of employment;
  • Amounts paid in lieu of notice; amount paid in lieu of vacation including severance pay
  • Copies of Notice of Termination
  • Job modification or reassignment: commencement and termination dates and any notice by employer
  • Details of reductions in standards and maximum hours of work, where hours are averaged
  • Copies of medical certificates for sick leave and documents relating to employer request(s) for certificates, and any notice of termination under the sick leave provisions in the law
  • Notices of modified work schedules and proof that 70% of affected employees agree to the schedules
  • Copies of documents relating to an employee’s work related illness or absence and the date the employee returned to work or copy of employer notice that a return to work was not reasonably practical.
     

The Canada Labour Code requires the above record kept be kept for three years after the record is made or work performed, and as for dates of commencement and termination of employment, three years after termination. However, the Treasury Board Secretariat indicates that all records should be kept for a period of 10 years after the date on which the record was made, a qualified person signed the report, or the procedures were established.

Penalty for failure to keep proper records is punishable on summary conviction by a fine not exceeding $100 for each day during which any such refusal or failure continues.

 

For more information, go to Pamphlet 14 - Keeping of Records.

 

Ontario

Under the Ontario Employment Standards Act and Regulations, all employers, including anyone who employs domestic workers, must keep written records about each person they hire. The employer, or someone authorized by the employer must keep employee files for three years after the record is made or work performed, within the province. Name, address, and date of commencement and termination of employment must be kept for three years after termination. The information that must be kept for three years after the record is made or work performed is:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Date of Birth
  • Starting date of employment
  • All hours of work including hours per day; per week; overtime hours; and time off in place of overtime pay
  • Wage rate
  • Gross and Net wages and date wages were paid
  • Work period corresponding to payment
  • Nature and amount of deductions; work period corresponding to payment; nature and amount of Bonus, Premiums, Allowances, Commissions and other payments
  • Vacation reference year; dates and duration of vacation; dates and amounts of vacation pay paid; vacation time carried over from previous years; vacation time earned and taken; vacation taken in the vacation year; vacation time remaining and available to the employee at the end of the vacation year; the amount of wages on which the vacation pay was calculated; and the period of time to which the wages relate.
  • Public holiday paid, worked/not worked
  • Termination date of Notice; last date of employment
  • Amounts paid in lieu of notice; amount paid in lieu of vacation including severance pay
  • All notices, certificates, correspondence and other documents given to or produced by the employer that relate to an employee taking pregnancy leave, parental leave or emergency leave
  • Copies of Letters, Documents and Certificates Relating to Maternity, Parental Benefits
  • Overtime agreements
  • Homeworker registry 
     

For more information on Keeping Records, refer to the Ontario Employment Standards Act, Part VI

 

3)Labour relations records

Nothing is specified in law, but arbitration agreements and collective agreements that relate to labour relations history should be kept long-term. Other arbitration agreements would have a retention period that last during the currency of the agreement and 3 years after its termination.

 

4) Health and safety records

Federal

Under Occupational Health and Safety—Canada Labour Code part II employers and HR managers must ensure that adequate records are maintained on work accidents, first aid received how and by whom, as well as injuries and health hazards related to the health and safety of employees, and regularly monitor data relating to those accidents, injuries, and hazards. All hazardous occurrences affecting employees, including occupational diseases, minor injuries and other hazardous occurrences, must be recorded to ensure the accuracy of the Employer’s Annual Hazardous Occurrence Investigation Report (NHQ/LAB 1009) submitted to the Minister

 

Records must be kept at least 10 years beginning on the date of the entry or after the date on which the record was made, a qualified person signed the report, or the procedures were established.

 

A Policy and Workplace Committee (for every employer who normally employs directly 300 or more employees) is required to ensure that accurate records are kept of all associated matters, and that minutes of meetings are taken and kept. In visiting a workplace, a health and safety should ensure that these records are kept and are available for reference and review by the officer and the workplace parties. The Workplace Committee Report is to be sent not later than March 1st in each year, to locations specified in the Regulations. These records should be kept for a period of 10 years.

 

For more information, go to Pamphlet 7- Hazardous Occurrence Investigation Recording and Reporting.

 

Ontario

Common records to keep under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, are the handling, storage, use and disposal of biological, chemical or physical agents; the exposure of a worker to biological, chemical or physical agents; levels of biological, chemical or physical agents in a workplace; these include keeping and posting accurate records found in Regulations, which are listed below:

  • The operation of boilers and pressure vessels
  • The operation of elevators
  • Work in confined spaces
  • Storage handling and transportation of dangerous goods
  • Removal of asbestos
  • Crane and hoists
  • The safety of diving equipment
  • Work on electrical facilities
  • Hearing and sound tests in noisy workplaces
  • Protective clothing, hand tools and machine guards
     

The Joint Health and Safety committee must keep records (minutes) of its meetings. These minutes must be made available, upon request, to a Ministry of Labour inspector.

 

For more information, go to the Occupational Health and Safety Act

 

5) WHMIS

The Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) was enacted in 1988 by the Federal government, and through provincial Occupational Health and Safety legislation and regulations in each province or territory, has important record keeping requirements especially concerning labeling of products and worker education programs.

 

WHMIS records are designed to provide employers as well as employees with information about hazardous materials (controlled products) that are supplied to, or produced at, the workplace. All WHMIS legislation requires the employer to keep a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for each controlled product, summarizing the health and safety information available about a controlled product.

MSDS records must be kept up to date and made readily available to employees or any health and safety representative or officer.

If the disclosure of information on MSDS is confidential, the employer has to apply for exemption with the Hazardous Materials Information Review Commission. When permission is granted, the employer will not have to disclose the confidential information on its MSDS.

 

Although a retention period is not specified, an MSDS record expires three years after the date of its publication. Thus, an MSDS must be updated every three years or within 90 days of new hazard information becoming available to the employer. Records of worker education programs must be kept two years after the employee ceases to be required to handle or be exposed to the substance or to operate or repair.

 

The Labour Branch of Human Resources Skills and Development Canada (HRSDC) enforce WHMIS for federal workplaces and by the provincial or territorial agencies responsible for occupational health and safety for most other workplaces. In Ontario, the agency is the Occupational Health and Safety Branch of the Ministry of Labour

 

For more information, consult the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System Website and the Table of Contents | Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS): A Guide to the Legislation | Ontario Ministry of Labour

 

6) Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB)

Federally and provincially (private sector) regulated employers are required to keep for six years all payroll records showing the names and positions of their workers, the dates during which they were employed, their earnings, and the hours and days paid, all worksheets used to prepare reconciliation forms, if more than one rate group classification. Payroll records must be kept separate for each operation.

 

Retain reports documenting health and safety measures and programs adopted by the company such as prevention programs, workplace inspections, ergonomics, workplace quality of life, accidents in the workplace, first aid records, inspection reports, list of hazardous substances, and application of labour standards.

 

Records relating to employees’ accidents at work: case summaries, progress notes, employer’s notifications to the WSIB, temporary assignment notices, claims, reimbursement applications, medical certificates and reports, work fitness certificates, correspondence and various forms issued by the WSIB.

 

These records must be kept in Ontario. After a minimum of 6 years, the records may be destroyed, if the WSIB has granted written permission.

 

For more information, refer to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act

 

7) Employment equity records

Under the Employment Equity Act and Regulation, all federally regulated employers (including private sector employers) covered by the Act must establish and maintain employment equity records that include:

  • The employer's workforce
  • The employer's employment equity plan; and
  • The implementation of employment equity by the employer
     

Specifically:

a) a record of each employee's designated group membership, if any;

b) a record of each employee's occupational group classification;

c) a record of each employee's salary and salary increases;

d) a record of each employee's promotions;

e) a sample copy of the workforce survey questionnaire that employees received and any other information the employer used in conducting its workforce analysis;

f) the summary of the results of the workforce analysis;

g) a description of the activities the employer carried out in conducting its employment systems review;

h) the employer's employment equity plan:

i) a record of the employer's monitoring of the implementation of its employment equity plan; and

j) a record of activities undertaken by the employer and information provided to employees in accordance with the Act

Employee data a) to d) stated above must be kept for two years following the date of the employee’s termination. The other records (e) to (j) above must be kept for two years following the period covered by the employment equity plan to which the records relate. In other words, if the plan covers a period of one year, the records (e) to (j) must be kept for three years. If the plan covers three years, the records (e) to (j) must be kept for five years.

Where a private sector employer has used specially designed computer software such as the Employment Equity Computerized Reporting System (EECRS) to generate its annual employment equity report, the employer must maintain a copy of the database or other computer record used to generate the report for two years following the year in respect of which the report is filed.

For more information, go to Guidelines for the Employment Equity Act and Regulations.

 

Under the Federal Contractor/Employee Wages/Hours program of the Canada Labour Code all documents related to that program must be retained three years after the time when the subject matter of the proceeding arose.

 

8) Pay equity records

All pay equity plans should contain the following:

  • The name and address of the employer
  • The establishments this plan applies to (this may be more than one workplace within the same county or regional municipality)
  • The date the plan was posted
  • The grouping of jobs into job classes and their gender
  • The female job classes covered by the plan
  • A description of the method used to compare female job classes to male job classes
  • The results of the comparison (a listing of female job classes and the male job classes they were compared to)
  • Any permissible differences
  • Adjustments to wages to achieve pay equity
  • The schedule for paying out these adjustments to female job classes
  • The name and phone number of the contact person for more information
     

Although there are no retention requirements specified in legislation, since the Pay Equity Commission and/or Human Rights Commission can require and/or inspect records necessary to determine if pay equity was achieved or to validate a complaint, documentation to support the plan and the plan itself should be kept long term.

 

9) Human rights records

Federal

Under the Canadian Human Rights Act, the Human Rights Commission recommends employers document and retain every employment interview for at least two years after an employee has been hired for a specific job. The documentation should include the ads and recruiting methods used, the number of application or résumés received, the date of the interviews, the names of the candidates, interview notes, and brief notes on why the candidate was or was not selected. If the candidate later alleges discrimination, a record of the interview will help the employer demonstrate fair treatment. This will also demonstrate that the selection process was fair and non-discriminatory.

 

In addition, the employer should keep all medical, performance, and disciplinary measures, all written accommodation requests and approvals, including all notes related to the accommodation process for at least 3 years after they were made. In these cases, the Human Rights Act does not specify duration; however, Canada Labour Code, Part III record retention guidelines have been applied.

 

Ontario

Under the Human Rights Code, the Human Rights Commission recommends employers document every employment interview and retain the documentation for at least one year after an employee has been hired for a specific job. The documentation should include the ads and recruiting methods used, the number of application or résumés received, the date of the interviews, the names of the candidates, interview notes and brief notes on why the candidate was or was not selected. If the candidate later alleges discrimination, a record of the interview will help the employer demonstrate fair treatment. This will also demonstrate that the selection process was fair and non-discriminatory.

 

In addition, the employer should keep all medical, performance, and disciplinary measures, all written accommodation requests and approvals, including all notes related to the accommodation process for at least 3 years after they were made. In these cases, the Ontario Human Rights Code does not specify duration; however, ESA record retention guidelines have been applied.

 

During an investigation of a complaint, the federal and provincial Human Rights commissions are usually directed to the company’s employment practices. The officers of the Commissions can inspect and request the production of records that may be relevant to the investigation and on giving receipt may remove them to take extracts from or copy relevant records; this suggests that accurate records must be kept and retained to support the employers argument, claim and/or objections.

 

10) Pension Records

Federal

Although there are no requirements that specific records be kept under the Pension Benefits Standards Act, the Superintendent has powers to inspect and suggest employers keep books and records necessary for the Superintendent to ascertain whether they have complied with the Act.

 

Ontario

Although there are no requirements that specific records be kept under the Pension Benefits Act, employers should keep any records the Superintendent of pensions require to ascertain whether they are in compliance with the Act.

The right of an employee to obtain copies of the plan and reports and information returns by application suggest these documents should be retained; the right to obtain previous versions of the pension plan and all documents respecting previous versions and all amended returns suggest they should be kept permanently.

 

Ways of keeping records (brief overview)

Keeping records and books of account pertains to a system of recording financial and other information. A person who is required to keep records and books is responsible for keeping the records and books in a way that will ensure the trustworthiness and readability of the information recorded. They must consider the following:

  • Method of maintaining hard copy and/or electronic information and/or accounting; records are considered to be kept electronically when information is directly entered into any device for electronic processing, manipulation, and/or storage on electronic or optical media and reproduction to paper
  • Backup and storage of records (onsite and offsite)
  • Readability of records
  • Availability of the records for an auditor and/or government officer 
     

In any environment, records retention policies and procedures must include adequate consideration of, and provision for, records security. It is not enough to know what records you must keep and how long you must keep them. It is equally as important to take necessary steps to protect your records against loss and unwarranted access.

 

According to lawyer Don McGowan:

Electronic records: The mere fact that a document was never committed to paper does not mean that it is not a record subject to discovery. The same retention rules that are applied to paper copies of documents should be applied to electronic copies. Nothing should be entered into an electronic copy of a document that your company would not want disclosed on discovery. While some software gives the option to produce non-printing text, if the electronic version of a document contains negative elements then disclosure of the electronic version will entail disclosure of these negatives as well.

 

E-mail: A requirement to disclose or to preserve "all correspondence" includes e-mail. People tend to use e-mail more informally than letters, and may say things in a quickly typed note that they would not have said using a more formal medium. But whether in a quick e-mail or a full letter on company letterhead, the statement is made and can be attributed back to your company – sometimes to devastating effect. While developing an e-mail use policy is advisable, the best strategy is to advise all employees that their e-mail should only be used for things they would not be worried about seeing on the front page of the newspaper. In this regard, remember that deleting an e-mail or a document from a hard drive does not necessarily make it impossible to reconstruct.

 

Purpose of the record: In many circumstances, your company’s files should indicate the purpose for keeping the record. To give only one example, Québec’s access to information laws require that any time a file is opened with respect to a person, the purpose of the record must be noted in the file. Once this purpose is noted, the file should only be used for that purpose.

 

Location of records: Your company should not use data warehousing services outside of Canada without first checking to see if there are industry-specific or other restrictions. For certain industries (e.g., banking, securities), records must be kept somewhere in Canada. And again, under Québec’s privacy law, where the file contains personal information collected about a Québec resident, there are specific rules about where records can be stored and transferred.

 

Destruction of records: Once your company is no longer required to keep a piece of information, you should destroy it. In the case of personal information, destruction is required under both federal law and many provincial statutes (e.g., Québec). In the case of business records not containing personal information, there is usually no requirement to destroy records after a certain time period. Nonetheless, it is usually impractical to keep records forever except those (such as directors’ resolutions and minutes) that must be preserved in perpetuity. It would be prudent to destroy all records for which there is no longer a statutory obligation to preserve the information and for which the relevant limitation period for any potential litigation has expired.

 

Care should be taken to destroy confidential records in a way that preserves their confidentiality. Careless disposal would constitute a breach of confidentiality.

 

Records pertaining to current or possible future litigation should not be destroyed and should be isolated and marked in some way.

 

Record management systems must include the following:

  • The policies defining the scope and authority of the program;
  • The procedures to be followed by staff at all levels to ensure program objectives are met;
  • Audit procedures to ensure program relevance and compliance with identified legislation and standards;
  • Retention periods that meet operational, legal, fiscal, audit and archival requirements; and
  • Staff training to provide the skills necessary at the appropriate level.


The system must capture all records within the scope of the business activities it covers; organize the records in a way that reflects the business processes; protect the records from unauthorized access, alteration, or disposition; routinely function as the primary source of information about actions that are documented in the records; and provide ready access to all relevant records and related data. This means that the system must constantly evolve to meet not only the needs, but also the changes in legislative requirements and industry practice.

 

Conclusion

To ensure that records are kept for the proper time periods, and are in accordance with the various legislative requirements, companies should develop records retention policies. A properly defined policy will guide employees in keeping the information that must be kept, while ensuring that they don’t accumulate information unnecessarily. Implementing sound document management practices now will help to ensure your organization is able to easily rise to meet any current and/or new standards put forward by governments.

 

Additional resources:

Quick Reference to Records Retention 

 

References:

  • Various federal and provincial employment and labour related legislation
  • Records Retention, Statutes and Regulations, Vol. 1 and 2, Carswellbusiness, 2003
  • Records Retention: Law & Practice, Ronald M. Anson-Carthwright & Al, Carswellbusiness, 2003
  • Hold That Paper-Shredder: Revisiting Records Retention, by Don McGowan,  lawyer at Osler Hoskin & Harcourt LLP, October 2002

By Yosie Saint-Cyr, Editor at HRinfodesk

Published on HRinfodesk---Canadian Payroll and Employment Law

HRinfodesk is a service that is published by First Reference which includes legislative updates, a Library of Articles, FAQs, a Calendar of Events, Important Dates and an HR Internet Directory for expanded research. Our search tools will help you to quickly find results by jurisdiction, topic, date and keyword.

 

First Reference is a publisher of Canadian employment law reference manuals that are comprehensive, updated and practical. 

Publications include The Human Resources Advisor, Human Resources PolicyPro and the HRinfodesk Bulletin and website

For more information or to purchase one of our publications, go to http://www.firstreference.com/.

 

This article offers general comments on legal developments of concern to businesses. Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and timeliness of this information. These publications are written for informational purposes only and should NOT be relied upon as legal advice. The reader should always obtain legal advice from a qualified lawyer or other qualified professional which will be responsive to the case or circumstance of the individual

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Written By: Yosie Saint-Cyr
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