Annual records round-up – sentencing

When you’re mustering your records at the end of the year – there are a few things you need to know about sentencing.

Finding and using a schedule

Most of the current authorised retention and disposal schedules can be found using our special retention and disposal schedule search. You can search by QDAN number, schedule name, keywords, or even agency name.

If you’re still stuck, let us know. Keep in mind, not all approved schedules are available on the website.

Once you’ve found your schedule, you need to know how to use it. Most of you will be old hands at this, but for those of you new to this muster, you might want to check out our advice on ‘using a retention and disposal schedule’ for some tips and tricks before you jump in the saddle. This will give you an overview on what schedules are, the difference between a QDAN and a DAN, which schedule you can use, how to use the GRDS and the GRDS Lite, and actually implementing schedules in your agency. Then you can figure out how long you need to keep your records and which ones are due for destruction now.

How long to keep records

This is another bit of advice for the new musters among you and even some old-hands for those really tricky records.

You need to sentence records against a current schedule to find out how long they need to be kept and whether or not they’re due for destruction this year.

Just like mustering cattle, you need to know what’s going where. What’s going back to pasture (storage), what’s going to the records storage in the sky (to be destroyed), and what’s going to another farm (transfer to QSA).

The ‘Find out how long to keep records (sentence records)’ page covers how to sentence the majority of your records, even how to address some sentencing problems like what do to if you can’t find an appropriate record class, or records are covered by multiple schedules, or contain multiple retention periods, parts or formats.

It also includes advice on the different disposal triggers used in schedules and how they can be applied, which can be confusing sometimes so definitely check this out if you’re unsure.  We’ve also got a blog post on this very topic too, so have a read of that if you’re still unsure – Pull that trigger… to sentence records.

You can also find advice on how to sentence records using a common activities record class. As you know this was a new thing with the GRDS last year so some of you may still be getting used to it. If you have any questions check our advice here, and then talk to us if you still need help. You might also want to take a look at the blog post we published back when the GRDS was released – Make sure you stretch before exercising these Common activities.

Sentencing and destroying specific types of records

Some records are a little harder to sentence and destroy – sometimes they’re just a different format, or need some extra thinking; others have extra risks.

So if any of the following record types are part of your disposal program this year, there might be some extra things you need to do or a specific record class you need to use:

Bulk sentencing and paper-mountains

If you are taking the time while things are quieter (…are things ever quieter?) to tackle some paper or digital record mountains, we have some advice for that too.

When we talk about bulk sentencing and tackling paper-mountains, we mean sentencing and destroying a large amount of records in one go.

We actually have quite a few resources and bits of advice to help you with this one.

To start off with, we have our advice on bulk sentencing – this covers the main steps to sentence a large amount of records. It also includes a link to our Reducing paper mountains info sheet (PDF).

The other things you can look at to help you tackling your paper Everest (I hope it’s not that big!), is our three blog posts that look at how to get started on reducing paper mountains, how to document disposal when dealing with paper mountains, and then how to prevent paper mountains from happening.

Lastly, we have three different case studies for you to have a look at:

Sentencing by exception

Another tactic you can use to deal with paper-mountains is to sentence by exception. To sentence by exception you need a ‘lite’ schedule like the GRDS Lite.

A ‘lite’ schedule allows you to easily identify which records:

  • are permanent
  • are temporary but which need to be retained for a long time (long-term temporary class)
  • have a particular retention requirement (unique retention period requirements class)

The remainder of the records can be sentenced against a default class. In the GRDS lite the default class has a 7 year retention.

Sentencing by exception can make it easier to tackle a large amount of records as you don’t need to go through every record class. It can work particularly well when sampling records to sentence in bulk.

Note: at the moment the only ‘lite’ schedule is the GRDS Lite, but your agency may have created one from your approved schedule as an implementation version.

Talk to us if you have questions.

Determining what’s permanent and what’s not

Most schedules will contain record classes for the same type of record but where the retention periods are different based on the significance of the records. These are known as the ‘significant’ record classes and are used to pull out the permanent value records from the temporary.

If you’re sentencing any records and you’re not sure how to apply these record classes, have a look at our advice on ‘significant, major and permanent classes’. This outlines some of the key things we look for when deciding if a record is of permanent value. You can use this to help you assess your records and figure out if they should be under the significant class or the regular one.

Also look at the blog post we did last year about significant and other records.

More information

There is (of course) a whole lot more information on the website and Records Connect about other recordkeeping issues that we haven’t mentioned here. If you’re herding other types of records, or tackling other chores around the place, remember to take a look at our advice and resources and let us know if you need a hand.

That’s all folks! Any questions let us know. Happy mustering!

Research Officer

Featured image: Cattle branding, Emerald, 1897, Digital image ID 2221

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