GDPR: What are the statutory retention periods for HR?

Caveat: Legal retention periods for documents can change, this blog should be used as a guide only. Please refer to your company policies and legal advice when considering your document retention periods.

Document Management for HR & Personnel Records

Document management can help you keep track and manage all of your HR Records. It's important you retain HR & Personnel files for the Statutory Retention Periods. If you are unsure about the retention periods for your HR documents, then this guide will help you.

Statutory Retention Periods

The table below summarises the main legislation regulating statutory retention periods. If employers are in doubt, it is a good idea to keep records for at least 6 years (5 in Scotland), to cover the time limit for bringing any civil legal action.

RecordStatutory Retention PeriodStatutory Authority
Accident books, accident records/reports3 years from the date of the last entry (or, if the accident involves a child/young adult, then until that person reaches the age of 21)The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995 (RIDDOR)(SI 1995/3163) as amended, and Limitation Act 1980. Special rules apply concerning incidents involving hazardous substances.
Accounting records3 years for private companies, 6 years for public limited companiesSection 221 of the Companies Act 1985 as modified by the Companies Acts 1989 and 2006
Income tax and NI returns, income tax records and correspondence with HMRCNot less than 3 years after the end of the financial year to which they relateThe Income Tax (Employments) Regulations 1993 (SI 1993/744) as amended, for example by The Income Tax (Employments (Amendment No. 6) Regulations 1996 (SI 1996/2631)
Medical records and details of biological tests under the Control of Lead at Work Regulations40 years from the date of the last entryThe Control of Lead at Work Regulations 1998 (SI 1998/543) as amended by the Control of Lead at Work Regulations 2002 (SI 2002/2676)
Medical records as specified by the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH)40 years from the date of the last entryThe Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 1999 and 2002 (COSHH) (SIS 1999/437 and 2002/2677)
Medical records under the Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations. Medical records containing details of employees exposed to asbestos. Medical examination certificates40 years from the date of the last entry, 4 years from the date of issueThe Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 2002 (SI 2002/2675). Also see the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 (SI 2012/632)
Medical records under the Ionising Radiations Regulations 1999Until the person reaches 75 years of age, but in any event for at least 50 yearsThe Ionising Radiations Regulations 1999 (SI 1999/3232)
Records of tests and examinations of control systems and protective equipment under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH)5 years from the date on which the tests were carried outThe Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 1999 and 2002 (COSHH) (SIS 1999/437 and 2002/2677)
Records relating to children and young adultsUntil the child/young adult reaches the age of 21Limitation Act 1980
Retirement Benefits Schemes – records of notifiable events, for example, relating to incapacity6 years from the end of the scheme year in which the event took placeThe Retirement Benefits Schemes (Information Powers) Regulations 1995 (SI 1995/3103)
Statutory Maternity Pay records, calculations, certificates (Mat B1s) or other medical evidence3 years after the end of the tax year in which the maternity period endsThe Statutory Maternity Pay (General) Regulations 1986 (SI 1986/1960) as amended
Wage/salary records (also overtime, bonuses, expenses)6 yearsTaxes Management Act 1970
National minimum wage records3 years after the end of the pay reference period following the one that the records coverNational Minimum Wage Act 1998
Records relating to working time2 years from date on which they were madeThe Working Time Regulations 1998 (SI 1998/1833)

Recommended (non-statutory) Retention Periods

For many types of personnel records, there is no definitive retention period: it is up to the employer to decide how long to keep these records. Different organisations make widely differing decisions regarding the retention periods to adopt. An employer needs to consider what would be a necessary retention period for them, depending on the type of record. The advice in this factsheet is based on the time limits for potential tribunal or civil claims, it is often a question of judgement rather than there being any definitive right and wrong.

Where the recommended retention period given is 6 years, this is based on the 6-year time limit within which legal proceedings must be commenced as laid down under the Limitation Act 1980. Thus, where documents may be relevant to a contractual claim, it is recommended that these be retained for at least the corresponding 6-year limitation period.

RecordRecommended Retention Period
Actuarial valuation reportsPermanently
Application forms and interview notes (for unsuccessful candidates)6 months to a year. (Because of the time limits in the various discrimination Acts, minimum retention periods for records relating to advertising of vacancies and job applications should be at least 6 months. A year may be more advisable as the time limits for bringing claims can be extended. Successful job applicants documents will be transferred to the personnel file in any event.
Assessments under health and safety regulations and records of consultations with safety representatives and committessPermanently
Inland Revenue/HMRC approvalsPermanently
Money purchase details6 years after transfer or value taken
Parental leave5 years from birth/adoption of the child or 18 years if the child receives a disability allowance
Pension scheme investment policies12 years from the ending of any benefit payable under the policy
Pensioners’ records12 years after benefit ceases
Personnel files and training records (including disciplinary records and working time records)6 years after employment ceases
Redundancy details, calculations of payments, refunds, notification to the Secretary of State6 years from the date of redundancy
Senior executives’ records (that is, those on a senior management team or their equivalents)Permanently for historical purposes
Statutory Sick Pay records, calculations, certificates, self-certificatesThe Statutory Sick Pay (Maintenance of Records) (Revocation) Regulations 2014 (SI 2014/55) abolished the former obligation on employers to keep these records. Although there is no longer a specific statutory retention period, employers still have to keep sickness records to best suit their business needs. It is advisable to keep records for at least 3 months after the end of the period of sick leave in case of a disability discrimination claim. However if there were to be a contractual claim for breach of an employment contract it may be safer to keep records for 6 years after the employment ceases.
Time cards2 years after audit
Trade union agreements10 years after ceasing to be effective
Trust deeds and rulesPermanently
Trustees’ minute booksPermanently
Works council minutesPermanently

Restore works with HR teams to create record management systems that can pull information together and automatically move to a recycle bin when predefined criteria are met. This makes meeting retention deadlines an easy, automated process – with a quick look through the recycle bin before information is permanently deleted.

If you have any questions around retention periods or need help to ensure your data is GDPR compliant, get in touch

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