Some emails are of a personal or ephemeral nature and do not need to be kept. To decide whether an email should be kept as a record, ask yourself the following questions:
- Does it approve or authorise actions?
- Is it a formal communication between staff relating to work?
- Does it signify a policy change or development?
- Does it commit SCU to an arrangement or to a business deal?
- Does it contain advice or provide guidance to people inside or outside the organisation?
- Am I required to act upon it?
- Is it external correspondence I have received relating to work?
- Is it something that I have sent for a business purpose?
- Is it something I have used at work to make a decision?
- Is the information in this message necessary to continue with this matter?
- Does it relate to a matter that may be reviewed or audited later?
If the answer to any of the above questions is 'Yes', then you need to keep the email.
There is no blanket retention period for emails. As with all records, emails need to be kept, as a minimum, for as long as indicated in the relevant General Retention and Disposal Authority.
Attachments to emails should always be captured. There are two ways to do this.
- Save the attachment separate from the email and cross-reference the attachment with the email so they can be linked together.
- Register the email and attachment as one record. If they are being printed out, then the email and the attachment should physically be attached together.
Digital signatures in email
There are two types of digital signatures that may be applied to email. One is an encryption or digital seal, and the other is a scanned image of an actual signature.
When dealing with encrypted email, it is best to save the email to a recordkeeping system once the email has been unencrypted. If the email contains a scanned copy of a signature, ensure that the signature can be seen once registered into a recordkeeping system. If the signature cannot be seen, it is recommended to print the email and maintain a paper or scanned version that shows the image of the signature.