Use a retention and disposal schedule
All records must be managed so that they remain full and accurate records for the entire time they must be kept. To do this, you need to know:
Find out how long to keep records by using a retention and disposal schedule to sentence them.
Table of contents
Use the retention and disposal schedule workflow to help you decide what you need to do when a schedule is approved, if it supersedes another schedule, and what you should do to implement it.
A retention and disposal schedule:
- is issued to a specific agency or group of agencies
- lists the types of records created within those agencies
- provides information on the retention period for records—the minimum time they must be kept
- identifies which records must be kept permanently, and which are of temporary value
- identifies the disposal trigger—the event or action from which the disposal or destruction date is calculated
- authorises the disposal action for the records—either transfer records to Queensland State Archives or destroy them securely.
Retention and disposal schedules will help you:
- know what records you create and how long you need to keep them
- identify which of your records are permanent, vital, important, and non-essential
- plan for future recordkeeping requirements and costs, including storage and preservation, as well as disaster preparedness and business continuity
- ensure records are kept, maintained and accessible for the specified retention period
- routinely and legally destroy and/or transfer records once the business need for those records ends.
Prior to 1 September 2016, disposal authorisation was issued to an entire retention and disposal schedule using a QDAN. Lawful disposal was demonstrated by referencing the QDAN, version number and record class reference number.
From 1 September 2016, disposal authorisation is assigned to a class of records, which is allocated a specific disposal authorisation number. The disposal authorisation number:
- is used to demonstrate lawful disposal
- will follow a sequential numbering pattern starting from 1,000
- will not be duplicated across schedules
- will be deactivated once superseded and will not be reused
- may be superseded or replaced if the record class changes.
Sample Record Class
Changes to disposal authorisation numbers
A new authorisation number will be issued by the State Archivist if there is a:
- change to the intent of a record class, such as scope expansion or exclusions, change in the value and use of the records
- disposal action change, such as retention period and trigger
- new record class.
When a new disposal authorisation number is issued following an amendment to an existing class it will supersede the previous number. The superseded number can no longer be used to authorise disposal.
The relevant retention and disposal schedule will be amended and the changes published by QSA.
Find out more about the numbering pattern and disposal authorisation at the record class level.
Some editorial changes to record classes may be made at the discretion of QSA without the need for a new disposal authorisation number.
Numbering in core, sector and functional retention and disposal schedules
Core, sector and functional retention and disposal schedules approved before 1 September 2016 will be updated with new disposal authorisation numbers when:
- QSA receives the first Application to amend/create a record class
- a comprehensive review of the schedule is undertaken.
A retrospective numbering change to all current retention and disposal schedules is not required.
Using the disposal authorisation numbers
Other references and supplemental data can be added to the disposal authorisation numbers assigned to each record class to make them meaningful to your agency and fit for purpose.
For example, you may wish to add reference numbers for the functions and activities in the schedule.
When disposing of records, you must always ensure QSA’s current authorisation number is used as your means for disposal authorisation.
Retention and disposal schedules available online will always have the latest changes and include the date last updated.
A change history table is available, and a quarterly report is emailed to agency contacts.
How long you need to keep records will depend on potential legal, community and business requirements.
Retention periods are based on administrative, legal and fiscal requirements and consideration of the historical and community value of the public records.
You will need to appraise records to determine their value when developing a schedule, creating or changing a record class, or applying for one-off or early disposal authorisation for records (e.g. when decommissioning a business system).
Look at your business needs and activities to work out which records need to be created and then appraise those records to determine future need for that information.
Transitory and short term value
Transitory and short term value records are usually only for a very short period of time (e.g. 2 days, 1 week, or until business use ceases.
They are generally created as part of routine transactional business practices and are not required to support the business functions of an agency. They also have little or no value to the agency or community.
- drafts, working notes and calculations
- credit card and payment data.
Limited/low value records have a short-term administrative value and will most likely have a retention period of less than 5 years.
They are normally only needed for a period of time where the decision or action they relate to can be appealed, questioned, or reviewed. They may also only need to be kept until superseded or revoked.
Limited/low value records will usually also have limited or no legal significance, not related to rights or responsibilities, and have no or limited statutory limitations.
The information captured in the records may be a summary sufficient for demonstrating or documenting key facts.
- applications or requests which are refused or rejected by your agency
- advice provided to clients which has no legal significance
- administrative arrangements, such as for non-significant events
- internal procedures and plans
- vehicle and transport arrangements
- projects, policies or plans not proceeded with.
Moderate value records will usually have a retention period between 5 to 20 years.
These records may impose rights or responsibilities that are subject to statutory limitations, and include records that may be needed for audit purposes.
The retention period for moderate value records may depend on the limitation of actions period for the particular activity or action, and other legal requirements.
- minor project documentation
- licensing and accreditation records (depending on your agency’s responsibilities)
- records required for the conduct of legal proceedings
- contracts (excludes intergovernmental and other major agreements).
High-value records are the long-term temporary and intrinsic value records and will usually have a retention period of 20 to 120+ years.
These records may relate to long term or ongoing rights, obligations and entitlements. They will generally need to be retained for the life of the individual or asset they relate to.
High value records will most likely also include information that may be used for long range data analysis or comparison. These records and information would be impossible or costly to recreate.
In some cases, the records may document events or activities where the impact of the event may be unknown for some time.
Examples of records in this category would include:
- major project documentation
- some records relating to children (Note: others may be permanent value)
- disposal of hazardous waste materials
- licensing/permits and accreditation records (depending on portfolio)
- enforcement records – records of non-compliance (depending on portfolio)
- building approvals for public infrastructure (other than historically significant infrastructure)
- employee health monitoring
- incident management records
- commissioned research data/reports.
Find out how to identify records with intrinsic value.
Permanent, historical and enduring value
Permanent value records need to be kept forever, either by QSA or by your agency depending in the retention period listed in the relevant schedule.
The value of these records and information does not decrease over time, and in some cases increase in value.
The value is generally recognised by a broader audience than the original creating agency, including future generations.
Permanent value records include those that may be relied upon to establish or prove identity of individual citizens.
Examples of these types of records include:
- case files of a precedent setting nature
- records documenting one-off, record-breaking or unprecedented events such as natural disasters, state visits
- records documenting major investigations into government agencies, functions or actions
- research commissioned by the government on major policy issues.
The QSA’s Appraisal Statement gives the criteria QSA uses to appraise permanent archival or enduring value records.
Find out how to identify records that need to be kept permanently in QSA’s Appraisal Statement and advice on the identification of permanent public records using the Appraisal Statement.
See an example of assessing the records to determine the retention period.
Types of schedules
Schedules are issued to a specific agency or group of agencies. The most common ones are:
- General retention and disposal schedule (GRDS) and General retention and disposal schedule (Lite)—cover records common to most agencies or created by multiple agencies, such as administrative, transitory and short-term records.
- Agency-specific / Core schedules—cover records unique to the functions and business activities of a certain agency.
- Sector schedules—cover records of similar agencies that perform the same functions, such as local governments or universities.
All schedules are format-neutral, meaning they apply to all record types including digital unless otherwise specified (e.g. the schedule is only for digital records, record class is for paper records).
Who can use the schedules
All agencies can use the general schedules. All the other schedules can only be used by the specific agency or group of agencies the schedule is issued to or the agency responsible for the related function(s).
An agency may be given permission by QSA to use a schedule issued to another agency if:
- the records they create relate to similar functions and activities
- they have the same retention requirements.
Requests to use a schedule issued to another agency must be submitted to QSA.
If functions are transferred between agencies during a machinery-of-government change, the newly responsible agency can generally use the schedule that goes with the records.
Contact the Government Recordkeeping team for more information or if you think an approved schedule not issued to your agency or sector might cover your records.
Which schedule to use
There may be multiple schedules issued to or available for use by your agency. You can use a combination of different retention and disposal schedules to sentence your records.
Some agencies may not have an agency core or sector schedule issued to them or available for their use. These agencies will only be able to use the GRDS, which may only cover some of their records.
- records of common activities and functions (e.g. finance, HR)
- transitory and short-term records created as part of routine transactional business practices.
The structure of the GRDS is loosely based on the Keyword AAA business classification scheme developed by State Archives & Records NSW.
The GRDS Lite is an alternative to the GRDS. It is based on the full GRDS and covers the same functions and activities (except transitory and short term records).
It does not replace the full version or override any retention periods in the GRDS. Records can only be sentenced under GRDS Lite if they are covered in the GRDS.
The GRDS Lite:
- rolls up the functions of the GRDS into 3 main record classes:
- temporary with unique retention period requirements
- single broad temporary (default).
- allows you to sentence quantities of similar records using a single record class
- helps you to focus on the most valuable records and those that have particular sentencing requirements
- can be used in conjunction with the full GRDS version.
See an example of when you could use the GRDS Lite.
Note: With less record classes, some records may be kept for longer than they would if they were sentenced under the GRDS.
If you have large volumes of records to sentence, it may be beneficial to use the GRDS.
Access the GRDS and the GRDS Lite
Get the GRDS and the GRDS Lite
- Appraisal log —describes record classes in the schedule and the justification for retention periods
- Summary of changes —lists the changes between the current and the previous version so you can easily track which record classes have been changed, moved or amended
- Mapping document —links the full GRDS to the GRDS Lite.
You can use the MS Word version of a schedule to create your own agency implementation schedule.
This may be necessary if there are multiple schedules available for your agency or you need to modify it to load the schedule into your recordkeeping application.
When creating an implementation version you can:
- merge multiple schedules
- add supplemental information to the disposal authorisation numbers—see Using disposal authorisation numbers
- modify terms and keywords to match the terms used by your agency—this can be done as part of mapping your business classification scheme to the schedule
- update examples to include records specific to your agency—these must fit within the scope of the record class
- remove sections that aren’t relevant to your agency–for example, remove collection management function from the GRDS if it doesn’t apply.
See an example of when you could create an implementation version.
The terms used in your agency’s business classification scheme (BCS) are unlikely to appear in or match the terms used in the retention and disposal schedule(s) that you use.
You do not need to reclassify your records, but you can create a tool that maps the terms between the BCS and the relevant schedule(s).
How to map
Identify how function and activity terms used in your agency’s BCS correspond to the terms used in the schedule. If your agency is using more than 1 schedule, you will need to map your BCS to all schedules used.
If a classification term maps to several record classes, all of these possible classes can be included in your mapping to ensure that records are retained for the correct and/or longest retention period. A third classification level in your BCS may make it easier to map specific transactions to the relevant record class (e.g. Function–Activity–Transaction).
You may need to create an implementation version of the schedule(s) used by your agency and customise it to include the specific terms used by different business areas within your agency.
See an example of how a mapping tool can help sentence records.
Things to consider
When mapping between a BCS and a schedule, you should consider the following:
- Any 1 record class in the schedule could map to more than 1 activity term in the BCS—the mapping tool is a point of reference to the most appropriate record classes.
- The record class you identify when initially mapping may change—you should review the mapping when a new schedule is released (see What to do when a retention and disposal schedule changes or is superseded).
- Not all recordkeeping applications will allow you to assign more than 1 disposal action—use the longest retention period if this is the case.
You may need to convert a retention and disposal schedule to another format to upload it into your eDRMS or business system (your IT area might be able to help with this).
Check with other agencies that use the same schedule(s) (e.g. sector schedules such as universities, local government) to see if they have already converted them into a suitable format. This may save you time, effort and money depending on the format needed.
Here are some considerations when loading schedules into a recordkeeping application.
- Technical requirements vary depending on the application used.
- Common formats include xls, .doc, .html, .csv or .txt.
- Some applications may require manual entry.
- If an application can only support 1 schedule, you may need to merge multiple schedules to an implementation version before uploading.
- As the merged schedule is primarily a reference tool, ensure you use and document the correct disposal authorisation before you dispose of records.
De-activate superseded or withdrawn schedules, record classes or disposal authorisations
- Deactivate or remove any superseded schedules, record classes or disposal authorisations.
- If your application can take more than 1 schedule, you can keep the superseded version in the system to demonstrate that records have been legally disposed of under an approved schedule.
- If you have to remove a superseded schedule from an application, ensure you can still show evidence of lawful destruction (e.g. destruction log ) or link any destroyed records to that evidence.
See an example of updating a recordkeeping system when a disposal authorisation changes.
Disposal actions should be assigned at the file level
Records should be sentenced at the file or container level, not at the document or individual record level. This will prevent valuable contextual information being lost.
Find out more about sentencing records in business systems and applications.
Records must only be destroyed using a schedule that is current at the time of disposal.
You must resentence records before disposal if the schedule and/or record class has been superseded or withdrawn.
Agencies are responsible for monitoring when retention periods change, when new record classes are released and when inactive record classes are withdrawn from use.
When a new or revised schedule is approved, you may need to:
- let people know there is a new schedule available
- check if it supersedes other schedules you use
- remove all versions of superseded schedules from circulation
- keep a copy of the superseded schedule so that you can refer to it
- update your procedures and other information to refer to the new schedule (e.g. intranet page, business classification scheme)
- work out if any retention periods have changed since your records were sentenced—check for a summary of changes to help you with this
- if retention periods have changed, recalculate destruction dates before destroying records
- update your control records to reflect the changes (e.g. reference number of the schedule)
- start using the new schedule to sentence records—you can choose to do this immediately, or only as the records become due for review and disposal.
You do not need to update the disposal information for records that have already been destroyed.
Determine what has changed
A summary of changes lists the differences between the previous and current versions of a schedule. We publish a summary of changes for most general schedules and some others.
Use this to track the changes to record classes and retention periods between versions, and to resentence records.
For all other schedules, the appraisal logs will show the changes made and why.
You may need to develop a retention and disposal schedule or review an existing schedule to cover and authorise the disposal of some or all of your agency’s records.
A review may be prompted if:
- the schedule no longer reflects the functions and activities performed by your agency
- the schedule no longer covers all of your records
- you have inherited records from another agency as part of a machinery-of-government change.
If you do need to develop or review your schedule, contact the Government Recordkeeping team.
You can request a change to an existing class or the creation of a new record class if necessary.
Retention and disposal schedule toolkit
Scope a schedule
- Retention and disposal schedule development and review process
- Retention and disposal schedule: Background information
- How to complete the background information template
- Sample retention and disposal schedule: Background information
Draft a Retention and Disposal Schedule
- Retention and disposal schedule template
- How to complete the schedule template
- Sample retention and disposal schedule
- Identification of permanent records using QSA appraisal statement
Complete an appraisal report/log
Map legislation requirements
- Legislative mapping template
- Identifying legislative recordkeeping requirements
- How to complete a legislative mapping template
- Sample legislative mapping for Public Records Act 2002
Track changes in disposal authorisation
- Summary of changes in retention and disposal schedule template
- Sample summary of changes in retention and disposal schedule
- How to complete the summary of changes template
This form can be used for updates to the GRDS and your core schedule, even if your core schedule has not transitioned to the new disposal authorisation numbers.
The following table outlines when change requests can be submitted, and if and when a new disposal authorisation number will be issued.
|Change request||Disposal authorisation number|
|Change to the intent of a record class–such as scope expansion or exclusions, change in the value and use of the records||New disposal authorisation number issued by State Archivist and supersedes previous number|
|Disposal action–such as retention period and trigger||New disposal authorisation number issued by State Archivist and supersedes previous number|
|Editorial changes–such as amendments to references, spelling and grammar||Disposal authorisation number remains|
|New record class||New disposal authorisation number issued by State Archivist|
Applications will be assessed by the Government Recordkeeping team and, where applicable, submitted to the State Archivist for authorisation.
They will be used to draft the record class and complete an appraisal log . The justification provided in the appraisal log will be used by the State Archivist to determine whether authority will be issued.
Find out how to complete the appraisal report templates (including justifying how long records must be kept).
If it has been a while since a class has been reviewed, and you believe that the justification is no longer current, email your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.