Any organization runs on the basis of the documenting of decisions and their implementation. Thus, over time, a company generally accumulates a large number of documents involving differing storage periods, including documents regarding the HR records keeping. The storage period for such documents, produced as a result of an organization’s business activities, is defined in the List of standard documents created during the activities of state bodies and local self-government, other agencies, businesses and organizations, with an indication of the storage period for such documents, approved by Ministry of Justice of Ukraine Order no. 578/5, dated April 12, 2012 (hereinafter referred to as List no. 578). At present, this is the only piece of legislation that specifies the storage period for standard documents created during an organization’s business activities. But, over time, in large enterprises, including those involving foreign investment, there comes a time when the expiry date has been reached for all filing cabinets filled with documents. An organizations’ management then needs to deal with the question of what to do with these documents?
The easiest way to get rid of such documents is to destroy them. But does this legislation permit an organization to handle this itself? And, if so, how should this be done correctly so that, in the future, regulatory authorities do not raise questions about the absence of certain documents?
The question regarding the proper and timely destruction of records is, by far, the most important issue with respect to record keeping within an organization. Thus, in this article, we shall try to figure this out and highlight the main points that your organization’s management will need to know in this regard.
First of all, it should be noted that documents, for which the storage period has expired, should be destroyed centrally within the organization, rather than through a separate division. This entails joint work between the divisions for record keeping, human resources, accounting and other departments.
Before commencing the procedure for destroying the documents, it is necessary to find out whether or not the organization is a source of information acquisition for the National Archival Fund of Ukraine (hereinafter referred to as NAF). To do so, apply to the state archives with a request to examine the value of the documents created within the organization, and to receive confirmation that the organization has not produced documents that are of value to the state, because this effectively means that such documents can then be destroyed. However, it is ultimately necessary to communicate with State Archives authorities.
According to Law of Ukraine no. 3814-XII “On the National Archive Fund and archive institutions”, dated December 24, 1993 (hereinafter referred to as the Law on NAF), the main requirement for preparing documents for destruction is that they are examined regarding the value of such documents.
Expertise on the documents’ value and their selection for storage or destruction must be carried out by an expert commission of the respective organization. The principles and criteria for determining the value of the documents, the order of creating and expert commission and its activity has been approved by the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine no. 1004 dated August 8, 2007 (hereinafter referred to as Order no. 1004). Questions regarding the organization of expertise on the documents’ value are also covered in the Rules for the organization of recording keeping and archiving of documents in state bodies, local authorities, enterprises, institutions and organizations, approved by Ministry of Justice of Ukraine Order no. 1000/5, dated June 18, 2015 (hereinafter referred to as Regulation number 1000/5).
In other words, in order to destroy the documents, it is first necessary to draw up a report regarding the meeting of the expert committee. This committee shall be comprised of the company’s employees, and their meeting shall be held once a year. As a rule, the chairman of the expert committee who is appointed is the company’s deputy director or else the financial or commercial director, and other members include the chief accountant, a member of the HR department or another employee responsible for working with documents.
Now for the actual documents to be destroyed. First it is necessary to analyze descriptions of the lengthy cases (over 10 years) of storage, files on the personnel content and nomenclature of cases in order to identify documents, for which the storage period has expired. We recall that the storage period for documents begins on January 01, following the completion of the business year. For example, the storage period of cases completed in 2014 actually started on January 1, 2015. It is also necessary to pay attention to the fact that it is permitted to include a case in the destruction certificate if its shelf life expired on January 1 of the year, in which it was prepared. This is a regulatory requirement that should be understood as follows: cases involving a five-year storage period, which was completed in 2014, may be included in a certificate, which will be prepared not earlier than January 1, 2020.
After reviewing the nomenclature of cases, a consolidated inventory of cases is prepared for the same period and the Certificate for withdrawing documents for destruction is not included in the NAF (hereinafter referred to as the Certificate), including information on the cases selected for destruction. The form of the Certificate and the procedure for its preparation, review and approval by the rules of the work of the archival subdivisions of state authorities, local authorities, enterprises, institutions and organizations, approved by order of the State Committee of Archives of Ukraine Order no. 16, dated March 16, 2001 (as amended, hereinafter referred to as Regulation no. 16). The Certificate and the description of cases considered at the meeting of the Expert Commission, which is convened in accordance with the Commission’s work plan. The Commission’s decision to approve or disapprove and finalize the Certificate and inventories of the cases in the protocol shall be signed by the Commission’s chairman (or another authorized person, chairing the meeting) and secretary. The Commission’s decision shall enter into force upon the approval of the meeting’s minutes by the head of the governing body, upon whose decision the Expert Commission was initially created.
This is not the end of the work involved in the organization of the document since the company itself is unable to approve this Certificate, and this is the basis for destroying any documents. The Certificate, approved by the company’s Commission, together with a description of cases in permanent storage, shall be submitted for approval to the relevant expert committee of the Archives Department (the Expert-Inspection Commission).
The Certificate is formally reconciled by applying the relevant stamp of agreement, specifying the date and protocol number of the Expert-Inspection Commission meeting. After reconciliation, the Certificate, as well as the inventory of cases involving permanent storage and personnel documentation, must be approved by the head of the organization. His signature must be evidenced by the company’s official (main) stamp.
Until the Expert Commission gains the consent of the relevant archival department, the destruction of documents is prohibited.
Now you can proceed to organize the documents’ destruction. Selected documents are usually transferred to organizations involved in the collection and harvesting of secondary raw materials on consignment, against a waybill and with an indication of the documents’ weight. A note is made in the Certificate, containing information on the date the documents were transferred for destruction, the documents’ weight, and the invoice number. The mark shall be signed by an officer, who arrives for the destruction of documents, with the date of issuance noted nearby.
If there are few documents, they can be destroyed using a special apparatus such as a shredder, which is done in accordance with the relevant note in the Certificate, certified by the signature of the person destroying the documents.
As you can see, the procedure for destroying documents that have reached the expiry of their storage period is quite a laborious and time-consuming process, which requires some special knowledge. However, it should be noted that, if documents are destroyed without complying with these procedures, the responsible person may be prosecuted under current legislation. Thus, considering the above and with the aim of minimizing risks, we recommend entrusting the execution of procedures for documents’ destruction to lawyers, who will properly organize the process or else involve external experts, including the State Archives staff since the high quality and professional execution of documents is the recipe for success!
Author: Yulia Rudenko