Law guide: Employment

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Retention of recruitment records

Retention of recruitment records

Employers have an obligation to ensure that they comply with data protection legislation regarding the storage of any personal information they hold on their staff. This includes recruitment records, for both successful and unsuccessful candidates.

Keeping recruitment records

Depending on your type of business, there may be a legal requirement to keep recruitment records for a certain period of time. For example, recruitment agencies have an obligation to keep records under the Employment Agencies Act 1973 (or in Northern Ireland the Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Northern Ireland) Order 1981).

In the absence of such a requirement, you are advised to keep the records only for a particular purpose and not for longer than is necessary. In the case of an employment situation, the purpose would be to help protect your business should they bring a claim in an employment tribunal or court against you. The time period you should keep the records for will depend on whether it is for a successful or unsuccessful candidate.

Unsuccessful candidates

In the case of unsuccessful candidates, the type of claim you are most likely to face is a claim of discrimination. The time limit that they can bring a claim for discrimination is 3 months plus the time taken by early conciliation with the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service or the Labour Relations Agency, which normally makes it about 4 months. However, this time period can be extended by a tribunal or court, or by any early conciliation. For this reason, consider keeping the records for 6 months.

A period of less than 3 months is not recommended and a period as long as 12 months will generally be considered excessive.

Successful candidates

For successful applicants, consider keeping the records for the duration of the employment, plus one additional year. This allows for the chance that a court or tribunal extends time to start the claim or by any early conciliation and/or where there has been a delay before it reaches you. In some circumstances, longer periods may be appropriate.

Criminal convictions and health questionnaires/medical reports

Special consideration should be given to storing the results of any criminal record check or health questionnaire/medical report.

In most cases, you should make a record of the whether the result of any of the checks was or was not satisfactory. The original should then be promptly destroyed.

The record of the results should then be stored in accordance with your data retention policies.

There may be exceptional circumstances where this information should be kept if it is clearly related to the ongoing employment relationship.

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