How do I Create an Email Retention Policy?

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  • Written By: Kristie Lorette
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 08 October 2019
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To create an email retention policy, you first have to state the reason you are writing the policy — to comply with legal requirements, to retain proof of business documents, or to ensure important information does not get lost. The document should also explain which employees the policy affects, and which types of emails are included. You must also decide how long emails should be kept; you may be legally required to retain certain emails for a specific period of time. Assigning an employee to be responsible for monitoring the policy can help ensure that your policy is properly enforced.

An email retention policy is a written procedure on how a company wants its employees to handle email communications. Email retention policies typically state which emails employees should retain, for how long, and how to store the emails. In many jurisdictions, there are legal requirements for how long company communications — including emails — must be kept, so having a clear email retention policy is important.

When writing your policy, explain which employees in the company the email retention policy covers. Depending on the purpose for implementing the policy in the first place, it may not apply to everyone in your organization. For example, warehouse employees who do not deal with electronic correspondence may not be required to abide by the policy. Customer service representatives, on the other, may be required to keep most of their emails.


Describe which types of email correspondence falls under the governance of the email retention policy. For example, some companies write email retention policies that pertain to emails that deal with administrative, fiscal, general, and ephemeral matters. Your company policy may deal specifically with the emails that deal with matters that have legal requirements. Whichever emails you choose to be covered under the policy, make sure that you are clear and concise on the subject matter.

The policy should also describe how long emails should be retained and how employees should retain the emails. For record compliance, you may be legally obligated to retain customer correspondence for a five-year period. In addition to being stored in an email archive on your server, the law may also require that you print the email and retain hard copy in the customer's file. Whatever the procedure is for retaining these records, make sure you spell it out in detail when you write the email retention policy.

A good email retention policy should include the department or title of the employee responsible for monitoring the requirements. Your company may have a compliance department or employee responsible for making sure company processes are in accordance with the law. This may be the natural person to have in charge of monitoring and enforcing the email retention policy. Clearly state who is responsible for managing the policy so employees know who to turn to if they have questions or issues.

After creating the policy, one of the most important steps is to disseminate it. A policy cannot be adhered to if the employees who have to implement it do not know it exists. You may want to hold a meeting or training session for the affected employees as well. This ensures that they receive the information they need to adhere to the email retention policy.


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Discuss this Article

Post 3

My company has started and changed the email retention policy several times. What usually happens is the policy contains a lot of rules that management has no way of enforcing and the system falls apart because some people are following the rules and some people are not.

Of course, this isn't fair to those of us who take the time to make sure we do everything by the policy. We simply need an email and document retention template that can be easily followed and enforced by management.

Post 2

@Drentel - Sounds like you need to take the advice of the article, and start an email archiving system and have one employee to keep track of all of your customers' emails. However, keeping track of all the emails may turn out to be a full-time job, so you may have to hire another employee, which would be an added expense.

Post 1

Emails sent by customers to my business are somehow getting lost. Then when a customer tells me he sent a message and I try to find out where it is and who read it, no one knows anything about the message. The disappearing emails are happening more than I knew. In fact, the more I look into this, there seems to be an unspoken policy that my workers simply delete emails they don't want to deal with or don't want me to see.

Most of the emails are complaints from customers who are unhappy with something we as a company have done or with something an individual employee has said or done. It goes without saying that this makes

the company and me both look unprofessional, and this is a for sure way to lose customers, which I can't afford.

We are a close group of people, almost like family, and I like to keep the workplace as relaxed as possible, but I need to start some type of email management so I can hold individuals accountable for their actions.

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