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How long is it reasonable to keep information about a volunteer? What’s right for your organisation?

18 June 2013

There is a legal obligation for organisations to only hold information for as long as they need it under the Data Protection Act 1998 DPA. Volunteer Now have developed a new information sheet which outlines some of the issues that volunteer involving organisations should consider when making a decision on how long to retain information about volunteers.

Volunteer involving organisations can potentially hold a range of personal information on volunteers. The type and quantity of personal information that an organisation holds on a volunteer will depend on the nature of the role and the frequency and intensity of the activity.

There is a legal  obligation for organisations to only hold information for as long as they need it under the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA). For this reason, organisations often query the length of time they should keep personal information relating to volunteers.

The DPA does not prescribe a minimum or maximum length of time that personal information should be kept. Rather it states under principle 5 that “personal data processes for any purpose or purposes shall not be kept for longer than is necessary for that purpose or those purposes”.

If an organisation holds more than a small amount of personal data, it is good practice to establish retention periods for different categories of information. This information sheet, developed by Volunteer Now, sets out some of the possible ‘operational’ and ‘regulatory’ reasons for holding different categories of personal data on volunteers. It also lists some of the things organisations might want to take into consideration when determining the length of time they keep certain pieces of information.

The Information Sheet is available from the Volunteer Management Section (under Legal Issues) of the Volunteer Now website.

For further information please contact Christine Irvine, Senior Policy and Information Officer on E: Christine.Irvine@volunteernow.co.uk or T: 02890 818332.