TIMG takes no responsibility for incorrect or inaccurate information listed within. All government agencies should refer to Archives New Zealand for guidance on the retention and disposal of all records.

In the establishment of any business comes a number of rules and regulations that are, for one, large in number and potentially hard to remember, and two, are often outside of your specialisation. For example, in starting up a shop selling sportswear your knowledge should be based in retail and possibly would not cover how long you ought to keep a personnel file, or what information that file must contain, among the many other records.

Many employers and businesses get record keeping wrong, so for the safest and most efficient way of managing your records in all areas of your business we recommend utilising a third-party company who specialise in information management, but for your general knowledge and information, here is an overview of record keeping legislation, what you ought to know, and what not to do.


Recordkeeping legislation

In effect most NZ legislation has implications for the keeping of records in the general course of business. Some Acts specify that certain records must be brought into existence and retained for specified periods. Others specify the form or other matters related to the keeping of records.

New Zealand has a variety of legislation for bringing records into existence and retaining them, and these legislations are based on three main groups:

  • Financial and Commercial: The NZ legislation under this heading requires businesses to provide financial reporting, reports on transactions, records of GST and records of income tax, just to name a few.
  • Employment: Employers must keep track of holidays, wage and time records, employment start date, employment agreements and more.
  • Other Significant Recordkeeping Legislation: The other recordkeeping legislations are more specific to particular industries, whether it be building, education or property, and should be investigated specific to the purposes of your business. One particular piece of recordkeeping legislation is the Privacy Act 1993, which should be paid attention to by every business as every personnel file falls under the protection of this Act. You can read about the Privacy Act here, or you can seek professional advice.

Furthermore, there are a number of Acts that allow parties to gain access to your records, whether that be the Police, the Serious Fraud Office, NZ Customs, the Inland Revenue or a number of other commissions. They can summon businesses to produce records for the purpose of enquiry.

What not to do

While the list on what not to do in most situations is broad and is therefore impossible to outline in its entirety, here are some examples of common mistakes made in the pursuit of good recordkeeping and record retention.

Common mistakes:

Starting to keep records as a response to an incident –

In some instances businesses have faced having to provide information in court, and will at that point start pulling together records and information. Have it all recorded right from the beginning, for your own sake, and for the sake of the law.

Not keeping records for long enough –

There are different retention periods for various business information, so a one-size-fits-all approach to your record keeping could land you in hot water. On the other hand, if the information you possess is personal, then according the Privacy Act 1993, “an agency that holds personal information shall not keep that information for longer than is required for the purposes for which the information may lawfully be used”. A good approach is to store your records offsite with a company that knows the retention period of the document and can securely destroy them once the time is up, saving you space, effort, and the risk of destroying the records too soon.

Confusing mandatory information with optional information –

For example, in a personnel file mandatory information includes employment start date and a signed agreement, while optional information to keep is their contact details. You will find on this page a list of mandatory and optional information. Take a look at it to avoid filling up your storeroom with items you aren’t required to keep, or to avoid destroying important information.

Failing to update records –

Financial and personnel records, for example, can change frequently. It is particularly common in small businesses for personnel files to not be accurately recorded because there may not be people in place to manage the maintenance of personnel files, or the employee is a friend who the employer doesn’t feel the need to worry about in terms of recording all personal details. As an employer, you must keep wage and time, and holidays and leave records that comply with the Employment Relations Act 2000 and the Holidays Act 2003.

Keeping accurate and complete records is important and will save your business time and money. It’s also a legal requirement for statistical and tax purposes. To help you navigate the tricky topic of recordkeeping, we recommend utilising an expert third-party provider such as TIMG who specialise in information management.