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Yes. Like any other kind of record, retention periods do have to be applied to emails. The retention is based on the content of each individual email since email itself is not a record; it is a way of transmitting information. Most emails have a very transitory value and therefore can be deleted as soon as they have fulfilled their reference purpose. These emails include preliminary drafts, general announcements, and routine requests for information.

For a full list of content that does not have to be retained see: Materials That May Be Disposed of Without a Specific Retention Period.

However, all other email must be retained for some period of time. The following are examples of categories of email which have specific retention periods:

  • Policy and Procedure Directives
  • Agendas and minutes of meetings
  • Messages related to legal or audit issues
  • Messages that document departmental/office actions, decisions, operations and responsibilities
  • Final reports or recommendations
  • Approvals for purchasing or hiring new employees

To determine the retention periods of these records, please refer to the UW General Records Retention Schedules and your Departmental Retention Schedule.

For more information, please see our resource on Email Management.