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Baroness Scotland fell foul of poor document management, don't do the same

on 22 September 2009

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Posted by Wayne Pope

It may seem a bit foolish of Baroness Scotland to not follow the law which she helped create. However, that's what she did.

For those of you who don't know, Baroness Scotland is the attorney general in the UK who steered legislation through the House of Lords to combat illegal immigrants working in the UK. Today she has fined £5,000 today for employing an illegal immigrant to do housework despite being "the minister who steered this law through the House of Lords and who insisted upon its stringent application, she has no excuse for breaking it." (as said Chris Grayling, the shadow home secretary). Gordon Brown (the UK Prime Minister) has saved her from the sack, because she apologised. I'm pretty sure that if we all did that and then apologised, we wouldn't get off quite so lightly.

For me, while the news brings home a certain amount of "D'oh" factor on her behalf, I can't help but consider the consequencies of not keeping legal documents in the right place, ready to be accessed whenever required. Most courts won't deem "good faith" to hold any water whatsoever, and it's likely an employer or tribunal won't either.

Managing documents is one of those legal requirements we all have. Whether it's storing your certificates following household improvements, employee good practice, or ensuring your keep your accounting documents up to date for the required period (often 7 years), we all have to abide.

Thanks to regulations such as Sarbanes Oxley or around data privacy, no organizations' business continuity strategy can be complete without robust document management online policy. Most of the larger organizations have budgets to deal with them, however it's the same requirements for smaller businesses without those budgets. Even a home owner may have a simple need.

A while ago I posted about my own faux pas and how storing documents on my local drive got me into bother. Thankfully, none of those documents had legal requirements around them (and the ones that did were safely backed up online).

But the case of Baroness Scotland brings home the fact once more. If you don't store the right documents, in the right place with the right security, you could be getting into some serious hot water... and Mr Gordon Brown will not be quite so lenient with you!

Wondering what electronic document management is, and if it can help your company? Read this article for answers to six frequently asked questions around EDMS.



About this author: Wayne Pope

Technical Director at Glasscubes. With over 30 years experience in the online software industry, Wayne brings an in depth technical expertise in collaborative tools, technology, and best practices.