Be Prepared – A Motto Not Just for Girl Guides Anymore

If you work in the Greater Toronto area, then as I type this blog entry (Friday, G8/G20 day) you have likely realized this week that you needed to change how you work due to the summit meetings being held in our area.

Many have had to figure out how to work from home – and as of today, many are wondering if their home internet service provider will have enough band width to withstand everyone from Toronto working from home all at once.

Others have discovered the interesting back routes of Toronto in order to avoid closures due to motorcades and fences.

On Wednesday many of us also realized that we need to consider earthquake preparedness. Having grown up on the West Coast of Canada as soon as our office building started to sway, I reverted to the behaviour drilled into us in elementary school: I looked for overhead door jams to stand under. It was only at that time did I realize, there are no structural support door jams in our office – clearly, we need to address our earthquake preparedness.

Taking the lessons from this week a step further, all businesses, regardless of size, must be prepared in the event they are hit with a law suit. In particular, in this day of email and instant messaging, all businesses must have a Document Retention Policy, including an Electronic Document Retention Policy.

The document retention policy needs to set out the procedures for creation, storage, destruction and production of documents, including electronic documents. This involves addressing backup and storage needs, which thankfully due to advances in IT have come down significantly in cost and ease of accessibility for small businesses.

In addition to being law suit ready, a document retention policy ensures that you are complying with certain Government required retention periods, for e.g. Canada Business Corporations Act requires corporations to hold onto accounting records, meeting minutes and director’s resolutions for 6 years after the end of the financial year to which they relate and the Ontario Employment Standards Act requires businesses to hold onto employee name, address and dates of employment for 3 years after the employment ceases.

Failure to comply with legislated retention periods can lead to fines and the suggestion that businesses are hiding information in a law suit.

Be prepared – it’s not just for G8/G20 weekend – its for your entire business and this week is a good reminder of why you need to be prepared.

Inga B. Andriessen, Sr. Lawyer