Electronic Mail (Email) Management Guidelines

Document Number000143
  

We've prepared a guide to help you manage your electronic messages (email) in accordance with NSW legislation and University policy. You may also wish to refer to the document University Computing and Communication Facilities Conditions of Use Policy for supplementary information.

What is a University Record?

A record is recorded information in any form, including data in computer systems, created or received and maintained by an organisation or person in the transaction of business or the conduct of affairs and kept as evidence of such activity.

University records are created, received or maintained by officers of the University and its affiliated organisations in carrying out its functions, processes, activities and transactions. You can find some practical examples of University records: http://www.newcastle.edu.au/service/records/creating/whatarerecords.html

Email

An electronic message (email) can be a form of business communication. Sending an email that constitutes a business transaction is therefore a record. Records sent and received in the course of official duties are to be treated as official records. They are public records as governed by the State Records Act 1998.

Your email messages, like other records, are subject to legislation such as the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (GIPA) and to legal processes such as discovery and subpoenas. Your records may also be required by Royal Commissions, the Courts, auditors and other entities.

Email messages have three components:

  • Message envelope (addressee, sender, date/time)
  • Message body (text of the message)
  • Header information (transmission details such as date and time of sending)

Under the State Records Act 1998 (NSW), the University is obliged to keep full and accurate records of its activities. In the case of email, the integrity of the record depends on these three components being maintained as a whole. Incomplete messages will fail to act as reliable evidence of the business activities which they document.

What do I need to consider when I create and send an electronic mail message?

The University cannot guarantee the confidentiality of any information stored on any University computer or transmitted through its network. This includes any messaging systems (email and voicemail). We therefore recommend that you circulate confidential or sensitive correspondence by means other than email.

You should identify whether the message is of short-term facilitative value (eg meeting arrangements, casual communication) or of continuing value. Categorising your messages in this way will assist with efficient retrieval.

Messages of continuing value:

  • approve or authorise actions or expenditure
  • are formal communications between staff (eg. correspondence or memoranda relating to official business)
  • signify a policy change or development
  • create a precedent (eg. by issuing an instruction or advice)
  • relate to the substantive business of the work unit or the University
  • involve negotiations on behalf of the University
  • have value for other people or the work unit as a whole.

Messages of short term facilitative value are:

  • distributed to a number of staff for information only eg news bulletins, circulars, meeting notices
  • personal messages and announcements not related to official business
  • drafts
  • created solely as part of preparation for other records.

General responsibilities

As an email user, you should:

  • Check your mail regularly
    This includes replying to messages as soon as possible.
  • Forward mail messages if you are absent
    If you or another staff member are absent for a period, ensure that mail messages are forwarded to an appropriate delegate.
  • Create an orderly filing system for messages you need to keep
    Preferably, this system should be electronic. We recommend that you establish folders or directories based on functions, subjects or activities.
  • Avoid printing out messages that require comment or response
    You should include the original text as part of your response by email when commenting or replying. This creates a meaningful and contextual record.
  • Delete unwanted messages regularly to conserve disk space.

Formatting the email

An email is a formal communication, just like a written memorandum or letter. Formatting your email well can ensure effective communication and produce an accurate record of business activity. As a general guide:

  • Identify the recipient in the opening text of your message
    This is important, as the email address of the recipient is usually only identified by the email address (eg JBrown@mail). For the record to be meaningful, it should spell out the name, title and organisation of the recipient (eg To J. Brown, Marketing Manager, Browncorp).
  • Break messages into logical paragraphs
    By structuring messages logically and keeping sentences to a sensible length, the integrity of your communication is maintained.
  • Minimise use of acronyms
    While acronyms can streamline communication, ensure that recipients are aware of the significance and meaning of acronyms used in the message before including them.
  • Close each message with your personal signature
    This should include your name, title, department or unit, address, telephone number, facsimile number and email address.
  • Ensure correct date style is used
    Your date style should be set to display dd/mm/yy (where d = day, m = month, y = year) and not the American style of mm/dd/yy.
  • Only use capitals to highlight an important point or to distinguish a title or heading.

Filing Emails

The University's central recordkeeping system is managed by the Records Management Office (RMO) and we are currently transitioning from a paper based to a fully electronic document storage and retrieval system using (TRIM).

For physical records managed by the RMO, staff are required to print all emails and place them in order, on the paper file. Where the file is currently stored with the RMO, the printed emails with record number noted, should be forwarded to the RMO for filing.

For staff who now access and maintain their records electronically on TRIM, emails are to be 'catalogued' to the relevant electronic file, from your email application.

For records not managed by the RMO, you should file messages in accordance with your unit's procedures. Feel free to contact the RMO for advice on best practice for storing emails. At the very least, and in the absence of any established procedures, you should file messages in directories, folders or files established for this purpose.

Consult the Electronic Mail (Email) Management Guideline for assistance in determining what you should do with each email message.

Printing Emails

If printing an email message to place on a hard copy file, do not print the message before sending it. If you do, the message will be missing valuable data, such as the date and your signature. If the email message contains an attachment, remember to also print the attachment. This is important to ensure that the record is complete.

For internal messages, printing and filing email messages is the responsibility of the message originator. The recipient may choose to also keep a copy for filing. For messages received from external sources, printing and filing messages is the responsibility of the recipient.

Deleting Emails

Remember that your email records are official University records. This means that you may not dispose of them without appropriate authority. As a guide, delete minor messages of short-term facilitative value as soon as possible. Examples are messages which are distributed to a number of staff for information only (news bulletins, circulars, meeting notices), drafts, personal messages and announcements not related to official business.

If the message is considered to be of continuing value, it should be printed and filed either centrally with the RMO or in a work unit records system.

Related Information

Electronic Mail (Email) Policy 000895

Records Management website 

Records Management Policy 000285 

Creation of Records Guideline 000785 

File Notes Guideline 000514 

Record Retention and Disposal Guideline 000284 

Electronic Records Management Guideline 000053 

University Computing and Communications Facilities Conditions of Use Policy 000817

Approval AuthorityVice-Chancellor
Policy SponsorDeputy Vice-Chancellor (Services)
Policy OwnerChief Information Officer
Policy ContactAssociate Director, Infrastructure
Amendment History

Minor amendments updating links and processes that have changed, Records Management Office, 17 July 2013.

Updated FOI to GIPA provisions, 28 September 2010.