Small businesses taking risks with confidential documents

The majority of small firms across London are not adequately disposing of their confidential documents, new research has found.

This comes despite large fines for not meeting the Data Protection Act, according to Envirowaste, who found that two thirds of firms in the capital are not shredding documents properly.

Contracts containing highly sensitive information were among the most common documents that were mishandled or not properly disposed of.

Those in the hospitality sector were most likely to be at fault, as 81% of firms were found to not be disposing of documents correctly, followed by marketing (74%) and finance (70%).

More than half of respondents who said they did not shred confidential documents said that contracts were the most common document that was simply thrown away, followed by booking information and invoices.

The Data Protection Act covers the disposal of confidential waste and fines of £500,000 can apply to firms that fail to comply.

Letting data fall into the wrong hands can have further consequences too, as the reputation of the company will also be hit, potentially causing a loss of sales as a result.

More businesses in the capital are recycling a greater level of waste than five years ago but they still need to ensure the process is done properly.

The financial loss resulting from the fine could also place pressures of the cash flow of the businesses involved, especially if they are running on tight margins.

Poorly managed documentation also opens up the risk of fraud, which can be difficult to detect without the help of forensic accounting services.

Envirowaste has suggested that businesses need sufficient training policies to ensure that staff are aware of their responsibilities when it comes to disposing of confidential waste.

While most firms have policies in place that relate to online security, the need remains to ensure that paper documents are properly handled as well.

By Phil Smith

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