Email Management for Employees


Email is one of the most common methods of communication in the Government of Canada (GC) creating vast amounts of electronic information that is largely unmanaged. The lack of proper information management practices related to email impedes effective decision-making, transparency, and accountability and increases the risks related to retention and disposition. GC employees need clarification of their roles and responsibilities regarding the information they create, send, and receive via email as well as guidance on ensuring they meet GC requirements when performing clean-up of their email accounts.

Note:  In this document, "employee" means anyone working for the GC, including casual employees, temporary help, consultants, and contractors.


All information resources created or acquired during the course of employment with the GC, regardless of format or medium, belong to the Crown. This includes email messages. Employees are responsible for determining if the information they have created, or collected in email format is of business value. Most email messages do not have business value, are deemed to be transitory, and therefore should be deleted as soon as possible. Email which is deemed to have business value, must be organized, classified, and stored in the appropriate repository.


Employees should follow their organization's information management (IM) procedures for email management. In the absence of formal procedures, employees are encouraged to implement the following best practices which have also been used to create a sample "Checklist for Email Clean-up" found in Appendix A of this document.

  1. Employees are responsible for managing email messages in their inbox, sent, deleted, and any folders they have created, as well as all attachments in their assigned email account.
  2. In accordance with the Directive on Information Management Roles and Responsibilities, employees must identify and safeguard email messages and associated information of business value that have been created, collected, and stored during the course of their work, and identify and dispose of transitory email messages.
  3. Employees should transfer email messages containing information of business value to a designated corporate repository, such as GCDOCS or equivalent, as soon as possible. To ensure the availability of information of business value to all those who require it and the appropriate storage and safeguarding, it is recommended that email messages of business value be transferred to the corporate repository within 30 days, whenever possible.
    • Examples of email messages of business value may include:
      • Messages that reference a decision;
      • Direct communications with clients; and
      • Messages that authorize or complete a business transaction where that information is not captured elsewhere (e.g. in a financial or human resource system).
  4. Employees should regularly delete transitory information.
    • Examples of transitory email messages may include:
      • Messages that are copies of information used only for convenience of reference and not as the official record;
      • Messages used for casual communication (e.g., meeting invitations, lunch requests, thank you messages);
      • Informal messages that are not required as evidence in the development of a document;
      • Messages forwarding an attachment that is saved in the corporate repository;
      • Messages that are duplicate copies of information; and
      • Messages received as part of a distribution list or received from a listserv or other Internet sources, and used solely for convenience of reference.
    • Transitory messages may be deleted once the information is no longer of use.
  5. When a request is received under the Access to Information Act or the Privacy Act, an exact and complete copy of all responsive email messages and attachments must be provided to the Access to Information and Privacy Office. Any transitory email messages that have not been disposed of before a request is received, and that are pertinent to the request, fall under the legislation and must be treated as any other document and processed as part of the request.

    It is an offence under the section 67.1 Access to Information Act to obstruct the right of access by destroying records in anticipation of a request for access under the legislation or during the processing of such a request. Once the Access to Information and Privacy Office has received an exact and complete copy of all email messages and all attachments responsive to a request under the Access to Information Act or Privacy Act, the email messages and attachments may continue to be managed according to their normal life cycle. 

  6. Employees should clean up the contents of email accounts regularly. Spending five minutes daily managing email helps greatly in keeping the volume of email information under control, in safeguarding departmental information of business value, and in sharing and finding information faster. A sample checklist is included in Appendix A to assist employees with email cleanup.
  7. Upon departure from an organization, employees should redirect all email messages related to that organization to their previous manager.
  8. Employees who supervise others are also responsible for ensuring that employees reporting to them understand and comply with the requirements of the Standard on Email Management. Managers are responsible for providing information on changes in employment for those email account holders under their responsibility to the appropriate authority according to their organization's human resources processes.
  9. Employees who manage generic email accounts should apply these best practices to the management of those accounts.

Additional Guidance

Employees should consult with their manager when they have questions regarding the management of their email.

For more information on information management, please consult the Guideline for Employees of the Government of Canada: Information Management (IM) Basics.

Further Information

Information Management Division
Chief Information Officer Branch
Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat
8th Floor, 270 Albert Street
Ottawa, ON K1A 0R5

Toll-free: 1-877-636-0656
Fax: 613-946-9342
TTY: 613-957-9090 (Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat)

Appendix A - Checklist for Email Clean-up

Employees are responsible for on-going management of their email.

Email clean-up has four steps:

  1. Sort email messages.
  2. Know what email messages to keep.
  3. Move email messages of business value to the corporate repository.
  4. Delete transitory email messages.

1. Sort Email Messages

Email messages can be sorted a number of ways. Use as many ways as possible to facilitate finding and deleting transitory information.

  • By type of email message
    • Meeting invitations and receipts can be deleted.
    • Messages received only as a CC (carbon copy) or BCC (blind carbon copy) can be deleted.
  • By conversation
    • Replies: Duplicate information is created in email reply threads. Duplicate information is transitory and can be deleted.
    • Messages in a series: The last email message in a thread contains all the information from the previous email messages. Only the last email message should be kept. Delete all previous email messages in the thread.
    • Separate replies: When several recipients have replied separately to an email message, only the original email message can be deleted.
    • Requests for information and email messages sent "for information only" purposes can be deleted when they are no longer needed.
  • By sender
    • Email messages from corporate mass-mailings and distributions, generic email accounts, and mailing lists or listservs can generally be deleted.
  • By date
    • Sort email messages by date, starting with the oldest. Older messages may be transitory, and may be deleted. Verify for business value prior to deletion.
  • By size
    • The largest email messages likely have attachments. Email systems should not be used to store attachments.
    • If the information in the attachment is transitory (i.e., if it was for reference or if it has been superseded), the email message can be deleted.
    • If the attachment is a resource of business value that has been saved in a corporate repository, the email message can be deleted.
    • If the attachment is of business value but the email message is not, save the attachment to the corporate repository. Otherwise, save both the email message and the attachment to the corporate repository.

2. Know What Email Messages to Keep

Email messages containing information of business value must be kept, as per the Directive of Recordkeeping. These are email messages that:

  • Reference a decision of the organization.
  • Authorize or complete a business transaction where the information has not been captured elsewhere (e.g., in a financial or human resource system).
  • Communicate directly with clients.

3. Move Email Messages of Business Value to the Corporate Repository

Now that your email account is cleaned-up, it is easier to keep it organized.

  • Transfer email messages containing information of business value to the corporate repository within 30 days whenever possible and delete transitory information that is no longer required.
  • Also remember to manage your email account Sent folder.
  • Don't send attachments. When possible, use links to corporate repositories where documents are stored.

4. Delete Transitory Email Messages

Transitory email messages can be deleted on an ongoing basis as soon as they are no longer required. Caution: Exact and complete copies of transitory email messages that are responsive to an access to information request must be provided to the Access to Information and Privacy Office prior to deletion.


  • Spending five minutes every day managing your email messages will help you keep your email account organized.
  • The email message originator is generally responsible for saving the information of business value to the corporate repository.
  • The email message recipient is responsible for saving email messages of business value received from outside the department or agency to the corporate repository.
  • Delete transitory email messages as soon as they are no longer needed.
  • Delete reference email messages when they are no longer needed.
  • Send fewer transitory email messages. Phone your colleagues or talk to them in person.
  • Use the email system features such as auto-forwarding rules and alerts to manage email messages. Contact your department's IT help desk if you need additional help.

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