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Retention labels in Microsoft 365 (M365) provide organisations with the ability to apply retention controls to documents through the solution interface. Unlike retention policies, when a retention label is published end users can view and apply retention labels themselves.

To understand how retention labels can be used to support your retention requirements, let’s look at how they can be configured. Retention labels can be set to keep content forever, start a disposition review, or dispose of content a certain period after the following retention triggers:

  • the content was created
  • the content was last modified
  • an event (we will take a look at event-based retention in a later blog)

Retention labels also have the configuration option of classifying items as ‘Records’ or ‘Regulatory Records’ once the label is applied. Once an item is declared as a record, certain restrictions are placed on actions that can be performed, such as editing record content.

Retention labels can be imported as a file plan. Please note that in our experience when importing from CSV there appears to be a 36-character limit per cell for the import. As such, if using the file plan import organisations may wish to leave Comments, Notes, Reviewer Email and Citation URL’s blank and manually add this information to labels after import. Event-based retention labels also need to be manually created.

In order to use retention labels, they must first be published to a retention label policy, which we will focus on in a future blog.

The following rules apply to published retention labels:

  • only one label can be applied to an item
  • if a label is manually assigned, it can be changed by end users (I.e. you cannot prevent people from modifying the label assigned)
  • if an auto-apply label is assigned, end users can apply a manual label instead
  • if a manual label has been assigned, an auto-apply label cannot replace it
  • if an item meets the conditions of multiple auto-apply labels, the label with the longest retention is applied

Disposition Reviews

A major benefit of using retention labels is the disposition review feature (only available to E5 licences with access to Advanced Information Governance). Where a Reviewer Email has been set on a retention label, once a record with that label applied passes its retention period the reviewed will receive an email notification asking to review disposal.

Roles and responsibilities

Pending dispositions can be viewed in the compliance centre, with Reviewers given the option to:

  • permanently dispose of the item
  • extend the retention period
  • apply a different retention label

Proof of disposition is maintained for 7 years, and is based on Unified Audit Log data.

Organisations however may find that there are gaps in metadata required to be captured for proof of defensible disposition.

In the next part of our series we will look at event-based retention in M365.

About the Author

Adelaide Copland has worked as an information specialist and CM/TRIM application administrator since 2014.  Adelaide has experience in Microsoft 365 implementations, process improvement, records training delivery, development of policies and procedures, strategy and establishing digitisation programs.