It’s no surprise to hear that if you want the office to be quiet, just ask who’s available to take minutes……..tumbleweed and the sound of silence normally ensues.
Whilst minute taking is often one of the less desirable tasks of any HR professional or team member it really is of vital importance for the following reasons;
- The Acas Discipline and Grievance Code of Practice advises employers to keep a written record of any disciplinary or grievance case that they deal with. There should be records of the various stages of the procedure. This includes the complaint, the employee’s defence, findings made, actions taken, reasons for them and whether there was an appeal and its outcome.
- When faced with a complex disciplinary hearing it can be difficult to keep track of what is being said. Having someone present to take notes allows the person leading the hearing to totally concentrate on the process and the employee in front of them.
- The minutes exist for your protection and will provide evidence of a legal and fair proceeding should you be required to defend an Employment Tribunal Claim. They will be referred to as an accurate reflection of what was discussed during the investigation, hearing and appeal. As far as legal experts are concerned, if it isn’t in the minutes, it didn’t happen!
- Minutes also serve as reminders for employers dealing with disciplinaries. They must always consider how previous and similar disciplinaries have been dealt with and try hard in their efforts to treat employees fairly and consistently. This is a lot easier to do if you have a careful written record including the nature of the problem, what was decided, actions taken or defensible decisions made.
- Remember, Employment Tribunals can adjust awards to take into account non-compliance, so you may be looking at paying more money if a proper paper trail that establishes the validity of your disciplinary procedures isn’t forthcoming or satisfactory. An unfair process can at worst amount to a 25% increase on award claim …… ouch!!
So given their importance, here are our top tips for getting it right!
1. Choosing a Note Taker
The person you choose must be independent and not connected in any way to the issues at the heart of the disciplinary proceedings. Choose someone that is confidential and able to confidently take the notes. The note-taker should not be afraid to stop proceedings to allow them to ‘catch-up’ with the conversations or to clarify what was said to maintain accuracy. The disciplinary chairperson should set the expectations to every individual in attendance of the disciplinary meeting and this includes the importance of the note-taker’s role and the need to stop the conversation to allow notes to be a true reflection of the conversation.
If the employee objects to the note-taker, establish why and whether it is reasonable before changing the note taker.
2. How Should the Notes be Recorded?
The ACAS Code of Practice on Discipline and Grievances does not specify how the notes should be taken, so here are our thoughts;
- Consider whether verbatim notes are required. In some professions and industries, especially whereby the outcome may carry a legality or result in an individual losing their right to continue within their profession (think consultants, doctors etc under medical register), it may be an absolute requirement for the minutes to be word for word accurate. Otherwise, and at the very least, the notes to reflect a true representation of the conversation that has taken place and not necessarily verbatim.
- If notes are hand- written abbreviations are fine but shorthand would not be appropriate. The reason for this is that the employee would not be able to read back to check for accuracy at the end of the hearing unless specifically trained in shorthand.
- We think it’s better to type the notes as you go along. These can then be read by the employee, printed and signed accordingly on each individual page. That way they know the notes have not been ‘tampered with’ in any way and whilst they may not agree with the process at hand, should agree that it is a fair and accurate reflection on what has been discussed during the disciplinary meeting.
- Remember an employee does not have the right to record a meeting unless the employer consents. Recording meetings may make those taking part uncomfortable and so may not be helpful to the conduct of the meeting.
3. What Should be Recorded?
- Date, time and location of the hearing
- Names and job titles of those present at the hearing
- Record in the notes that the employee was offered a companion and that they declined if applicable. Or confirm the details of any companion and their role within the disciplinary hearing.
- Make all individuals aware of key elements. For example in the event of an emergency where to go and what to do or where and how they can take a break if they should want to.
- Appropriate summary of the case thus far including key dates and any evidence which will be considered during the process
- Summary of what was said (verbatim or a true reflection).
- Record adjournments in the hearing, what time it occurs and what time the hearing is reconvened.
- Confirm meeting end and any next steps and/or outcome as required
- Record the time the meeting closes.
4. Distributing the Notes
Copies of meeting records should be given to the employee. This should include copies of any formal minutes that may have been taken. In some circumstances, such as to protect a witness, the employer might be justified in withholding some information.
5. Keeping records
Employers must keep personal records in accordance with the rules set out in the General Data Protection Act 2018. Such records are confidential, but individuals concerned have the right to request and have access to personal data.
We hope you’ve found our guide useful. Whilst taking minutes may not be the most exciting job, getting them accurate really is important and getting it right can save you a whole lot of time, frustration and potentially mitigate risk going forward.
If you have any further questions, don’t hesitate to contact us at HR Your Business Matters to discuss how we can support.