Accurate Minute-taking for Employee Relations Meetings
Conflict in the workplace is unavoidable, and managing potential and actual work-place issues can be a sensitive and emotional process. What IS avoidable is ensuring objectivity, clarity and avoidance of doubt at all times during the process.
During any formal investigation, without accurate minute-taking, so much of what is said can be misconstrued or poorly interpreted.
Often, meeting notes are taken by one of the attending parties, whose primary task is to fact find and thoroughly understand the matter at hand. This poses risks: the resulting notes may be an ensemble of bullet points with a splattering of conjunctions used to sew it together. The all-important chronological sequence of events and actual verbatim dialogue may slip, unseen, through the cracks. Subsequently, the reader may take subjective or incorrect inferences from this “official record”.
In this article Global Lingo discusses the importance of getting the detail recorded clearly, accurately and objectively, and without delay.
While alternative dispute resolution is highly desired in resolving workplace conflict, there may be a point when formal matters must be raised. At this stage, records of correspondence and communication are vital to ensure a fair and consistent process.
The Acas (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service’s) Code of Practice for Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures offers employers a route to follow to ensure they comply with employment law and deal with these challenges fairly and consistently.
“The Acas Code of Practice advises employers to keep a written record but there are no further details. You will find more advice within the guide which supports the code but that is not statutory whilst the code is,” said Amy Guest, Senior Associate, Employment Team, Birketts.
The Discipline and Grievances at Work, Acas guide states that records should be treated as confidential and be kept no longer than necessary in accordance with data protection legislation.
Yet there is no mention of how to take the notes or the level of actual detail that is required, and this is where problems can arise.
“Handwritten notes can be inaccurate, so sometimes employers record what has been said on a smartphone or some other recording device. These can, however, be subject to fail, particularly in terms of sound quality which is not always good,” Guest told Global Lingo. Many organisations even prohibit the use of audio recording systems during internal meetings.
There is also the problem of grammatical errors twisting what may have been said.
Punctuation can change the meaning of what you are saying. Take some comma splicing, insertion of ill thought out dashes and, the omission of those non-negotiable full stops together and you can see the difference between a case going to Tribunal and an amicable agreement concluding events.
For many employers, particularly those working for bigger businesses, the preference is to record hearings verbatim to ensure there is no room for inaccuracy. At Global Lingo our verbatim transcripts capture every utterance exactly as spoken, down to the last word.
“These transcripts preserve the purity of intent behind a speaker’s statements for those occasions where every detail is of critical importance. The words are written exactly as spoken, with the only omissions being ‘mm’s, ah’s, and ‘mm-hmm’s,” explains one of our Editors.
Head of Employee Relations for a leading markets operator added, “If you have a verbatim transcript, it really is a fool proof method. The employee recognises the transparency of the process. It’s very objective and moves it all through a lot quicker.”
When minutes are taken, the next step in the process is to allow the employee to see the notes. If the employee does not agree that the notes are accurate, the employer should ask him/her to give a corrected version. The chances of this occurring with a verbatim transcript are greatly reduced which is why it is such an appealing option for many employers who value their time and reputation.
If the employer agrees, however, that the employee’s version is accurate, the amendments can be agreed as the record. If the employer does not agree that the employee’s version is accurate, it should keep both versions on record. (Then both versions of the notes can be referred to at any later date, including at Tribunal).
Removing the possibility that the notes will be disputed, safeguards against further hearings, appeals and eventually a Tribunal case. Employers that wish to miss the transcript gap will be wise to appoint a third party and take accurate notes of what has been said from every sigh, pause and literal mutter and utterance.
Our Global Head of Professional Writing Services concludes: “We use a light editorial touch, using punctuation to capture spoken hesitation and emphasis on the page. Our Verbatim service is recommended for any event where it is important for legal reasons that the text reflects exactly what is said – the document is required to quote all or part of a proceeding.”
Written by Annie Hayes
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