Maxine Park explains: The recent case of MP Andrew Mitchell recording his meeting with police officers at his constituency office highlights the benefit of creating an irrefutable record of important meetings, with a transcript of what was said and by whom.
Maxine Park, solicitor and co-founder of transcription services provider DictateNow, explains how making similar sound recordings of confidential meetings with employees, like performance reviews, and disciplinary or grievance interviews, can help managers avoid employment tribunals.
“Although an initial disciplinary matter may be dealt with informally, with a quiet word off the record, once the need for formal proceedings is established, strict adherence to the policies an organisation has in place, is essential.
“Following these agreed procedures will minimise the risk of any claim being made, but many organisations are now recognising the benefits of making digital sound recordings of disciplinary and grievance interviews. Some organisations now go as far as recording job interviews, performance reviews and other important meetings to create accurate records, with transcriptions made available for everyone concerned.
“Although not a legal requirement, good practice dictates that those attending any meeting where recording is intended, should be informed of the situation.
“Recordings capture every word, so it is essential those tasked with undertaking disciplinary and grievance interviews etc., understand the correct procedure and can be trusted to adhere to it. Awareness that an interview is being recorded will help keep feelings under control as it is more difficult to become too emotional or even threatening, knowing every word can be replayed.
“Sound files not only record every word, but convey emotion and offer context, which makes it simpler to review the issue being discussed. It is easier to ignore preconceptions and form an accurate opinion when listening to a recording after the event, than reading handwritten notes, scribbled at the time – sound recording does not miss words because it forgets to make notes.
“The time the disciplinary process takes, often leads to complaints being made, but digital recording has accelerated proceedings. Now there is no more waiting for handwritten notes to be typed up and distributed to those involved, so they can approve the accuracy of the document.
“Another common complaint that often leads to tribunal claims, is that managers failed to give adequate opportunity for an employee to explain their version of events. The knowledge they are being recorded not only results in an honest and frank exchange, but ensures managers act appropriately and give adequate time. The recording can also be used to contradict an employee’s accusation that not enough time was given for them to explain their side of things.
“Whilst organisations have worked hard to standardise their disciplinary approach, sound recordings can also prove useful to review the performance of managers conducting interviews. The entire process can be assessed after the event and any changes to procedures deemed necessary can be made to address any issues highlighted, with training offered to managers to help improve their individual performance.
“Smaller organisations could use digital dictation machines or dictation apps for Smartphones and tablets, for the small number of one-on-one meetings they are likely to conduct in any given year. But for larger organisations, with an expectation of more interviews and hearings, with multiple attendees, transcription service providers will supply conference-style recording equipment, with a separate microphone for each attendee.
“Following the recording, the next step is transcription. It can be tempting to use internal resources to transcribe the recording, but it is not only time-consuming for the inexperienced, it has confidentiality implications, particularly where redundancies or serious behavioural or health issues are concerned. To avoid any potential claims that a breach in confidentiality may have occurred, many organisations now use external transcription services. The best of these, well-versed in the process of transcribing hearings and interviews, will provide certificates of accurate representation, which certify the transcription is a faithful representation.
“This accurate record is achieved using verbatim transcription, which includes all the ‘umms’ and ‘errs’ that shape the flow and meaning of conversations. Unlike dictation transcription where the skilled typist excludes mistakes and hesitations, any omissions in interview transcriptions may affect the perceived meaning of any spoken response.
“The accusation an organisation failed to keep accurate records of an interview can cause problems at an appeal stage or if a case proceeds to an employment tribunal. The ability to produce an accurate transcription, with a certificate of accurate representation, will significantly reduce any assertion that accurate records were not kept.
Disciplinary hearings can also help improve standards of performance within organisations, with the quick resolution to grievances preventing employees spreading gossip or damaging the organisation’s reputation. Recording and transcribing personnel interviews, reviews and hearings demonstrates how seriously personnel issues are taken and shows how determined an organisation is to get things right.
For some, the use of external transcription service providers might be deemed an unnecessary expense, but those same individuals must ask themselves, how much any accusation that the organisation has acted inappropriately might cost in the long run?
About the author Maxine Park: Maxine specialised in commercial litigation and was made partner at her firm in 1992. When Maxine had her first child she worked from home. After the birth of her second child, she left legal practice, attained a PGCE and lectured law to legal executives, HR personnel and journalism students.
She launched DictateNow with husband Garry, to offer an enhanced and efficient transcription resource to businesses in a wide range of sectors including legal, medical, public sector, charity and parliament. Maxine’s experience as a solicitor and home-working parent directly led to the formation of DictateNow which currently employs over 300 home-based typists in the UK, to provide fast, reliable and confidential digital dictation and transcription services.
If you require any further information about DictateNow please visit www.dictatenow.com