Staff Minutes Matter: 5 Employer Minute Taking Mistakes That Could Cost You in Tribunals

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Producing good employee meeting minutes following a meeting with an employee can often be the difference between a lost and won employment tribunal.

When meeting with employees, whether it’s a probation review meeting, a redundancy consultation meeting, or a formal disciplinary hearing, a lot of preparation goes into what will be discussed, yet when it comes to producing staff meeting minutes from the meeting, employers often undo so much of that hard work and preparation by producing poor minutes.

In this article, we look at the Top 5 minute taking mistakes employers make when producing staff meeting minutes from formal meetings and how those mistakes can best be avoided.

1. Failing To Take Staff Meeting Minutes!

The most obvious employer minute-taking mistake is not producing any minutes at all.

It’s a tempting trap to fall into; after all, it’s a difficult task and one that doesn’t always seem necessary. For example, if you’re meeting with an employee to tell them they have successfully completed their probation or you have agreed to their request for flexible working, why take minutes?

It’s important to get out of the mindset that minutes should only be taken under negative circumstances or when a dispute or conflict is anticipated. Instead, minutes should be seen as a standard, good-practise form of record-keeping.

So why are employee meeting minutes so important, and what purpose do they serve?

  1. They create a record or paper trail to show that a meeting or formal hearing has taken place.
  2. The staff meeting minutes set out what was discussed, so they can be used as an aide-mémoire for future reference. For example, you may have passed your employee’s probation, but you may also have set out some areas you want them to focus on going forward. Should these improvements not be made and the employee disputes the issue that was raised with them previously, the employee meeting minutes will serve as a record of what had been discussed.
  3. They help us to help you. We rely on employee meeting minutes from meetings and hearings to be accurate so that we can continue to provide our clients with the best advice. If the minutes for disciplinary hearing are absent, incomplete, or inaccurate, this could prove detrimental to the outcome of a particular case.
  4. Minutes are a key part of your defence if you are facing an employment tribunal. Memories fade very quickly, and if you are in the unfortunate position where a case leads to an employment tribunal, bear in mind that this may be months or even years down the line. You will lose credibility very quickly if your record-keeping and disciplinary note taking is poor and you have to rely on memory.
  5. The minutes show that you are legally compliant. Disciplinary meeting minutes are your record to show you have followed a fair procedure, that you have given your employee a fair hearing, that they have been afforded their right to be accompanied at that hearing, and so on.

2. Summaries Versus Minutes

Staff meeting minutes do not have to be verbatim; they needn’t include every ‘um’ and ‘er’, but they do need to be accurate.

Often employers summarise what has been discussed in a hearing, and this can be highly problematic because it can lead to errors and bias.

If you intend to create a summary rather than minute everything that has been discussed, you are choosing what to include and what to omit, which can often mean that key information is omitted even if the person chairing the hearing is doing their best to be impartial.

For example, in a disciplinary hearing, we often see employers decide that something an employee has said is irrelevant, such as when an employee starts to make accusations of their own. This could be a highly relevant and important part of their defence; by omitting it, you can be guilty of bias.

Minutes should also be written in the form of a speech, not a paraphrased text.

3. Failing To Provide a Copy of The Disciplinary Hearing Minutes to The Employee

The employee meeting minutes from a hearing should always be provided to the employee and their representative (if they have exercised their right to be accompanied). The employment hearing minutes don’t have to be provided there and then, but they should be provided after the hearing.

One of the leading disciplinary hearing minutes mistakes is accuracy. So many disputes and even formal appeals arise from taking notes in a disciplinary meeting inaccurately. It’s important that before any outcome is decided, the disciplinary hearing notes are agreed upon. If the employee or their representative disputes the content of the minutes, a decision will have to be made as to whether the disciplinary meeting minutes need to be amended or not. In any case, it is hard for an employee to query the

4. Recording Minutes for a Disciplinary Hearing or Meeting Without Consent

Minute-taking is hard even for the most experienced touch-typist or the quickest and neatest writer, so many employers choose to record meetings or hearings for accuracy.

This is fine to do, but it’s vital that permission is sought from everyone in attendance; the same applies to video recordings where a meeting or hearing is taking place via Zoom or Teams. This also applies to employees and their representatives; no one should be covertly recording meetings or hearings.

Also, a transcript will need to be made of any recorded material, and those present should be provided with both the transcript and the recording.

This might sound like a bit of a pain, but if you are faced with a tribunal claim, transcribed minutes will be expected.

Avensure Top Employer Minute Taking Mistakes That Could Cost You in Tribunals x

5. Adding Commentary to Staff Meeting Minutes

Staff meeting minutes should contain everything that has been said in the hearing or meeting; please avoid adding supplementary commentary in brackets, or italics, or using the comments function.

For example, thoughts on a person’s demeanour or non-verbal behaviours, such as:

  • The employee rolled her eyes. AGAIN!
  • The employee’s representative shook their head and made me feel intimidated.

Or the chairperson’s thoughts on what is being said, such as,

  • This response is a lie.
  • This answer was given in a sarcastic tone of voice.

Or thoughts on the outcome, or a direct note to the legal consultant reviewing the minutes, such as,

  • This proves the allegations are upheld, and the employee should be given a warning.
  • This point needs to be clarified with Avensure.

Some of the above examples appear quite extreme, but they do happen and can cause serious procedural problems. It can give the impression the outcome has been prejudged, it can prejudice the legal privilege between the employer and their legal advisers, and it is bad practise. Ultimately, it could also result in a claim.

You can discuss your thoughts on the responses given in a hearing with your legal adviser, but they have no place in the minutes.

Likewise, disciplinary meeting notes should not be amended to contain what someone meant to say; this goes for the chairperson and the employee if they request a change to the minutes.

The golden rule: if it was said, it should be included!

And Finally, What Should Employee Meeting Minutes Include?

Employee meeting minutes should include the following information as a minimum:

  • The date, time, and venue of the hearing or meeting
  • Everyone who is present
  • The purpose of the meeting, e.g., a disciplinary, redundancy consultation, grievance hearing, and so on
  • All questions asked by the chairperson and all responses given by the employee
  • Any questions, points, or mitigation raised by the employee or their representative
  • The time the meeting ended

Need Support?

Please get in touch with our employment team for more guidance if you’re an employer with any specific questions regading staff meeting minutes. Just Click Here: Avensure Contact!