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Legal Abacus readers discover how to reduce the risks of employment tribunals

Nov 17, 2017

Legal Abacus readers discover how to reduce the risks of employment tribunals

Solicitor and co-founder of transcription services provider DictateNow, Maxine Park recently explained to the readers of Legal Abacus magazine, the benefits of recording disciplinary or performance interviews for managers.

A bi-monthly publication for members of The Institute of Legal Finance & Management, Legal Abacus is aimed at legal finance, administration and practice management professionals working in the legal sector.

The magazine offers its readers news and advice about education and career development, legal accounting and business management, and the wider legal sector as a whole.

Maxine’s article highlights how mistakes made during personnel interviews can often lead to businesses facing accusations of misconduct or unfair treatment. It also details the benefits of keeping accurate records of meetings.

For subscribers of the magazine, you will find Maxine’s article in the March/April issue.

Alternatively, read Maxine’s advice here:

Avoid disciplinary pitfalls by recording and transcribing

When a business gets the procedure wrong and makes a mess of a disciplinary or grievance interview in particular, it can face claims for breach of contract, unfair dismissal and discrimination. So what steps can managers take when conducting performance reviews and disciplinary or grievance interviews, to reduce the risks of employment tribunals?

Maxine Park, solicitor and co-founder of transcription services provider DictateNow, explains how recording and transcribing reviews, interviews and hearings can help mitigate the risks: “Some disciplinary matters may be handled informally, but when formal proceedings are required, it is essential businesses follow their approved policies.

“Many organisations now appreciate the benefits of making sound recordings of disciplinary and grievance interviews. The retained sound files also allow transcriptions to be made quickly, often within hours and made available to the interested parties.

“The first step is to inform everyone in the meeting that a sound recording is being made for the purposes of accuracy and transcription.

“The ability to offer a sound file record of any interview, within minutes of its conclusion, is a major component of avoiding accusations the organisation has acted inappropriately, dragged its feet, or has something to hide regarding any personnel matters.

“It is important that everyone remembers that every word will be captured, intended and unintended, making it essential that managers tasked with undertaking personnel interviews etc., not only understand the correct procedure but can be trusted to follow it, even in a hostile environment.

“Happily, knowing a meeting is being recorded often helps keep emotions under control, on both sides of the table. It generally proves more difficult for either side to become angry or even threatening, when they know every word can be reviewed later by senior management.

“Sound recordings also address the often cited grievance that managers failed to keep an open mind about an employee or situation until they have heard all the evidence. Recordings capture every word and emotion, offering context to the words spoken, which makes it much easier to review an issue after the event.

“It is easier to ignore any preconceptions and form an accurate opinion when listening to a sound recording than it is reading through notes scribbled at the time. And crucially, a recording will not miss words because it gets involved in a rapid or heated exchange and forgets to make notes.

“Digital recording has speeded up proceedings too, avoiding the need to wait for handwritten notes to be typed up, distributed and amended or approved by all those involved. It is often the length of this whole back and forth process that leads to a complaint being made against a business.

“Employees will often complain that they were not given adequate opportunity to explain their case or version of events. The knowledge a recording is being made will help ensure managers act appropriately, follow the procedure and give employees sufficient time to put across their side of the story. The recording and subsequent transcription will prove useful to refute any accusation that the employee was not afforded adequate time.

“Recording all interviews or hearings can help ensure everyone conforms to the agreed standards, with the sound files used to review the performance of those undertaking the interviews, with appropriate training offered when the review highlights deficiencies in their performance.

“For smaller businesses, digital dictation machines or innovative dictation apps for Smartphones and tablets will probably suffice for the likely number of such meetings. Larger businesses with a greater expectation of more interviews, typically with multiple attendees, should obtain conference-style recording equipment, available from leading transcription service providers.

“Following the creation of the sound recording, the next step is to get it transcribed ready for distribution to everyone concerned. It can be tempting to undertake transcription internally, but this has confidentiality implications, particularly where redundancies or serious behavioural or health issues are concerned.

“A simple solution is to use an external transcription service provider, which helps avoid any accusation of a breach in confidentiality. The best service providers will be experienced in the process of transcribing hearings and interviews, often using qualified legal secretaries, who will sign a certificate of accurate representation if required.

“Not keeping accurate records of meetings can cause problems at an appeal stage or if a case proceeds to an employment tribunal. Producing an accurate transcription, together with a certificate of accurate representation and the original sound recording will significantly reduce the risk of a business being accused of not taking things seriously.

“Handling disciplinary hearings properly can also help improve standards of work and performance within the business, with a quick resolution to problems and reduces the risk of employees spreading gossip or damaging the firm’s reputation.

“Recording and transcribing personnel interviews, reviews and hearings demonstrates how seriously personnel issues are taken within an organisation and shows how determined the management team is to get things right; first time, every time.

“Recording can be done without incurring significant expenditure and the cost of using an external transcription service is a small price to pay compared to the potential cost of any accusation that the business has acted inappropriately or handled a personnel issue poorly.”

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