Secret recordings of employment meetings - Rules of engagement
The recent decision of Punjab National Bank v Gosain (EAT, January 2014) serves as a warning to employers on how disciplinary and grievance procedures ought to be carried out.
In this case, an employee recorded proceedings on a mobile device. She then briefly left the meeting room, leaving the recording still running and whilst away, inappropriate comments were then made about her by the employers were picked up by the device.
The Tribunal required to weigh up the sanctity of an employer’s private deliberations on a disciplinary matter against the basis principle that all relevant evidence should be taken into account.
In this instance, the employer’s “off camera” comments amounted to little more than personal insults. As such, they were held to be admissible and thus highly damaging to the bank’s credibility in the disciplinary procedure.
Whilst clandestine recording of meetings may be seen as distasteful and underhand, employers must conduct any hearings in a fair and proper manner. An employee has the right to be accompanied by a fellow colleague or trade union representative at a disciplinary or grievance hearing but he has no general right to insist on such meetings being recorded. There might be circumstances where parties could agree to recording, in which case both a transcript and a copy of the actual recording should be shared with the other party.
The world of technology is such that, rather than seeking to prevent secret recordings becoming part of Tribunal evidence, employers should always conduct meetings as if that is expected.
The importance of accurate minutes being taken at all formal hearings and keeping a lid on personal opinions cannot be over-emphasised.