The question everyone dreads – “Do you have it in writing?”

It’s the aspect of HR that people most dread, the administration. Believe us when we say, we share that same love/hate relationship. Administrative work can be tedious. It is time-consuming, and time is money when it comes to business. This, we understand.

Just to be clear, as HR Professional’s, it’s not a trick question that we get pleasure from asking. It’s our endeavor to have a backup, a starting point, or a reference. And in some cases, it can be the saving grace when we find ourselves in particular situations.

Put it in writing

When it comes to working with people, it often boils down to a case of ‘he said, she said, they said’. Unfortunately, if you don’t have it in writing to confirm what happened, it’s going to be very difficult to prove.

Oftentimes you will find that when a matter arises, whether it be a grievance, disciplinary or just a general query, it is dealt with in the moment, informally, and forgotten about. We all know that it’s a fast-moving environment in business. Suddenly, we are a couple of weeks or months down the line, and you receive a letter from a Solicitor, or a governing body and panic sets in. You have a vague recollection, or maybe you have a very clear memory – but do you have it in writing?

Proof is important

If you do, you have proof, evidence of the situation, how it played out and what the outcome was, and there is minimal room for dispute. If you don’t, it’s anyone’s guess, and you are more likely to face increased struggle when arguing your case. The burden of proof may rest with the complainant, yes. However, when you can provide the proof yourself, it can stop the matter progressing any further and ultimately shortens the dispute.

Avoid being blindsided

It sounds daunting, and it’s a situation that nobody wants to find themselves in, but the good news is – you can avoid it. All you need to do is follow up on those conversations, meetings or phone calls with a quick email. It might be, “Just to confirm…” or “As discussed…”. While it might take time now, it is time well spent. You will thank yourself if you ever need to refer back. Usually, you will find that once the other party sees that you are maintaining a document trail, they are less likely to dispute down the line. In the event that they do want to dispute, they usually come back to you there and then. You can deal with the situation in the moment, rather than being blind-sided when you least expect it.

Reach out

If you would like further advice or guidance on how to maintain good record-keeping practices, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

Aoife Hanlon, HR Executive


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