Question: When I discuss issues concerning employees with line managers, I make records in my own notebook. These discussions may cover possible dismissals or disciplinary action. What should I include in these notes – for example, sticking to the facts only and avoiding any opinions on the person? Reading back some of my notes, it is difficult to avoid opinion, as it is often a line manager’s judgement on whether they can work with the person which determines whether someone is dismissed early in their employment.

Answer: There are two interesting angles to this question.

Firstly, you are right to be thinking about this in connection with the discussions we have been having on subject access requests. It is possible for your notebook to be caught by a request from an individual and you would then have to provide them with a copy if your notebook was sufficiently structured to count as a ‘relevant filing system’. So for example, a doodle pad with notes on which is very messy and doesn’t clearly relate to an individual would not be caught but a notebook with clearly defined dates, names of employees in sections etc is likely to be. For that reason don’t write down anything you don’t want to show the person!

Secondly, if there was an employment tribunal you would be obligated to disclose a copy of the notes if it had relevance to the case, even if it could be damaging to your position. Again, for that reason, don’t commit decisions to dismiss to writing before the letter to the employee telling them this!