Minutes can be written in a number of ways, either based on an agenda or more informally. The format you choose to write your minutes in will depend on the type of meeting being held and the nature of the organisation or group. Agenda based minutes are the most typical type, these are taken at scheduled meetings that run to a set agenda addressing particular topics. Minutes should always include names of those who did and didn’t not attend. Informal minutes are usually taken in departmental or group meetings, as these meetings do not require such detailed minutes. They usually summarise the decisions that have been made, actions required and the people responsible for certain tasks. Summary minutes are similar and can be used to look back at the history of discussions on a topic. These minutes are normally distributed to all attendants and if necessary, other interested parties who were not present at the meeting.
Minutes are legal documents that serve as proof for future references regarding any discussions made in a meeting. The minutes should contain the title, time, date, place of meeting, names of attendees, apologies, visitors, items, actions required and date for the next meeting. By ensuring you write down actions for each agenda item and who is responsible for carrying for carrying those actions out. Minutes must be an accurate representation of what happened during the meeting, because people may refer to it in the future and they should be able to understand exactly what happened in the meeting. In the Companies Act 2006 section 248, it states that (1) ‘Every company must cause minutes of all proceeding at meetings of it directors to be recorded’ (2) ‘The records must be kept for at least 10 years from the date of the meeting.’
Minutes should be an exact portrayal or the meetings agenda. The structure of the minutes follows the list of items on the agenda. Organisational conventions are put into place to ensure minutes are written in the same way as other colleagues may write them, to ensure structure, fairness and responsibility in a meeting which is essential for both a productive meeting and to help the minute taker. These set procedures should be followed by all members of the meeting, such as ensuring all items on the agenda are discussed in the same order as the agenda and that all points are discussed before adjourning the meeting.
The minute taker is responsible for accurately recording the key points discussed, commitments and major decisions of the meeting, who attended and who sent their apologies, and ensuring actions have a person allocated to them along with agreed time scales for them to be completed.
It is helpful for the minute taker to know the companies house style and typical format of minutes before starting the meeting, having a copy of the agenda and minutes from the previous meeting will help with the minute takers understanding of what is going on during the meeting. This role is usually given to the secretary/administrative assistant of the company who does not usually need to actively participate in the meeting or get involved in the discussions however, it is important they understand the content of the meeting and discussions in order to accurately document the discussion.
Meetings of minutes can be used as legal evidence in employment or workplace disputes and so minutes need to be kept undisclosed and confidential unless requested under the Freedom of Information Act. With this act, minutes of meetings can be requested and disclosed to the public, however there does need to be suitable public interest to do so. Sometimes, members of the meeting will give their consent for the minutes to be released. As minutes can be referred to or requested to be looked at, keeping them impartial and free of emotive vocabulary surrounding individuals and what they might have said is the best way to ensure they stay as neutral as possible.
The primary function of minutes is to record whether each motion passed or not and so the reason the names of people who proposed and seconded actions within a meeting are recorded is to remind the members of the meetings and to keep the minutes accurate. It is not always necessary to record who seconded each motion or the numbers of votes it received, however you may wish to note the initials; members can also request that their name is recorded along with their vote. It would be unfair to include someone’s name without their permission because if a case ever required them to testify in court, they could be put under unnecessary pressure.