Using Electronic Signatures
A constant complaint from Victorian contracted RTOs is the lack of guidance from the Department around technology and how it can and can’t be used to meet contractual requirements. With the cost of compliance an ever-increasing burden on organisations, many are seeking web-based, streamlined solutions to gain efficiencies across the business.
The PTR and Enrolment process is often seen as a sluggish and time-consuming process and progressive RTOs are adopting online solutions to streamline this. The Department has released a fact sheet regarding the use of electronic signatures with respect to the contract and we have attempted to summarise the main points here for you.
Electronic Action Equivalent to a Signature
Understanding what constitutes an electronic action is the first step towards creating a compliant yet streamlined enrolment process. For the purposes of the Skills First contract, an electronic action is a process that replaces the trusty old hand -written signature on a paper-based form. The Department clarifies this as needing to satisfy the principles of:
- Identity (being able to identify the person)
- Consent (the person completing the form is clearly agreeing to the terms of the form)
- Reliability (the electronic action is reliable, specifically, to a degree of reliability equivalent to the circumstances)
The reliability factor takes into consideration, the type of information being signed off, risks involved if the electronic action was found to be invalid, the data being collected and the method’s ability to capture and store data securely.
When You Can’t Use Electronic Actions
You can’t use an electronic signature when you are signing a contract that binds you with the Department or when you sign a formal notice issued under the contract. Essentially, any legally binding document would require a pen on paper signature.
The Good News
The good news is that we can be free to implement electronic signatures into our pro-forma, provided the systems we use meet the Identity, Consent and Reliability principles mentioned earlier. This includes:
- Enrolment Forms
- Eligibility Forms
- Placement Agreements
- Attendance Sheets
- Training Plans
- Withdrawal Forms
- Assessment Cover Sheets
Our Compliance Tips
If you are planning on taking your enrolment process and other pro-forma online, we recommend considering the following:
- Ensure you have well documented processes in place for creating new forms/templates that require signatures and that staff have a sound understanding of the contractual requirements with regard to electronic actions.
- Utilising your student management system where possible – a good web-based SMS like aXcelerate will provide solutions for website integration where enrolments can be processed online, with signatures collected and stored against student files.
- Looking at established software such as Adobe Sign and HelloSign for other forms that require signing, as they provide the technology to send forms to email address, track IP addresses and produce audit reports to complement your forms.
- When in doubt about a proposed business process, seek clarification/feedback from others including the Department