Top Tips for handling Workplace Investigations

Top Tips for handling Workplace Investigations

Employment Tribunals expect employers to manage and conduct workplace investigations professionally. 

Here are JSB’s top tips for managing and conducting internal investigations.

Seven Top Tips for Managing Effective Workplace Investigations

1) Know what you want to investigate

Be clear about the terms of reference

2) Be prompt

Don’t wait ages to respond to a complaint and don’t delay getting going.   Once you are up and running, don’t permit any major delays in the process.  Don’t allow yourself to get bogged down.

3) Suspend on full pay?

Only in more serious cases, where an employee’s presence at work will potentially cause damage to the employer.  Suspension is a serious step to take and case law states that alternatives should be considered wherever possible.

4) Natural Justice

Obey the laws of natural justice and comply with the Acas Code on disciplinary and grievance procedures by ensuring that the investigator is not also the person who hears the subsequent disciplinary complaint.

5) Unbiased

Make sure that your chosen investigator does not have the appearance of bias – by perhaps having had previous involvement with the complainant.  Easier to avoid apparent bias in larger organisations.  Consider bringing in an external investigator if necessary.

6) Consistency

Don’t handle similar complaints/situations in different ways.  Be consistent to avoid allegations of unfair or discriminatory treatment.

7) Be thorough

Make sure that the investigation report is comprehensive and does not contain obvious holes.

Seven Top Tips for Conducting Effective Workplace Investigations

1) Know what you are investigating

Be clear about the terms of reference

2) Don’t delay

Investigations need to be conducted speedily before recollections fade. So, once you are up and running, don’t allow any major delays in the process.  Don’t get bogged down.

3) Be thorough

Make sure the investigation is comprehensive and complete.  Don’t leave out important witnesses.  Don’t miss key documents or give insufficient attention to vital issues.

4) Never assume anything

And keep your personal opinions to yourself.  Anything which betrays an assumption of ‘guilt’ could be fatal.  Always keep an open mind.

5) Make sure you gather the relevant evidence

Make sure you get the evidence you need: oral; documentary; email; files; CCTV; policies and procedures; computer records.....Think about who you need to interview and what you will need to cover.  Consider questions in advance – but be prepared to be flexible and responsive.

6) Don’t lead

You should not ask questions in a way which suggests the desired answer.  Witnesses should give evidence in their own words, according to their own recollections.  Do take notes and invite witnesses to sign to indicate accuracy of statements made.

7) Report

Prepare a well structured and clear report of your findings, conclusions and recommendations.  Remember, this may be a critical document at hearing/appeal stage – and subsequently before an Employment Tribunal.

And finally, remember that you are not conducting a criminal trial.  You are simply doing what you reasonably can to establish what happened.

Download this article as a pdf

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