Investigations and the disciplinary process

Once you become aware of a problem with an employee or you receive a complaint from another worker or a customer, you need to investigate the situation before you take any action.

The investigation is not part of the disciplinary process and this should be made clear to employees involved from the outset. It will only become a disciplinary issue once the investigation has been carried out and a conclusion reached as to whether formal action should be taken.

Wherever possible, the investigation should be carried by a Manager/ Supervisor or an external consultant who will not ultimately be involved in any disciplinary action.

The investigation officer should make an initial assessment of the facts with all those involved:

• What happened and when?
• Who was involved?
• Were the correct procedures followed?
• What were the consequences?
• Any personal issues that may have a bearing on the situation.

The individual who is the subject of the investigation should be informed personally, that an investigation is to take place and a summary of what the allegation/s is/are, this can be done in writing.

Depending on the incident being investigated, consideration may be given as to whether suspension is necessary.

Gathering Information

The investigating officer should request statements from all those involved. These should be signed and dated on each page. It is best practise to clarify the facts with witnesses and to ascertain further information by undertaking investigatory interviews.

It is also best practise, that the individual should be invited by letter to an investigatory meeting and have the option of being accompanied by a trade union representative or colleague for support (however it is not a statutory requirement to have the right of being accompanied at this stage of the process).

In preparation for these interviews the investigating officer should draft a list of questions based on the issues raised in the witness statements. The investigating should use these questions as a starting point but should probe further if additional issues are raised in response to questions.

Important – make detailed notes

The notes, must be written up after the interview, by the investigating officer. Following the interview the investigating officer should send a copy of the notes to the member of staff. The member of staff may highlight any anomalies or omissions in the notes but should not substantially change these. The notes should be returned and signed and dated on each page to the investigating officer.

Information that is properly collated and analysed is key to any investigation. The investigating officer must ensure that they have a clear and through understanding of the documents.

When the investigation has been completed an investigatory report should be prepared, which should be detailed and logical including conclusions/recommendations based on the findings.

It is key that any investigation is undertaken without any undue delay. The investigating officer should ensure that all parties concerned are aware of what is happening and in the event of any delay, kept informed of the reason for the delay.

It is important for employers to handle disciplinary matters professionally, objectively and fairly. Where disciplinary proceedings lead to dismissal, the dismissed employee may be able to bring a claim for unfair dismissal to an employment tribunal. In these circumstances, if it is to succeed in defending the claim, the employer must be able to show not only that the misconduct in question was sufficient to justify the penalty of dismissal, but also that a fair procedure was followed. A fair investigation provides the backbone of a fair misconduct dismissal.

Deminos are able to carry out investigations throughout the UK.

Call us now on 020 7870 1090 to discuss your requirements.

Author chris swindells

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