Top tips for workplace investigations
Problems often arise in a workplace setting, but making sure they are dealt with properly, fairly and consistently may require an investigation to take place. It’s often the case that these aren’t dealt with as thoroughly as they should be internally, but it is the responsibility of the organisation to ensure that any investigation is robust, thorough and impartial. So, what can businesses do to protect themselves and ensure that they are fulfilling their obligations?
Here are our top tips for conducting workplace investigations:
1. Planning and preparation are key. Establish the Terms of Reference detailing how you will undertake the investigation referring to the relevant policies.
2. Ensure you understand what you’re investigating – always make sure that you specify the allegations.
3. Identify the appropriate policies and procedures and familiarise yourself with them.
4. Ensure the investigator has the appropriate experience, knowledge, seniority, impartiality and availability.
5. Avoid undue delay. It can have serious consequences.
6. Identify relevant witnesses and documentation as soon as possible.
7. Don’t be afraid to amend the Terms of Reference or allegations if required. An investigation is frequently an evolving process.
8. Fully document the investigation process and ensure that your note taker can take detailed notes of the meetings.
9. Grievances or sickness absence do not have to defeat the investigation. Deal with these issues separately.
10. The report: evaluate and summarise the evidence with reference to your obligations as laid down in the Terms of Reference. Do not exceed your remit.
11. Never assume that where you are faced with one word against another, you cannot make a finding. Consider similar fact evidence when drawing your conclusions and remember, your job is not to establish the facts beyond reasonable doubt. You only need to be satisfied that the evidence stacks up “on the balance of probabilities”. What this means in practice is that you are satisfied it is more likely than not that the allegations are true
12. If in doubt, seek the help of a professional.