An investigation is a vital component of a fair disciplinary procedure. Unfortunately, far too often people see this as an unnecessary waste of time and want to get onto the main event of the disciplinary. However, in doing so, they open themselves up to vulnerability.
Time needs to be taken to establish the facts regarding disciplinary allegations. Not only will this demonstrate to employees that you are taking the matter very seriously and being fair, but it could also save employers from unfair dismissal claims further down the line.
ACAS produces a very useful document about conducting workplace investigations, which you can find on its website at: http://www.acas.org.uk/media/pdf/q/0/Conducting_Workplace_Investigations_Nov.pdf
To help you focus and get started, we have created a list of the most important points regarding carrying out investigations.
In addition to this, in the case of investigations involving disciplinary situations, you will need to familiarise yourself with and adhere to the ACAS code of practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures, which you can find here: http://www.acas.org.uk/media/pdf/f/m/Acas-Code-of-Practice-1-on-disciplinary-and-grievance-procedures.pdf
Important points to consider when carrying out investigations
It is vital in all disciplinary areas that fairness is applied at all times, and the investigation is no exception. The following steps help to ensure this:
- If the end result is a dismissal for misconduct, then a robust disciplinary investigation is essential as part of the process to prove fairness.
- Look at your own disciplinary procedures; what do they say regarding investigations? Ensure you follow any processes that you stipulate as well as bearing in mind the ACAS guidance document and the ACAS code of practice on disciplinary and grievance.
- An employment tribunal will take into account whether the ACAS code is followed or not, and, as a result, may adjust any award made in relevant cases by up to 25% for unreasonable failure to comply with any provisions of the code.
- Ensure that the investigating officer is not in any way connected to the facts in relation to the disciplinary situation. If possible, have a different manager carry out the investigation and the actual disciplinary to ensure the findings are as objective as possible.
- Ensure that investigations are carried out without unreasonable delay for all parties involved.
- Make a decision regarding suspending the employee while the investigations are being carried out. Only do this if it is felt necessary in the circumstances, and always on full pay and for as short a period as is necessary.
- If necessary, arrange an investigatory meeting with an employee accused of misconduct so that their account of events is taken into consideration in the investigation. It is most important that they understand that this is not the disciplinary meeting, but just the preliminary investigation. Sending a letter stating this is good practice.
- Have meetings with any witnesses to obtain an account of the incident from their observations and take statements on this.
- If there are any relevant documents regarding the situation, collect these.
- Prepare the witness statements that you have taken, along with any relevant documents that you have collected. Give a copy of these to the employee in question prior to the investigation taking place. The manager carrying out the disciplinary will also need a copy.
- There is no statutory right for an employee to be accompanied at a disciplinary investigation, unlike at a disciplinary hearing. Check to see whether it is allowed as part of your own disciplinary processes or if it has become custom and practice and, if so, ask whether the employee would like an accompanying person present.
Contact Outsourcing HR for advice on disciplinary issues
If you need some advice or support with disciplinary issues, contact us today for a no-obligation discussion. Simply call 07894-546333 or email Margaret Keane.