What does a good investigation look like?
An investigation into potential disciplinary matters is important for various reasons. For example, any dismissal based on a poor investigation would be likely to be found unfair as any decision by a dismissing officer needs to be based on reasonable grounds. Further, a failure to carry out an investigation fairly could a breach the implied duty of trust and confidence which employers owe to their employees.
But what does a good investigation look like? What an investigation actually entails does depend on the nature of the incident being investigated. However, below are some guidelines that should help ensure that any investigating officer carries out their task in a reasonable manner.
Unbiased. It is important that the investigation is as unbiased as possible and that, for example, the investigating officer is not a key witness to any incident. Ideally, the investigating officer, disciplinary officer and appeal officer should all be separate individuals. It is important that the investigating officer investigates the different view points of any incident.
Investigation is a fact finding exercise. It is not for the investigating officer to prove guilt or decide on what the outcome should be. It is for them to investigate whether there is a case to answer and whether the matter therefore needs to go forward for a disciplinary matter or not.
Timeframe. Investigations should normally take place promptly to ensure that memories do not fade and it is dealt with fairly for all parties concerned. The person being investigated should be told of an overall timeframe so they know what is happening.
Thorough. The extent of the investigation and its parameters will depend on the circumstances but it is important that these parameters are set, and that relevant and important information is not overlooked.
Accessible. The investigation report should clearly and succinctly piece together the facts found during the investigation so that they are then accessible not only by the disciplining officer, but also by the employee.
Confidential. It is important that the investigation is as confidential as possible because one outcome of the investigation could be there is no case to answer, and reputations and working relationships can be damaged if an investigation is not kept confidential.
The investigation and how it is carried out are the foundations for any disciplinary matter. These foundations may then be needed for any defence against any unfair dismissal claim. If these foundations are not reliable, then any defence can start to fall apart.
If you require any further assistance with regards to investigations or disciplinary and grievance matters within the workplace, please do contact us on 01730 268211 or at