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Conducting an Investigation in the Workplace: A Guide

There are a variety of ways an issue in the workplace might come to your attention. An employee might inform you in confidence, or you may overhear a conversation that raises suspicions. Regardless of how you heard about it, you need to be sure that you carry out an investigation appropriately, and in a manner that stays within the law.

Why Might You Need to Carry Out an Investigation?

Some issues can be resolved easily, just by having an informal conversation with those involved. In other cases, a more formal approach may be required. The following scenarios may need a formal investigation:

  • An accusation of workplace bullying / harassment (e.g. verbal bullying or inappropriate / racist comments)
  • An accusation about employee behaviour that might require disciplinary action (e.g. stealing)
  • A breach of company policy

By carrying out a formal investigation, you’ll be able to show that you had adequate reason to believe that the problematic behaviour was occurring, and proof that it happened. This is vital if you need to take matters further (e.g. dismissing the employee in question).

Undertaking an Investigation

It’s important that the investigation is impartial and fair. As the business-owner, you may decide that you’re not the right person to conduct the investigation, as you’re too ‘involved’ in the incident to adopt an entirely objective view. In this instance, it’s worthwhile working with a trained HR expert, who can assist with the process.

A good investigator will:

  • Identify the main areas requiring investigation
  • Establish a plan for conducting the investigation
  • Outline clearly how evidence will be collected
  • Report their findings back to you

Supporting the Investigation

If you’re not carrying out the investigation, you can still support the HR expert during the process. For example, they’ll require as many details about the case as you can provide, including times and dates. They may need access to certain documents or files (or even employees, if it’s decided that official statements need to be taken).

It’s important to understand that this process can take time, especially if it’s a complex one.

Moving Forward

If, at the end of the investigation, it’s decided that further disciplinary action is needed, it’s useful to have a professional on board to assist. Again, a trained HR expert will be able to offer guidance and advice throughout this tricky process.

The employee in question must be informed of the disciplinary action in writing, and you should also arrange a time to meet in person, to discuss the matter further. Employees are legally allowed to appeal against the disciplinary decision if they choose to do so.

Harris Law – South-West HR Professional

Dealing with disciplinary matters in the workplace is never pleasant, which is why it’s good to have an HR expert working alongside you, to offer valuable support and guidance throughout the process. To learn more about how Harris Law can help with disciplinary matters within your business, simply call us on 01803 861086 today.