In order to avoid a finding of unfair dismissal (should a problem with one of your staff ever get that far), a tribunal will place heavy weight on the investigation to determine whether the employer’s actions were reasonable. Here are some top tips to get you on the right track.
When should I do an investigation?
As soon as possible after matters come to light. By delaying investigating the matters with those involved you allow time for facts to be forgotten and for stories to be fabricated. Therefore ensure a thorough investigation is conducted promptly in order for all evidence gathered to be factually and valid. Always take minutes or any investigatory meetings held and request the employee to sign a copy of this at the time to agree these are an accurate record.
Will I always be permitted to conduct an investigation process immediately?
In certain serious circumstances external bodies may become involved in the matters of concern e.g. the police, safeguarding, social services etc. In these circumstances internal investigations may be requested to be halted, whilst external investigations are conducted. These cases can prove costly (especially when an employee is suspended from duties), and therefore it is ideal to:
- conduct as much investigation as possible prior to being requested to stop; and
- ensure you chase the relevant bodies to finish any external investigations as soon as possible, in order for your internal process to continue.
What if my employee refuses to attend the investigation meeting?
It is important to remember that the investigation process is informal, and therefore it is viewed as a reasonable instruction for the employee to attend and discuss the concerns. Given it is informal the employee has no right to be accompanied by a fellow employee or trade union representative at this stage (unless your procedures allow otherwise). Should they refuse to attend you can inform them a decision regarding whether a formal disciplinary procedure is required will be made in their absence, and their refusal to follow a reasonable management instruction may also be taken into account.
Who should conduct the investigation meeting?
Wherever practicable a different person should carry out the investigation than the person who would chair the disciplinary hearing.
What information should I consider collecting as part of the investigation process?
Any evidence whatsoever that would help to prove/disprove the matters at hand. This would normally involve witness statements from employees involved, however can be extended to include any other types of evidence e.g. care plans, MAR sheets, training records, log sheets, company procedures, photographs of injury, absence records, CCTV footage, mobile phone records, client/family member complaint records, Facebook posts etc.