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conducting workplace investigations

A workplace investigation is intended to allow an employer to understand the full facts of a matter or an alleged incident; to inform decision-making so they can objectively and fairly bring the matter to a conclusion.

But (if done badly) workplace investigations also present material risks for employers and small businesses that shouldn't be ignored.

Workplace investigations have to be handled fairly and employers should follow Acas guidance on disciplinary and grievance matters.

Maintaining a professional, unbiased and open-minded approach during the investigation process will encourage your employees to participate in investigations openly and without fear of retaliation.

Mishandling a workplace investigation can influence the outcome and impact of a workplace dispute (such as a disciplinary or grievance), and the process followed may be deemed to be flawed should the matter result in an employment tribunal claim.

Failure to follow a 'fair' and 'reasonable' investigation process can lead to employment tribunal claims and allegations of unlawful discrimination, detriment on the grounds of whistleblowing, data protection breaches and defamation.

Handling workplace investigations professionally in your small business is not only a legal obligation; consistent and fair treatment of investigations is important in demonstrating that you're a great employer.

independent workplace investigators
workplace investigations

independent workplace investigations

Carrying out a workplace investigation 'in house' is not always a practical or appropriate option, especially if you don't have a member of staff with the confidence, experience, or expertise in your small business. It's a big ask.

An investigator's role is a skilled (often stressful) and important one. They need to be objective, fair and knowledgeable so that they can establish the salient facts of the case and find out what did or did not happen, but their role is not to prove any party’s guilt or culpability. That's for someone else to decide.

The person conducting the workplace investigation should not be involved in the matter that is the subject of the investigation, or in the final decision-making process, to ensure fairness, impartiality, and credibility. 

And since every investigation is unique, many issues can arise, requiring specialist insight to ensure the organisation complies with its obligations throughout the process - and to mitigate the risk of costly employment tribunal claims.

In these circumstances, it makes sense for small business employers to work with an external, independent workplace investigations specialist.

small business workplace investigators

We have substantial experience in supporting small businesses and employers with all types of workplace investigations.

As experienced independent workplace investigators, we help small businesses and employers comply with their legal obligations while supporting positive workforce relations.

We act in an ethical, transparent manner and with the utmost care and confidentiality. Our team of skilled and knowledgeable workplace investigators provide a fully comprehensive independent investigation service. We cover all manner of workplace disputes, allegations, and workplace investigations, including:

With our sound understanding of the Acas guidance, we deliver a transparent, robust and cost-effective workplace investigations on your behalf: 

  • Gathering evidence

  • Conducting witness interviews 

  • Matters involving criminal proceedings

  • Producing investigation report

  • Upholding confidentiality 

  • Objective, transparent & ACAS compliant

If you’re a small business without the expertise to conduct a fair workplace investigation, we can help.

We will carry out the investigation efficiently and with minimal disruption to your business. Our findings will be presented in a comprehensive report. Our conclusions can be relied on by you to make a fully informed decision on the matter.

Do you need workplace investigation services for small businesses in North Wales or North West England? Call us today

hr workplace investigations
dismissing without investigating

A 'reasonable' investigation by an employer is a key factor of a fair dismissal procedure. This requirement is contained in the Acas Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures. The Code stipulates that employers should carry out 'fair' and 'reasonable' investigations, to establish the facts of a case.

In potential disciplinary investigations, a poorly conducted or incomplete investigation can undermine the disciplinary process and leave you (the employer) vulnerable to claims for unfair dismissal, which, if successful, can lead to significant compensatory awards - enough to cripple most small businesses. An employment tribunal will consider the Acas Code when determining whether an employer has behaved fairly, and has the authority to increase awards by up to 25% if it believes an employer has failed to comply with the Acas Code’s provisions.

If an employer does go on to dismiss an employee, it must be able to demonstrate to an employment tribunal that it:

  • genuinely believed that misconduct had occurred;

  • had reasonable grounds for this belief;

  • had arrived at this belief after a reasonable investigation.

 

Therefore, for a dismissal to be fair, an employer must be able to demonstrate that it came to its decision to dismiss as a result of a 'fair' and 'reasonable' investigation.

 

Disciplinary procedures involve a two-stage process: an investigation to gather all the relevant facts to enable the employer to reach a decision based on all these factors.

 

The courts and tribunals have been directed to apply “the range of reasonable responses” test to evaluate whether the employer has conducted sufficient investigation in all the circumstances of a case.

We investigate alleged employee misconduct to enable small business owners to be able to make informed decisions with confidence.

thinking about dismissing an employee without investigating first? STOP.

workplace investigations FAQ

Here's the answers to the most common questions that we're asked about workplace investigations...

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How long should a worlplace investigation take to complete?

An employer should consult their policies and procedures to see if they contain suggested or required timescales for the investigation to follow. If no timescale is specified in your policy, you should provide a provisional time-frame within which the investigation should be completed. A complicated matter may take several weeks to conduct properly. A relatively simple matter may only require a small amount of investigation for it to be reasonable.

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Do I need to inform an employee that they are under investigation?

- The employer or person investigating should tell the employee with the disciplinary or grievance issue as soon as they decide to open an investigation.

This is unless the employer thinks there is a risk that the employee might tamper with evidence or influence witnesses. In this case, the employer should wait until there is less risk of this.

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Do employees have the right to be accompanied to investigation meetings?

- In a disciplinary investigation meeting, there is no legal right to be accompanied but it's good practice for employers to allow it.

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If an investigation leads to a disciplinary hearing, does the employee have a right to see the evidence that has been collected in the matter?

- Yes. This is a key component of 'natural justice'. In these cases, when inviting an employee to a disciplinary hearing it is essential that they are furnished with all of the evidence in advance of the hearing, including witness statements.

workplace investigations

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Our HR Services for small businesses in North Wales and North West England have been designed to help you to comply with UK Employment Law

hr services for small businesses
hr services for small businesses

Liz Stankard

Director - Kooky Kids

"As a small business, it's easy to find yourself in an employment law minefield when things go wrong. If you need someone to clear a safe path... Luke is your man”

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