Conducting an Investigation
Once an Employer becomes aware of a problem with an Employee or receives a complaint from another employee or client, the situation needs to be investigated before any action is taken. It is essential that employers have all the facts and that they fully understand exactly what went on.
It is usual for the employee to be interviewed by management, presented with the charge in the presence of a representative, given an opportunity to respond and then suspended on full pay pending the completion of a full investigation.
Begin by making sure that you are operating without bias against one or more people involved in the incident. While basic fact finding might seem obvious enough to do, it is important to know what to ask and how to get the information required.
When an employee or client brings an allegation of improper conduct to a managers attention that manager should:
- Thank them (It is important to encourage people to speak up and to be open about these matters).
- Ask them, in private, to describe exactly what has happened.
- Ask them to give a written statement, if the situation warrants it.
- Assure them that the complaint will be treated with seriousness and confidentiality.
- Be sure to follow up with them when the situation has been addressed.
Having decided to conduct an investigation certain guidelines should be followed to ensure the investigation is accurate, impartial and objective. The investigation should be conducted thoroughly, objectively, with sensitivity, utmost confidentiality, and with due respect for the rights of both the complainant and the alleged perpetrator(s).
It should be carried out by a designated member of management (Health & Safety / Equality Officer) or an agreed third party if necessary. Following these guidelines will help get the information required:
- Agree terms of reference with the parties involved in advance.
- Every effort should be made to carry out a complete investigation within an agreed time frame.
- Meet with the complainant and alleged perpetrator separately. Both may be accompanied by a work colleague or employee / trade union representative if so required.
- Ask for specifics. Get Details. Do not assume anything.
- Get names of witnesses and interview them.
- Ask open ended questions and do not ask witnesses to confirm or deny any of your conclusions.
- Conduct the interviews in private and keep all information confidential.
- Maintain objectivity at all times.
- Take good notes for documentation purposes.
- Review all files and documents.
- Visit the place where the incident occurred if necessary.
- The complainant and the alleged perpetrator(s) should be informed in writing of the findings of the investigation.
- Both parties should be given the opportunity to comment on the findings before any action is decided upon by management.
There are other methods that can be used in conducting an investigation. They may seem a bit drastic, but may be useful in extreme situations. Examples would be:
- Search and Surveillance.
- Hiring a Private Investigator.
Should management decide that the complaint is well founded then the alleged perpetrator(s) should be given a formal disciplinary interview to determine an appropriate course of action as set out in the Organisation’s Disciplinary Procedure.
It is considered important that all personnel involved in the operation of these procedures will have received the appropriate training in order to operate them effectively.