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Employment Law - The Disciplinary Investigation

Author: Joan Finch Published: 28th October 2013 21:52

Man holding a magifying glass
 

Following a number of Employment Law changes and updates over recent months we wanted to revisit some basic practises within Employment Law, with this in mind this month's article focuses on the "Disciplinary Investigation". 

Following the introduction of the ACAS of Practice for Discipline and Grievance, which came in to force as of 6th April 2009 the emphasis on the disciplinary investigation changed and became a fundamental part of the disciplinary process.  The purpose and aim of this code was to provide guidance for employers and employees in acting fairly and consistently and having a flawed disciplinary investigation can undermine the disciplinary process and result in employers being vulnerable to Employment Tribunal claims for unfair dismissal.

What is an investigation?

The purpose of the investigation is to establish the facts of the case.  The investigation may involve the collection of evidence for example CCTV footage, interviewing witnesses, till receipts, computer print outs, signed declarations or training records.   Also, depending on the nature of the allegation(s) you may require the employee to attend an investigation meeting, to establish their version of events or explanations for their actions.  Depending on the nature of the allegations, depends on how much investigation is required, the more serious the matter is then the more thorough the investigation should be. 

Disciplinary Investigations should be conducted without unnecessary delay.

Appointing the Investigation Officer

The person conducting the investigation in commonly known as the Investigating Officer, the Investigation Officer must be an impartial person and competent to undertake the investigation in a fair and consistent way.

If you are appointed as the Investigating Officer it is important to keep an open mind and base your decision on whether there is a case to answer on the facts established during the course of the investigation.  At no point should an Investigating Officer be issuing any form of sanction or considering dismissing an employee during the course of the investigation, this should be addressed at the disciplinary hearing, should the investigation establish there is a case to answer.

Preparing for the Investigation Meeting

Prior to conducting the investigation meeting it is important to inform the employee preferably in writing the details of the meeting date, time etc. and the more importantly the nature of the allegation(s) against them.  You need to give the employee a reasonable amount of notice of the requirement to attend an investigation meeting.  If your company disciplinary policy states a specific amount of notice, then you would need to adhere to it.

In preparation of the meeting you need to prepare questions and plan how you introduce the evidence.  Questions want to be open questions for example; Where? What? How? Who? When? As you want to allow the employee the opportunity to give their version of events and explanation for their actions. 

Where possible and practicable to do so arrange for a note taker to be present (ideally when the allegations are of a Gross Misconduct nature) and arrange a meeting room, where you will not be disturbed during the course of the meeting and finally ensure you allow enough time for the meeting. 

Conducting the Investigation Meeting

On commencing the investigation meeting it is important to explain the purpose of the meeting and ensure the employee fully understands why they are there.

Ask the employee the pre-prepared questions to gain a full understanding of their versions of events, where appropriate introduce the evidence again asking the employee for their version of events or explanation for their actions.

Prior to adjourning the investigation meeting ensure you have checked the employee has nothing further to add, as on occasions and especially with complex cases, further investigation may be required prior to the Investigating Officer being able to conclude the investigation and make a decision.

Throughout any investigation it is important you follow your company Disciplinary Policy, which should be aligned to the ACAS Code of Practice for Discipline and Grievance 2009.

If you employee staff it is important you have all the necessary contracts and policies in place to support and maintain the employment relationship but it is equally important to have the policies in place to support your business when things are not going quite as they should.  If you are in the process of dealing with disputes in the workplace or are concerned as your business does not have all the necessary contracts of employment and policies in place; or wish to ensure that your company is fully compliant and up to date when dealing with Employee disputes and all areas of employment law, then please click here to refer to our website and services available to support your business. 

Article by Joan Finch of J Finch & Associates Ltd

Thanks to Joan our AboutMyArea/EN9 editorial contributor for her fourth informative article on Employment Law and HR issues. Check out Employment Law section in the Business Zone for more of her articles.

Joan is an award winning, highly experienced, commercial, self-motivated HR professional who has operated within the sectors of Retail, Hospitality and Catering, specialising in Employees Relations. Joan is now the proud owner and creator of J Finch & Associates Ltd.  Joan's career spans over 10 years, and has broad experience within Human Resources, with initially being a HR generalist covering all aspect of HR from Recruitment, learning and development, training, Employee Relations, redundancy, restructures and TUPE. Since 2008 she has specialised in Employee Relations applying a commercial and practical approach to all ER related issues.

For more information on Human Resources, Employee Relationship and Employment Law issues you may like to take a look at J Finch & Associates website: http://www.jfinch.co.uk/

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