The importance of investigations in disciplinary and grievance procedures

Gemma Chapman
Human Resources
Gemma Chapman, HR Manager at Lovewell Blake

As an employer you have a responsibility to your employees to ensure that you follow a fair and robust process, especially when it comes to disciplinary and grievances

Gemma Chapman, HR Manager at Lovewell Blake

When it comes to dismissal, there are three key factors which will make it fair; an honest belief in the guilt of the employee, for that belief to be based on reasonable grounds, and for the employer to have carried out a reasonable investigation. It is equally important that grievances are thoroughly investigated to reduce the risk of discrimination or possible constructive unfair dismissal. This will also help to effectively manage working relationships.

Many cases which result in tribunal claims do so because there was either no investigation or it was ineffective.

Important elements of an effective investigation include:

  • it is conducted by an appropriate person;
  • due consideration is given to the question of whether suspension is appropriate;
  • relevant employees are made aware of the investigation;
  • a balance of acting without delay and taking enough time to establish the facts;
  • ensuring confidentiality;
  • consideration should be given to whether witnesses should be interviewed and witness statements produced;
  • collection and review of documents and other evidence.

It is essential that those carrying out investigations take it seriously, give it appropriate time and understand the importance it will play in any subsequent processes that may follow. An effective investigation will help you as an employer make an informed decision about next steps, including whether any formal action should be taken.

Additional complications
In the event your investigation needs to run parallel to a police investigation this can cause additional complications. It is not sufficient to rely on the police investigation for disciplinary purposes, you must still carry out your own rigorous process.

The same will also apply if a grievance is raised during the disciplinary process. It must be fully investigated using the same elements.

Finally, it is also important to ensure investigations are conducted in line with any contractual requirements or policies detailed in staff handbooks, breaching a contract or going against internal policies can cause problems for the most robust investigations.

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