When it comes to dealing with disciplinary investigations it can be very daunting, especially if it is the first time you have been responsible for the investigation process. The process does not have to be daunting, and if you follow the correct procedure and behave fairly and reasonably you won’t go wrong.
Here are a few of the most frequently asked questions about disciplinary investigations that you may find helpful.
What evidence should be gathered during a disciplinary investigation?
As far as possible you should try to gather as much evidence as possible including emails, letters, text messages, WhatsApp messages, minutes of meetings and accounts of events from witnesses.
The evidence you are looking for should be balanced, that is looking for evidence that both supports and discounts the allegations.
How should confidentiality be maintained during a disciplinary investigation?
You should ensure that you only reveal details about the investigation to witness that are necessary in order to gather the information needed.
There is certainly no need to tell witnesses or other employees the full details of the allegations or reasons for the investigation.
If asked it would be sufficient to say that you are looking into issues which are confidential which you feel that may be able to help resolve.
When discussing with witnesses and other employees it is important to emphasise to them the need for confidentiality and that they should not discuss what has been discussed with you, with anyone else and it would be dealt with as a serious disciplinary issue if they were to breach confidentiality.
How long does a disciplinary investigation typically take?
This very much depends on the nature of the allegations and extent of the investigation needed. In my view even the most complex investigation can be resolved with 2 weeks or so. A lot of the time the delay comes from the availability of the disciplinary investigator and/or witnesses, so it is important to ensure that the investigator appointed has the time and availability to dedicate to get it completed without delay.
How should the findings of a disciplinary investigation be documented?
You should set out the findings in a comprehensive report. The evidence then will accompany the report.
How should I record a meeting?
There are two options, audio record or take notes/minutes.
My preferred method is to have an audio recording of the meeting, as long as everyone in attendance consents. This way you have a full record of what has been discussed and it cuts down on disputes about the minutes of the meeting.
The alternative is to take notes/minutes yourself or bring someone along with you for the purpose of taking notes.
If you record the meeting, do you need to transcribe the audio?
In my view it is not necessary to transcribe the audio of the meeting unless it is going to be used at the next stage of the disciplinary process, that is as evidence for the disciplinary hearing,
Should I interview the accused in the process?
In my view in most cases, you should interview the accused in the investigation stage, however there may be occasions where this is not necessary or you feel that it would not be appropriate.
It is about weighing up the fairness of the investigation process if you have not obtained their account of events before reaching a conclusion.
Want to know more about the disciplinary investigation process?
If you would like to hear more about the process and steps to take you can listen to my podcast on this topic here: https://realemploymentlawadvice.co.uk/podcast/how-to-conduct-a-disciplinary-investigation/