We always approach investigations from a neutral point of view and apply a rational, structured approach to the investigative process. This is important because most investigations stem from situations that involve multiple issues, claims or allegations.
These often overlap; it’s rare to find an issue that is entirely self-contained. Also, the individuals that will be interviewed as part of the investigation are all stakeholders in the outcome, with opinions and agendas that can vary.
For example, an employee who has raised a grievance has usually done so because they genuinely believe in their cause. This means that they are emotionally invested in the outcome. Similarly, other persons named in the grievance will have a vested interest in the outcome, especially where there are allegations against them.
As a result, an investigation can be faced with a complicated web of claim, counter-claim and contradictory narratives.
Here we provide an overview of our approach to an investigation and this can be read alongside our investigation process flow.
As part of the investigation pre-work, we apply a “separate and clarify” approach. We work with your HR professionals on all the aspects of the matter, to bring out all of the components of the grievance or disciplinary situation in question and establish the relationships between them. We then work through each one methodically, ensuring that there is clarity over each contributing issue in the overall situation and putting together an interview strategy for the investigation. This also helps ensure that the right people are interviewed during the investigation.
We ask to see any supporting evidence that’s relevant to the matter. This could be any number of things, including emails, instant message or “chat” logs, performance appraisal documents, your policies and procedures…anything that relates to any of the issues that form part of the investigation. This includes any dialogue about the issues (emails, notes of conversations or chat logs) between any of the persons involved in the situation.
This is important because if it later comes to light that there was evidence which was not shared but would have likely influenced the outcome of the investigation, that could make the outcome vulnerable to a successful appeal (or worse, reflect badly upon you in any subsequent Employment Tribunal).
Note that we’re not talking about legal discovery in the context of an investigation but we advise full disclosure to prevent any future complications.
Based on the original complaint and the supplied evidence, we will put together a timeline of events. We will also identify which individuals need to be interviewed as part of the investigation. Once this is done, we will ask your HR partner assigned to the matter to assist with arranging an interview schedule.
Where possible, we prefer to conduct the interviews in person. We find a face-to-face session is far more effective for talking through the issues. This can help us establish a rapport with the interviewee and put them more at ease. It also helps us pick up on any non-verbal communication cues and sometimes these can be important. We would normally ask you to arrange for a suitable meeting room within your offices for this interview, as it is helpful to have one of your HR staff in attendance both as an observer and note-taker.
If it is not possible to arrange a face-to-face session for the interview, then we can conduct the interview by telephone. This is less desirable, especially for interviewing persons who are central to the investigation.
Once all the interviews have been concluded, we will produce a comprehensive and detailed outcome document. This will be based an analysis of the testimony from the interviews and all the evidence provided. All documented findings will be accompanied by explanatory rationale and citing relevant evidence.
The time taken to produce the outcome document can vary, depending upon the complexity and scale of the investigation. However, we understand the need for swift delivery and most outcomes are delivered within a working week of the final investigation interview.
For a more step-by-step look at our approach, take a look at our investigation process.