How to carry out an Investigation
For the Disciplinary/Grievance Procedures
The below checklist is for guidance purposes only, as it is recognised that a manager will need to determine how best to manage any investigation given the individual circumstances of each case.
Please ensure that all discussions during this process are fair, appropriate and above reproach.
- Clearly define the allegations/issue(s) in need of investigation.
- Consider the nature and likely scope of the investigation based on the allegation/issue(s) of concern. In the case of a formal grievance, the scope of the investigation should be discussed with the employee who has submitted a formal grievance.
- Decide how best to conduct the investigation - In many cases this can be a very simple/quick process, however, this will depend on the specific circumstances of the case e.g. whether the facts are disputed or clear and the seriousness of the matter. An investigation can simply be the gathering of facts looking at existing documentation e.g. relating to the previous in/formal management processes undertaken to address an issue. In other instances it may require the planned and systematic gathering of data, interviewing of relevant witnesses and analysing relevant documents, records, policies, etc. to determine next steps.
- Consider what information you need to gather, from whom and how this will be obtained.
- Consider the timescales of the investigation. Taking into consideration, where appropriate, the need to conduct interviews, collate witness statements, gathering information and write and submit the investigation report etc.
- Identify if there are any potential barriers to obtaining information and how these can be addressed.
- If appropriate, identify any witnesses who could help with investigations, determining whether these should be interviewed or whether a written statement should be sought, (see template letters). Initial contact with a potential witness is often in the form of a telephone conversation to: explain the situation; check their potential relevance; seek their agreement to participate in the process etc.
- Consider other resources you may need during the investigations e.g. note taking, specialist advice/guidance.
- If appropriate, prepare interview plan(s) and consider the specific issues that need to be explored during these interviews.
- Prepare the questions you may wish to ask, ensuring that the questioning (open, closed and probing questions) is appropriate e.g. for obtaining information/facts, exploring feelings or opinions. Avoid using leading questions.
- If appropriate, provide regular updates to those involved.
- PLEASE NOTE: It may be necessary to continually consider the need to amend your plan depending on the findings throughout the investigation.
*and Witness(s) if applicable
- Any employee subject to an investigation should be made aware that an investigation will be undertaken, and should be provided with a brief summary of the reasons for this and the practical measures involved. See Investigation Tools and Templates (Disciplinary or Grievance)
- Include any paperwork/information which will be needed to be seen or considered prior to the interview.
- Advise and if necessary assist the employee (*and any witnesses) to access the counselling and support available to them.
- Take appropriate steps to ensure the confidentiality of the investigation process.
- If applicable, notify the witness’ manager of their involvement in the investigations, so that they can attend any relevant meetings.
(Only if appropriate)
- Thank the interviewee for attending and make any necessary introductions (include an explanation of roles). Please note that there is no right of representation at the investigation stage of any procedure, however, managers may use their discretion to agree to such requests from the employee under investigation if they wish.
- Confirm that it is a fact-finding meeting. It is important to remain objective.
- Explain the need for confidentiality/implications for breaching this e.g. potential impact on investigation/disciplinary action.
- Explain that the University prohibits the electronic recording of meetings and that written notes will be taken throughout the interview.
- The investigator should determine whether notes should be formally shared/signed by the interviewee. Where shared, if the interviewee disagrees with an aspect of the record they will be able to annotate the notes before returning to the investigator.
- Confirm the area/allegation around which the employee or witness will be asked to comment. (When interviewing the employee under investigation ensure they understand the allegations being made against them).
- Explain that the evidence/information may be used in a subsequent formal hearing/grievance meeting and that they may be required (or in the case of witnesses requested) to attend, depending on the outcome of the investigation.
- Check if interviewee has any questions regarding the process.
- Seek evidence/information using any prepared and supplementary questions.
- In questioning the employee under investigation, explore possible explanations/special circumstances. Ask them to respond to any allegations and if they are able to produce any evidence/information to support their response.
- Check if the interviewee wishes to provide any further information or raise any questions before the interview concludes.
- Explain next steps and indicative timescales and that it may be necessary to hold additional interviews should further evidence arise.
** If appropriate
- Seek any relevant supporting information/evidence to substantiate information provided by the employee/witnesses.
- Consider whether other documentation may be helpful for the investigation. For example: Work rotas, attendance records, medical reports, incident reports, minutes from meetings, appraisal/training/development records, emails, letters etc (permission of the employee may be required for some of these examples). Also consider any wider documentation that may feed into informing expectations e.g. departmental handbooks/local agreements, Concordat etc.
- Seek advice from HR as to whether the employee(s) under investigation, employment record may provide any background or special/mitigating circumstances.
- Should you identify any information that may warrant immediate action please raise this with the manager who instigated the investigation as a matter of urgency.
- After each interview forward the record, as appropriate, for signing, to the interviewee.
- If the interviewee disputes the accuracy of the record, asked them to: identify what is in dispute; offer their interpretation/recollections of the discussions by annotating the record provided, before signing and returning the record.
- In the case of witness statements gain the individual’s consent to share this with other relevant parties.
- Maintain a record of all evidence gathered.
- See Investigation Report Template
- Ensure all documentation associated with the investigation is retained securely and only shared with discretion and confidentially. Tone/Style should be considered as all relevant information will be shared with key parties including the employee under investigation.
- PLEASE NOTE: In the case of grievances, the Chair of the panel shall usually provide the employee with notes of any investigatory meetings and invite comments on these before the investigation is concluded.