Opt have been very busy recently carrying out workplace investigations on a range of issues, including allegations of bullying and harassment, inappropriate behaviour and misconduct. Our work has also included ‘tidying up’ poorly handled investigations.
The impact on already stretched organisational resources, in terms of cost and additional work to individuals, has been obvious throughout. In addition, there is often a lack of clarity around what is expected from an employer when carrying out a workplace investigation.
When may a workplace investigation be necessary?
Allegations of bullying, harassment, discrimination
Complaints from customers or clients
What are the key attributes of a successful workplace investigator?
Suitably trained and clear of their role
Impartial and independent of the case
Always has an open mind
Ability to go behind the information and not take statements at face value
Why do employers need a transparent and efficient approach to workplace investigations?
In disciplinary, misconduct and potential dismissal cases employers may find their workplace investigations scrutinised in an Employment Tribunal and British Homes Stores Ltd v Burchell UKEAT/108/78 is a significant and informative employment law test case in this regard.
In this context
The employer must genuinely believe that the individual is guilty (of the misconduct)
There are reasonable grounds to sustain that belief
As much investigation into the matter as was reasonable in the circumstances should have informed that decision
Allegations of discrimination, harassment and protected disclosures also have the potential to come under scrutiny in this context.
It is important to recognise that employers are not required to conduct an investigation in the same way as a criminal investigation and future Opt blogs will explore what is a reasonable investigation.
Workplace Investigations – Objective, Impartial, Thorough