Investigation at Work

Caragh Bailey
5 min read
investigation at work advice from employment law friend

An investigation at work will happen when you, or someone else, raises a formal grievance, or, you are given a formal disciplinary.

The investigation is an opportunity to explain yourself, hear the other side and to work together with your employer to make things better for everyone.

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What is the purpose of an investigation at work?

    See if there is a case to answer.
    ie: Has your performance dropped?

    Make sure everyone is treated fairly.
    ie: Has performance dropped across the team, or just with you?

    Gather evidence from all sides.
    ie: You may show that your performance is being affected by illness or disability, making it a capability issue, beyond your control.

    Help the employer see what should happen next.
    ie: They should open a capability procedure, if they have one. Or, otherwise investigate what support, training or encouragement you need to improve.

As with the rest of the procedure, it is important that your employer follows the Acas code of practise on disciplinary and grievance procedures, as well as their own policy. If you feel that they have not carried out the investigation properly you can make a note of this, raise a grievance, and you may be able to raise it at the tribunal if you need to fight the outcome of the investigation.

It is important that they begin the workplace investigation as soon as possible, so that the issue is fresh in the minds of anyone who is asked to give a statement. If you have reason to believe they have delayed the investigation to de-legitimise witness statements, make a note of this. and any evidence, in your diary.

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Suspending an employee pending investigation

If it will protect the investigation, the business, other employees, or you personally, your employer may suspend you (with pay) throughout the investigation at work.

They should:
  • Tell you why you’re being suspended.
  • Explain that this doesn’t mean you are guilty.
  • Keep your suspension as confidential as possible.
  • Keep your suspension as short as it is possible to carry out a thorough investigation.
  • Explain any rules or responsibilities. For example: You must not discuss the investigation with your colleagues.
  • Tell you who you can speak to about it. For example: Your line manager.
  • Support your wellbeing throughout.

It might be possible to move you to a different department, instead of suspending you.

If the organisation is big enough, your employer should get different people to handle:
  • The investigation
  • The hearing
  • Any appeal
If there is no one else in the organisation who is suitable, they may have to handle the entire disciplinary process themselves. Whoever is investigating should, ideally, have had training in handling disciplinary procedures, but this is not a legal requirement.

The person handling the investigation at work should tell you:
  • That the details of the investigation will be kept confidential.
  • Why an investigation is taking place.
  • Who is handling the investigation.
  • What they will do.
  • If they’ll need to speak with any witnesses.
  • How long the investigation will take,
  • What will happen next.

They should tell you that the investigation is taking place as soon as they open it. They can delay this if they believe you might tamper with the evidence.

The aim of the person investigating should be to gather balanced evidence. They should not be trying to prove or disprove your guilt.

You do not have a legal right to be accompanied to any investigation meetings, but it is good practise for your employer to allow you to bring a companion anyway. Ask. If they say no, keep a copy of this in writing.

How long should an investigation at work take?

This depends on how complicated the situation is, it could be anything from one day to several weeks. The person handling your investigation is responsible for giving you a reasonable timescale and notifying you of any necessary extensions, as well as noting them in the written report.

You do not have to attend the investigation meetings, but attending may help your case. If you are too stressed to attend meetings at work, the person investigating should arrange the meetings elsewhere. They may continue the investigation at work without you, but they should tell you this. They must make sure the investigation is as fair as possible without you.

If it’s possible to resolve the issue informally, your employer could stop the disciplinary investigation or grievance investigation here. They should give you a copy of the investigation report including all written evidence.

In the case of a grievance procedure: If the investigation at work shows that your grievance will be upheld your employer will write to you, to tell you about any action they intend to take to solve your complaint.

In the case of a disciplinary procedure, or if you are found guilty of misconduct under a colleagues grievance complaint: If the investigation at work shows that you are at fault your employer will notify you of a disciplinary hearing (meeting).
They must tell you:
  • The alleged misconduct or performance problem.
  • A copy of the investigation report.
  • Any written evidence, including witness statements.
  • Anything else they plan to bring up in the meeting.
  • When and where the hearing will be held. (This must be as soon as possible, allowing you time to prepare).
  • What types of people you can choose from to accompany you to the meeting. (You are entitled to bring a companion).

Unfair Investigation at Work?

Have you been the subject of a flawed workplace investigation? Get in contact with us and see how we can help.

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Frequently Asked Questions
While you are under suspension, you are still under your contract. You must be available to work for the hours specified in your contract - so you can't take on any additional employment during your contracted hours.

Many contracts also stipulate that you cannot undertake any work for another employer for the duration of your employment.

The terms of your contract still apply until your employment is officially terminated.
This content is provided free of charge for information purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied on as such. No responsibility for the accuracy and/or correctness of the information and commentary set out in the article, or for any consequences of relying on it, is assumed or accepted by any member of our company. For employment law advice please get in contact and speak to your employment law solicitors.
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