Over the years I have carried out lots of investigations in the workplace.

Some of them have been very simple, open and shut cases which have led to either no action or disciplinary action up to and including termination.

These cases have included drug taking at work, theft from a till, sexual harassment, bullying – you get the idea.

Legally (and morally), before you start disciplinary action against someone you have to do an investigation.

The process you follow will be determined by your policies, but also by the nature of the allegations and the evidence which emerges along the way.

At the moment, as an HR practice we are carrying out a lot of investigations.

More than we have ever carried out before.

Some are simple, especially when an employee admits liability for an error.

Some are far more complex, involving lots of statements and evidence.

And some take a direction you can’t imagine in your wildest dreams.

After 25 years in HR, I never cease to be amazed by people.

What people do.

What people say.

What people think.

Carrying out a proper investigation is absolutely essential to fully understanding a situation.

You must leave your preconceptions, emotions and judgements at the door.

In an ideal world, you need three people available for a legally compliant process:

  • An investigator.
  • A manager / Senior Manager / Director to carry out the disciplinary hearing.
  • A senior manager / Director / Business owner to hear any appeal.

All these people need to be appropriately trained.

They need to know how to do their role.

They need to understand the law around their role.

They need to be independent, and not involved in the process until that point.

This last one is often difficult, especially in micro and small businesses.

If you are thinking about firing someone, or giving them a warning, even a verbal warning, it is essential that you carry out a robust investigation first.


On Thursday 21st July at 11am I will be holding a short webinar to help business owners understand their obligations as an employer launching, or carrying out, an investigation.


To book your seat, click the register now button below.