There are situations in companies when the behaviour of employees needs to be investigated. This could be for a number of reasons: disciplinary, bullying and harassment or grievance investigation. Whatever the reason for such an investigation it needs to be done with the utmost care and consideration making sure that the constitutional rights of employees are upheld and that there is no bias towards any employee regarding the outcome of the investigation.
To ensure all this it is essential to get an experienced investigator to handle the investigation and sometimes it is wise to get an outside investigator to conduct the investigation. An outsider is without bias to what has happened in the company and can come to a neutral assessment of what exactly did occur. There is also the fact that the investigator can’t be further involved in the case. The investigator writes down his findings and reports to the company who then have to decide based on the findings, what if anything has to happen. It would be wrong if the investigator would be involved in any further actions and is involved in the decision if the employee should be disciplined. That would not go down well if the case would be later heard by an Adjudicator or the Labour Court. You can’t be judge and jury at the same time. For a lot of Irish companies this would cause a problem as they don’t have enough experienced people to conduct an investigation and a disciplinary meeting and therefore need for an outsider not involved in the case becomes paramount.
The rights of employees need to be guaranteed during an investigation and the follow up. This means that at the start employees need to be clearly informed what the investigation is about and if applicable what they are accused of. The letter of invitation needs to clearly state the reason for the investigation and the rights of the employee on representation. If applicable the terms of investigation need to be set out and communicated to all involved which clearly specify how the investigation is going to be conducted. The Disciplinary & Grievance Procedure and the Bullying and Harassment procedure will explain how an investigation should be conducted and any investigator should familiarise himself with procedures and follow the procedures correctly. It is wise to check if the company procedures adhere to the Code of Practices for Grievance & Disciplinary procedures and Bullying and Harassment. If the don’t fully comply with them it is wise to follow the Codes of Practice guidelines.
The best way to conduct an investigation is to hold separate meetings with all involved and take statements of the people involved. The people involved have the right to be represented at the investigatory meeting in most cases by a fellow employee or union official. I would always give people the opportunity to read their statements and make any changes which they desire and I would make a point of it that once they are satisfied with their statement they need to sign their statement. The signed statement then forms the basis of the investigation. You need to check if there is any other evidence such as records and CCTV footage. If you intend to use CCTV records then you need to ensure that you will follow any Data Protection legislation which would apply. For a start the employees need to be informed in advance that they are being recorded and that the records can be used for investigation and or disciplinary purposes, this needs to be explained through signs in the buildings and in the Employee Handbook, which each employee involved should have received.
Once you have all the signed statements and other records and documents which relate to the investigation then you can start writing the investigation report and come to a conclusion regarding the investigation. At first the people involved should get a draft report on which they can give their comments and suggestion. You have to take the comments and suggestions into consideration when you are writing the final report. The final investigation report is then given to the people involved.
It is here that the role of the investigator ends and he might be asked to clarify his findings, if there are further actions under the company procedures then another manager will take charge of this aspect. Basically the investigation and the role of the investigator have finished. The final report and the signed statements are handed over to the company for safe keeping and for future reference.