Guidance for managers conducting disciplinary investigations
- Planning an investigation
- Undertaking investigatory interviews
- Records of meetings
- Investigation outcome
The purpose of a disciplinary investigation is to establish the relevant facts where there is an allegation of misconduct. The investigation is not a hearing to make a decision about a disciplinary sanction
The individual undertaking the investigation should not have previously been involved in the case and care should be taken to avoid conflicts of interest.
This note provides guidance for managers undertaking disciplinary investigations. Further advice and guidance if required is available from your Human Resources team.
When undertaking a disciplinary investigation it is important that you keep an open mind regarding the outcome and ensure impartiality, fairness and confidentially throughout the process.
It is also important to ensure that you stay focussed on investigating the specific allegations of misconduct.
Planning an investigation
Start by deciding what evidence you will require to establish the facts.
Think about whom you need to interview, what questions you want to ask them and in what order you wish to see individuals. Also consider what other evidence or documentation you might require. Where evidence is likely to perish or be removed or destroyed this should be gathered as a priority.
Try to see people as quickly as reasonably possible before their recollection of events fade. You should ensure that interviews take place in a venue that provides appropriate privacy and allows them to take place without interruptions. Arrange for administrative support to take notes of any meetings to allow you to focus on conducting the interviews.
Where significant delays in concluding the investigation are anticipated this should be notified to the affected employee and where possible a timescale for completion given.
You should interview the employee accused of misconduct to understand their version of events. You should ensure that you give them advanced warning of the meeting and time to prepare. The employee should be made aware of the allegations against them and be provided with any documentation that you would want to speak to them about. An employee accused of misconduct may be accompanied at investigatory meetings by a work colleague or Trade Union representative.
When questioning witnesses care should be taken to maintain confidentiality. The full circumstances regarding the allegations should only be revealed if required.
Witnesses are not normally expected to be accompanied at investigatory interviews.
You cannot insist that individuals participate as witnesses. If a potential witness raises concerns you should seek to address these. In some circumstances witness statements may be anonymised to protect the witness. If a witness wishes to remain anonymous you should discuss this with Human Resources.
Undertaking investigatory interviews
The following list provides suggested areas to cover when undertaking interviews.
- Explain who you are and the other people in the room
- Outline the format of the meeting
- Advise that adjournments may be requested if required
- Highlight an expectation of honesty and confidentiality
- Explain why you are carrying out the investigation
- Clarify that your role is to establish what happened and not to make a judgement about what to do
- Advise that a note of the meeting will be provided and the interviewee will be asked to confirm that they are accurate
- For witnesses - advise that the notes of the meeting will normally be shared with the employee accused of misconduct
- Ask the interviewee to tell you what happened in their own words
- Let the individual speak even if they are not describing things in order
- Focus questioning on the allegations and the facts relating to these
- Only explore issues in more detail that are relevant to the case
- Do not make assumptions and interpret what they are saying
- Summarise back to the witness what you have understood / written
- Ask if there is anything else relevant that they wish to add or any additional witnesses that may be relevant
- Explain what will happen next
- Confirm if the employee is aware of any other witnesses to the incident and any other relevant documents that may be relevant.
Records of meetings
Notes of any interviews should be taken. These should capture the responses to questions. While it is important to capture key points reflecting the interviewee’s words, the notes are not intended to be a verbatim record of the interview. You should ensure that notes are agreed as an accurate record of the meeting and that these are signed and dated.
Meetings will not normally be electronically recorded. . Where an employee asks if a meeting can be recorded you should advise them that they or their companion may take notes if they wish.
Any witness statements provided should also be signed and dated as accurate.
After completing the investigation the evidence should be collated together, to form the basis of a report. It is important take into account all the evidence and to take care to view the matter objectively. The relevance and validity of information collected should also be considered.
The report would normally provide a summary of your investigation findings and a recommendation on whether the case should proceed to a disciplinary hearing. You should not recommend what level of penalty is warranted.
Decisions should be based on the principle of the balance of probabilities rather than beyond reasonable doubt. Your recommendations can include:
1) no further action is appropriate 2) informal action e.g. coaching or 3) that you consider appropriate evidence in support of the allegations to warrant the case proceeding to disciplinary hearing.
Advice on the layout of the investigatory report is available from Human Resources.