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The importance of a proper disciplinary investigation

One of the benefits of running a small business is that you have a greater degree of control over who you hire.

But even with the most rigorous recruitment process, people problems can still arise.

When problems do arise, it can be tempting to try and tackle them head on and resolve things internally and as quickly as possible. However, charging in can do more harm than good – as failure to conduct a through disciplinary investigation can result in claims of unfair dismissal that may see you ending up in an employment tribunal.

Instead, it is crucial that a proper investigation is conducted to establish the facts, and decide whether there is in fact a disciplinary case to answer, which should be then referred to a full disciplinary hearing.

So, what constitutes a proper investigation?

–        Firstly – make a plan. Decide what evidence you will require to establish the facts and think about who you need to interview.

–        Try to see people as quickly as reasonably possible before their recollection of events fade, and obtain signed witness statements.

–        Interview the accused employee to understand their version of events.  Give them advance warning of the allegations and give them time to prepare.

–        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.

–        If the investigator decides that there is a case to answer, they should prepare a written report with supporting evidence and statements to be made available to the accused employee to enable them to prepare for the disciplinary hearing.

It is vital to make sure that different people carry out the disciplinary investigation and disciplinary hearing, and that these individuals have not previously been involved in the case and do not have any conflicts of interest.

Throughout the process it is also important that the investigator keeps an open mind, and ensures impartiality, fairness and confidentially. They must stay focused on establishing the facts – this is not about making a disciplinary decision.

Of course, having clearly defined company rules and disciplinary procedures in place well before the need arises, and making them available to all employees, can help to make an unavoidably stressful time a little less complicated for all involved.

More importantly, they enable you, as an employer, to ensure that all breaches of the rules are dealt with fairly and consistently.

For support with developing and implementing company rules and internal processes, and all stages of a disciplinary investigation, including provision of private meeting rooms, administrative support, and even the investigation process itself, contact TurnstoneHR on 01229 615 280 or email us at for a FREE consultation.

“There is evidence to suggest that good HR practice and people management in SMEs are key factors in strong business performance and can lead to increased productivity.”

- CIPD people Skills Project 2017


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