This section provides useful information for Employers and line managers.
The ILM EDGE Magazine (online) has published our article ‘Workplace Investigation Toolkit’. http://www.i-l-m.com/edge/workplace_investigations.aspx
‘I found the essential of investigation (Workplace Investigation Toolkit) very helpful as I had to investigate a member of staff. They were especially useful in helping me prepare for the meeting and shape the manner of the investigation as they allowed a more structured approach’. An Employer – September 2012.
‘I think it is a good succinct pointer for managers to use for investigative meetings. Luckily, we don’t have to carry out many of these, but it is a tool that I may use in the future’. Another Employer. 2012.
Employers, UK wide, find they are required to deal with complex and contentious Employee Relations issues on a daily basis. In a high percentage of cases an internal investigation is necessary. An employer does not need to be in receipt of a formal complaint in order to trigger (under their duty of care), a full investigation. Indeed, the employer has an unequivocal duty to investigate promptly and thoroughly as soon as the employer is ‘put on notice’ of an alleged wrongdoing. Case Law: Hardage v CBS Broad (2005).
All investigations need to be carried out with integrity, fairness, impartiality and respect. Facts need to be gathered to determine the merit of the case and the process needs to comply with statutory employment laws and in-house policies – maintaining confidentiality and preserving the reputation of the individuals, and the company, in every respect.
Our Government encourages employers to call on an Independent Investigator where there are allegations of abuse, bullying at the workplace, harassment at work or discrimination in the workplace. As more and more employees latch on to the Dispute Resolution Reforms, employers will find that they are required to undertake an `independent’ and wholly impartial, grievance or disciplinary investigation.
Whether you are an Employee looking at this site to seek some investigation guidance, or an Employer seeking external support on how to conduct an investigation or with disciplinary and/or grievance issues, we can help you.
We at HR & Diversity Management Ltd claim to be one of the UK’s most experienced organisations carrying out Investigations into issues and problems at work. So, let us substantiate our claims from the experience we have gained over the last two decades of working in this arena.
We hope to demonstrate below just how thorough and comprehensive our approach is to this extraordinarily complex and sensitive area of working life. It is important to note that over 80% of our clients prefer to remain anonymous (where we have been able to conduct investigations for them). Nevertheless, Testimonials are available on this site and some of our clients are prepared to provide an ‘off-line’ confidential reference. Further, we would be happy to enter into a ‘non-obligatory’ discussion with you to talk about ways we can help.
A Report & Recommendations Paper from us, following a thorough and truly independent corporate investigation into issues in workplace, will enable you to move on and will act as a defence for any employer, at the end of the day. It’s a WIN-WIN.
1. Our Government encourages this approach to reduce abuse, conflicts, bullying, harassment and all other workplace issues.
2. Employers welcome this approach and can ‘stand back’ and get on with the running of the business.
3. Employees welcome this approach in the knowledge that their concerns are being addressed without bias and
4. Trade Unions have been urging Employers to use independent investigators for decades!
The three primary reasons to investigate are;
to identify risk,
to abide by the employment law and other UK legislation and
to ensure your employee’s feel safe in the knowledge that they are working in a stress free, risk free, environment.
Tick those boxes and Employee Relations should be both manageable and pleasurable.
A key, most important, aspect of conflict at workplace is that the alleged victim feels that the Company is taking a responsible attitude towards his/her complaint and the bully is not accused, judged, nor treated less favourably through the process. This is a fine balancing act – and a typical line manager, with the best will in the world, will struggle.
This is a contentious arena. It is imperative that the line manager understands labour law, the business risks and what s/he need to do. Interview techniques need to be appropriate to circumstances and in-house and statutory processes need to be adhered to and carefully documented. It may be that the complaint is one of a minor nature – and that the matter can be quickly ‘nipped in the bud’ or resolved by simply listening and taking sensible, appropriate, action. If this is not the case, tread carefully !
TRIGGERS / WARNING SIGNS
In our experience, where a person, or more frequently a group of persons, is preventing one or more people from carrying out their job function to 100% of their capability – concerns are usually raised. Where a person is caused undue work stress and anxiety and/or humiliation, or where employee’s lose self respect, experience a loss of appetite for anything including food and sleep or find it difficult to meet deadlines – concerns are usually raised.
An observant employer will record absence and staff turnover (labour turnover) statistics. A negative change in these is a good indicator that something is very wrong. Where statistics drop to an alarming rate, an employer does not need to wait for an employee grievance, or a collective complaint from a team or department, to hit the desk of the HR manager or CEO. It is time to investigate !
This is a key definition of workplace malpractice, or bullying at the workplace, as it is more commonly known.
This gives us the first of several issues to the employer:
POOR PERFORMANCE: Anyone, not performing at 100% of their capability is costing the organisation money. Is it quantifiable? Probably not easily, but is it acceptable – definitely not.
COLLECTIVE BULLYING: A department or team, or group of employees (collective bullying) may be a cause for concern ie: the bully or group of bullies are disrupting the workforce and are not working at 100% of output. Again cost to the employer.
STRESS, ABSENTEISM, STAFF TURNOVER: An increase in work or job related stress, absenteeism or turnover (leavers) of staff – all gives rise to dissatisfaction to the end user and will impact detrimentally on an entire workforce or organisation.
MORALE: Low morale gives rise to concern as staff leave the operation, possibly giving fictitious reasons for leaving just so that they can get away without hassle. Exit Interviews are imperative.
BAD PUBLICITY: The office ‘grapevine’ can be more effective than a Company Newsletter – and can cause considerable damage to the business. Stories of bullying in the workplace spread fast, bad news travels all too quickly internally and even more so if it goes external and the media gets hold of it. This can create significant hidden cost to the employer and embarrassment to Trustees/Shareholders.
PROCESS & PREPARATION
Having decided to carry out a corporate investigation, one of the first big decisions you will have to make is how to conduct an investigation, whether to appoint an internal or an external investigator.
Give careful thought as to who should conduct the investigation. Use multiple investigators in complex cases. Consider an external investigator if you do not have the necessary skills in-house. All investigations must be completed by a trained and competent, independent, investigator who has the ability to ensure integrity, fairness, impartiality and respect. If a line manager is implicated in a case, in any way, s/he should not be allowed to influence the process.
We set out the pro’s nad con’s of both approaches (below).
We have written a 20-Step IDRM (Investigation Dispute Resolution Model) that you can use as a guide should you decide to conduct the investigation in-house. It sets out a Step-by-Step guide for managers, incorporating template letters, interviewing templates, consent letters, a model report & recommendation paper and lots of other useful documents. Email email@example.com for your copy.
Whatever you decide to do, the process followed needs to be thorough and the corporate investigator appointed must have the right level of business acumen and expertise. Remember, in the aftermath of an investigation, an aggrieved employee will appeal or, worse, trigger legal action. Bear this in mind. If you are apprehensive about conducting the investigation yourselves, call us.
Whichever approach you apply, after the ‘appointed investigator’ has interviewed the parties concerned, s/he must insure that the HR department within your company is made fully aware of : the detail of the complainants concern, the response of the alleged bully or bullies, facts and evidence produced, impact on bystanders and staff in general, any business risk, relevant case law, the next stage including remedies and recommended actions to take.
It is important that between the time when the manager interviews both the target/complainant and the bully and the time when the HR department can be seen to be taking action, that the line manager prevents further friction taking place.
Where one or more employees are accused of bullying at work, misconduct or discrimination in the workplace – take particular care as recent Case Law states that an Employer may be found to be vicariously liable in such a circumstance.
INTERNAL OR EXTERNAL INVESTIGATOR
HR&DM normally gets called in to sort things out after the employer has tolerated conflicts for a long period of time. We are talking about years in many cases. Let us examine why?
First, it costs money to call in an outside organisation, whatever the cost. Rarely does the organisation look at the financial impact of continuing with the state of affairs as indicated above.
Secondly, executive management believes it can rely on operational management to contain the situation. This may or may not happen, and if it doesn’t and personnel leave, more cost is incurred in rehiring as above.
Third, the HR department is directed to contain the issue and they may or may not resolve the problem. Certainly if they have not been trained in employment law work or do not have a proven methodology to work to, it is unlikely that an acceptable resolution will be effected.
Fourth, the bully may be identified, but the organisation feels it is powerless to take disciplinary action:
• The bully is a key player in the progress of the company.
• The bully may make a significant financial contribution to operational performance
• The bully may have strong external contacts that are needed by the organisation
• S(he) may be thought of as irreplaceable
Fifth, unbelievably, it might be seen as an issue that will go away or resolve itself given time.
Finally, however, an incident happens, or an executive decides that the signs of bullying have to end and wants to call in an outside third party who, it is believed, can effect a resolution. But, of course finance rears its head again. Even with highly qualified consultants who can get to the bottom of issues very quickly using many years of experience. Hopefully they will have a proven methodology that enables them to reach all aspects of a case quickly, but it is likely to cost around £10,000, or more in a large complicated case with many witnesses to be interviewed.
However, against this in all cases that finally get through to Tribunal, NOT ONE, win or lose, has cost less than the average £10,000. The average cost to the Employer is approx £18,000, before taking into account significant awards if the Tribunal finds against.
Most exceed £50,000, many exceed £100,000 and some even into millions of pounds.
Consider the recent case involving BT where the award was just under £300,000 and, allegedly, BT had settled ‘out of court’ with seven other employees.
So, from a financial point of view alone, the sooner an issue of conflict and conflict resolution is addressed, the lesser the financial impact.
Some of the difficulties in carrying out full investigation, especially for the inexperienced investigator are:
• Economies of truth in statements made by witnesses.
• Reliance on hearsay
• Witness statements changing depending on the end audience
• Lack of hard evidence to support witness statements
• Conflicting evidence
• The presence, or lack of presence, of Trade Union representatives, some of whom overstep their responsibilities
• Pressure from the employer in findings and timescales
• Historical precedence
• Weak policies and procedures by the employer
• Reporting findings accurately and concisely
• Making recommendations within a legal framework
• Presenting the findings to both executive management for action and the employees for their acceptance
In summary a good investigator, certainly those at HR&DM, should provide the employer with:
- A high level of expertise gained from technical qualifications
- Experience gained over 10+ years in carrying out bullying in the workplace investigations
- A thorough knowledge of Employment Law work
- A concise report giving full recommendations as to what the employer should do to resolve this situation
- Recommendations as to future changes in operating policies and procedures to avoid a repeat of the issues under consideration
The work done by HR&DM over 10 years has mainly been in the Public Sectors although we have worked in the Private sector also. Within the Public Sector many cases have been for stress in the NHS and employee conflict resolution in other Public Sector operations (Education, County Council’s etc). However, we acknowledge the financial pressure the NHS Trusts are currently under and believe the NHS is doing an excellent job to which we are happy to contribute. See Testimonials.
First and foremost, take the decision that you accept that it could happen in your organisation. By all means call us for a FREE consultation on how to get started. This could be the most important factor of all, especially if you are a responsible manager.
WE CAN HELP – Telephone 07734 701221.
INTERNAL INVESTIGATION – WITH A LITTLE BIT OF HELP
Organisations that wish to carry out their own internal investigations but find that complainants are rejecting findings on the grounds of bias: Well they would find in favour of their employer wouldn’t they?
HR&DM understands this and is now proposing to support organisations through internal investigations.
We will work with you “just as much, or as little” as your needs dictate. This will mean that in future, organisations will be able to cut the costs of a full outsourced investigation but still see the benefits of an unbiased finding.
For each organisation that wishes to take part HR&DM will:
1. Provide a 1 day training course on how to carry out a full investigation using the copyrighted ’20 step Investigation & Dispute Resolution Model – IDRM’. The course will be delivered by an HR&DM experienced investigator.
2. Delegates will also be given a FREE copy of the 20 Step IDRM.
3. During each investigation HR&DM staff will be available to give full operational support, or telephone support as required.
4. When the investigation has been concluded, an HR&DM investigator will audit the findings to ensure that there is no bias and that the investigation has followed the ’20 Step IDRM’. This step is vitally important to ensure that the complainant becomes fully aware that there has been no bias in the findings and that all recommendations can be fully justified.
If this is of interest please call us on 07734 701221
Employment Tribunals place a very high expectation on employers to demonstrate that they understand and practice a fair and thorough investigation process when dealing with staff conduct, conflicts or employee complaints. The process of investigating can be daunting for the inexperienced manager, time consuming to all and both costly and distracting to the business. If the investigation is carried out promptly and properly a potentially contentious situation can be minimised very quickly and effectively .
The 20-Step Model for Workplace Investigations will help employers understand legal and best practice requirements and leave them with the skills and techniques required to manage difficult situations in the workplace. Line managers, in particular, will benefit from reading this guide. It is essential that every employer recognises what an important tool workplace investigations can be – in discovering problems, identifying solutions and preventing their recurrence and therefore risk to the business.
Our Investigation Guide is now available. Ask for a copy of our 20-Step IDRM. It is a ‘soup to nuts’ manual for managers containing case law, up to date employment labour law and template letters. Call 07734 701221 for details. (Hot off the press, this will be down-loadable soon).
One of the outcomes following an investigation may be Mediation. We provide a Mentoring/Mediation service and have been recommended to employers by ACAS. Our success rate is high. We can help to resolve issues between Employers/Employees without resorting to expensive legal fees or worse, an Employment Tribunal hearing. Remember it costs only a phone call to talk.
WE CAN HELP – Telephone 07734 701221.
We are running Employment Investigation Workshops (subject to availability) at very competitive rates. These Workshops will provide HR teams, line managers, supervisors, department heads, team leaders, Trade Union Representatives etc., (you) with the knowledge and tools to enable your organisation to conduct a professionally structured, legally compliant, grievance & disciplinary investigation. Recently, we have been running a series of workshops across the NHS.
Our Grievance and Disciplinary Investigation Training Course is based on our 20-Step Model and will apply in both the Public and Private Sector. This 1 day course focuses on the Grievance and Disciplinary Investigations and sets out a 20-Step procedure for HR and line managers to follow. The training includes Case Law, Employment Law work, in-house policies, confidentiality and Data Protection, performance management, capability versus conduct, bullying and harassment in the workplace, collective bullying and collusion – and external factors to consider that may account for irrational workplace conduct.
Managers are left with sample letters and procedures to follow which will give them the knowledge, confidence and tools to enable them to manage problems at work.
Very many organisations, especially in the Public sector, have conflict in the workplace. How do we know? Because ‘survey after survey’ comes up with the same statistic; 1 in 4 persons in employment today are affected by bullying or harassment.
Now it is possible that your organisation doesn’t have this problem, but that is highly unlikely. Pick up the phone TODAY. Call 07734 701221 and talk to one of our advisers, in confidence, about what could be happening, what it could be costing YOU and how we can help YOU to eradicate unwelcome conflict within your organisation.