Investigating workplace misconduct – how to get it right
When investigating workplace misconduct, how can organisations make sure they get it right? It is not enough for management simply to state that the allegations have been dealt with, and to hope that this will be enough to reassure staff that they have been taken seriously. Allegations of serious workplace misconduct need to be investigated thoroughly and following the correct guidance ensures the investigation is fair and robust, avoiding criticism by employees and employment tribunals.
In 2020, the chief executive of the Jockey Club resigned after an independent inquiry confirmed allegations against her of bullying, racist comments and the circulation of offensive material. In normal circumstances that might have been the end of the matter for the Jockey Club.
However, the Daily Telegraph reported that some of the Jockey Club’s members were planning to ask the organisation for clear evidence that recent allegations of inappropriate behaviour have been properly investigated. Staff had complained about sexism, misogyny, racism and bullying and will be pressing senior executives to show how the complaints were dealt with.
The Jockey Club has said that that all the complaints were investigated thoroughly, but some members are apparently still concerned about how these investigations were conducted. They are also reported to be asking how informal grievances and concerns have been addressed in the past.
Concerns can still linger about a lack of transparency if it is not clear how issues were investigated and what actions were taken as a result. This is especially true if specific allegations about individuals reflected wider concerns in the workforce.
The impact of improperly investigating workplace misconduct
If a workplace misconduct investigation is not handled properly it can have detrimental effects on an organisation as well as its employees:
- Loss of trust: Employees may lose trust in the management and may feel that their concerns are not taken seriously. This can lead to low morale and high turnover rates.
- Legal issues: If a workplace misconduct investigation is poorly handled, it can open the company up to legal action.
- Damage to reputation: If the news of misconduct spreads outside the workplace, it can damage the company’s reputation.
- Decreased productivity: A poorly handled workplace investigation can lead to a decrease in productivity as employees become distracted and worried about its outcome.
- Cultural impact: Workplace misconduct can impact the company culture. If employees feel their concerns are not being taken seriously, it can lead to a culture of fear and silence.
There is a balance to be struck between respecting the privacy of individuals in an investigation and publishing the details of the process that was followed. Our approach at Verita is to investigate issues thoroughly and to produce reports that show our workings.
Setting out how the investigation has been commissioned, specified and conducted is an important element in ensuring that the investigation has been well managed. We know that it is always possible that our reports could be published, so it is important for us to ensure that our evidence, analysis and conclusions can stand up to internal and external scrutiny.
Our workplace investigations training course is CPD accredited and is the ideal way for HR and line managers to develop the key skills they need to conduct investigations into workplace misconduct. The training can be personalised to fit with any organisation’s existing HR policies and procedures.