Addressing workplace investigations and grievances is a task that often falls on the shoulders of senior managers and business owners. However, handling situations where you find yourself as the subject of an investigation can be daunting. Thoughts of potential implications such as damaging your reputation, losing respect from others, and being demoted from your leadership role can be overwhelming.

Nevertheless, there’s no need to fear – navigating a delicate situation with the support of an experienced HR adviser will help to put you at ease. At MAD-HR, we are dedicated to ensuring that your grievance investigations run as smoothly as possible.

In this blog, we will discuss the most effective approach to conducting your grievance investigations, to ensure you feel confident to handle them appropriately and avoid those restless nights.

Understanding the Grievance Investigation Process

A grievance investigation is a formal procedure initiated when a grievance is raised in the workplace. This can typically be a complaint about a colleague, working conditions, or an organisational policy. Grievance investigations aim to establish the facts with physical evidence, determine the validity of the complaint, and decide on appropriate actions moving forward. Depending on the nature of the case, the timeframe of how long a grievance investigation can take is usually between one and four weeks.

The Three Key Elements of a Grievance Investigation

  1. Physical Evidence: Depending on the nature of the grievance, appropriate physical evidence such as emails, reports, or surveillance footage may be collected.
  2. Witness Statements: Detailed statements from witnesses provide an additional perspective and evidence.
  3. The Grievance Investigation Meeting: Relevant data is collated and discussed with the complainant, witnesses, and the accused present.

Initial Response and Emotional Reactions

Firstly, when acknowledging the grievance, ensure to respond as soon as possible to show the complainant that the matter has been taken seriously. However, in situations of misconduct, our immediate response tends to be emotional. This is natural!

Feelings of shock, disbelief, distress, or anger can overwhelm us – this can trigger responses that are completely out of the ordinary for you. Nevertheless, it is vital not to allow our emotions to control our composure and actions.

Instead, it is important to take a moment to pause, breathe, and consult the issue with your HR advisor. Assessing the situation, with the evidence at hand, to discuss whether an informal resolution or a formal investigation is required is essential. Rushed reactions and decisions can have legal consequences for you and your company in the future.

Despite being aware of this, please do not completely disregard your emotions. Your well-being is just as important to take care of during these stressful times. Always try to communicate openly with your HR advisor, and let them know how you are feeling, as they can provide you with options of essential support for your mental health and well-being.

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Planning the Investigation and Conducting Due Diligence

It is important to outline the steps you will be taking before starting the investigation, including who will be interviewed and what evidence will need to be collected before gathering any other relevant information, such as witness statements and physical evidence.

To begin with, it is important to avoid any predeterminations of the outcome or rush into investigations that align with personal views of the situation. The ACAS Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures will be your best friend to help guide you on your first steps.

Remember, investigations aim to establish the facts to ensure fairness for all parties, so please do collect as much evidence as you can that will protect everyone involved.

Maintaining impartiality is key, especially in smaller organisations where there are direct reporting lines to senior management. In such cases, it would be beneficial to enlist an external investigator and to offer employee support services, such as a counselling helpline.

Before investigating, it is important to grasp a thorough understanding of employment law. When planning the grievance investigation process, ensure that every step complies with the relevant laws and your organisational policies to prevent any potential legal consequences, such as an employment tribunal.

An employment tribunal is a legal body that resolves issues between employers and employees in reference to employment laws. Common issues that can lead to an employment tribunal include wage disputes, unfair dismissals, and redundancy claims.

Therefore, it is crucial to be aware of the employment law updates that are being made in 2024. This highlights why it is so important to consider being advised by an HR expert, as potential repercussions can occur if these laws are not followed effectively.

Grievance Investigation Interview

The investigation meetings should be conducted in the presence of the complainant, the accused, and any witnesses. Ensure to prepare your grievance investigation questions in advance for thorough and consistent information gathering. Questions such as ‘What is the nature of the grievance?’ and ‘What impact has the grievance had on the complainant?’ can be used.

Working Toward Resolution

When analysing all the data collected for the case, identify any inconsistencies that may need to be reviewed. While writing up the grievance investigation report, ensure it remains detailed and factual, including all the data, to reach a conclusion.

When creating the report, you can use this framework:

  • Introduction and nature of the grievance
  • Methodology (investigation process)
  • Findings Summary (witness statements and physical evidence)
  • Analysis (evaluation of all the evidence)
  • Conclusion (determination of the grievance’s validity)
  • Recommendations (suggested further actions)

Suspension, often seen as a neutral measure, should be considered a last resort. Alternative solutions should be explored, such as remote work arrangements, to minimise disruptions to your team. Acknowledging and addressing any impacts on the team or department is crucial when reviewing the conclusion of the investigation.

Disciplinary Actions

If the investigation hearing concludes that disciplinary action is warranted, a further disciplinary investigation of the grievance should be pursued. Once the second investigation has taken place, a further report and hearing must be conducted to consider the findings and allow the accused to respond to the evidence presented. From there, an agreement on a fair and final outcome should be decided while ensuring you stay compliant with the relevant policies and disciplinary procedures of your organisation.

Communicating the Outcome to Your Team

To create a positive working environment post-investigation, transparency with your team is vital. While maintaining confidentiality, redefine acceptable workplace behaviour with open and frequent communications with your team and conduct cultural reviews. This will reassure your team that action has been taken, and you have a commitment to progression and improving your business culture.

Seeking Professional Guidance

As you navigate the complexities of grievance resolution within your organisation, it is important that you do not face these challenges alone. At MAD-HR, we specialise in providing comprehensive solutions tailored to your unique company needs. Our team of award-winning HR experts are dedicated to supporting you every step of the way, from initial consultations to implementing effective strategies for conflict resolution.

MAD-HR can offer you access to a wealth of knowledge and resources through our Toolkit designed to foster positive workplace cultures and ensure fair and reasonable outcomes for all parties involved. We offer further guidance through our Helpline where our HR specialists can support you to navigate grievances with confidence and with ease. We welcome any business size or sector, so please do not hesitate to contact us today for expert assistance with your grievance investigations.

Frequently Asked Questions

Useful questions and answers about “Grievance Investigations – Emotional Support for Managers”

How long should a grievance investigation take?

There is no prescribed duration for a grievance investigation unless the Company has included a specific timescale within their policy. The investigation must however be undertaken without unreasonable delay. The time needed will vary based on the complexity of the grievance.

How do I conduct a grievance investigation?

Meet with the employee to fully understand their grievance, ensure that they are invited to the meeting and offered their right of accompaniment. Meet with any other relevant parties or witnesses if needed and consider any relevant policies, procedures, documents and records. Consider all of the information and then confirm your findings to the employee in writing, offering them a right of appeal.

How do I write a grievance investigation report?

There is not a required format for an investigation report, but it is helpful for it to be clear and structured. You may want to consider the following as a guide: Introduction: Summary and purpose. Background: Details of the grievance, relevant policies. Investigation process: Summarise the investigation activity. Findings: Evidence summary. Conclusions: Findings and determination. Recommendations: Actions and policy changes. Appendices: Supporting documents.