Disciplinary Investigation

Here are steps on how to conduct disciplinary investigations within your business

First published on Thursday, Aug 05, 2021

Last updated on Friday, Dec 03, 2021

You have a duty to look into complaints made by your staff, and take appropriate action using a disciplinary process.

One of the early stages of the disciplinary procedure is the investigation phase. This is where you compile evidence and try to get to the bottom of what’s happened.

Failing to follow the correct disciplinary procedure could result in you being taken to an employment tribunal. Where you might have to pay out compensation and your decision could be reversed.

In this guide, we’ll cover how to conduct a disciplinary investigation, the types of evidence to collect and questions to ask when interviewing those involved.

What is a disciplinary investigation?

A disciplinary investigation is where you attempt to establish the facts regarding misconduct.

Examples of when you may need to start an investigation include, but are not limited to:

You must follow a fair procedure when conducting a disciplinary investigation. The steps you’ve taken will be reviewed if the case reaches an employment tribunal.

How to conduct a disciplinary investigation

It’s vital that your procedure is in line with the acas disciplinary investigation process laid out in their Code of Practice.

Before the investigation begins you should:

  1. Determine who will carry out the investigation.
  2. Make an investigation plan of what will be reviewed, such as who to speak to and time limits.
  3. Inform relevant employees that you’re opening an investigation.
  4. Decide whether to suspend an employee while the investigation is ongoing.

The investigation should be carried out by someone who’s not involved in the case, for example, another manager.

Where possible, they should be trained in handling disciplinary and grievance matters.

During the investigation you should:

  1. Follow any workplace policies you have for disciplinaries or grievances.
  2. Get as much information as is reasonable.
  3. Gather evidence from both sides, rather than trying to prove guilt.
  4. Keep the case confidential.

Types of evidence for disciplinary investigation

You’ll gather lots of information to help you reach a decision on disciplinary action.

This evidence can come in various forms, such as:

  • Interviews with employees.
  • Witness statements.
  • Emails.
  • Paperwork and digital records.
  • Phone records.
  • CCTV footage.
  • Attendance records.

You should review the disciplinary or grievance claim and decide on the types of evidence to gather when making your investigation plan.

How to conduct a disciplinary investigation interview

You may need to hold interviews with the staff involved when gathering evidence.

At this stage, you should make it clear that the meeting is an investigatory interview, not a disciplinary interview.

During the investigation interview, you should:

  • Tell the employee what you believe happened and let them respond.
  • Stick to the facts and avoid assumptions or opinions.
  • Make sure to go through the whole story.
  • Question any discrepancies between different versions of events.
  • Ensure the employee gives detailed answers to all questions.
  • Avoid turning the interview into a disciplinary hearing.

You must remain open minded and listen to all sides of the story.

The purpose of an investigatory interview is to gather information on the alleged incidents. Whereas, a disciplinary interview is used to decide on the outcome once your investigation is complete.

Disciplinary investigation meeting question examples

You should prepare a list of disciplinary investigation questions to ask the employee.

There should be a range of broad questions and those more specific to the incident. This will help you to gather enough evidence to make a decision.

  • What happened?
  • What was the time and date of the first incident?
  • How many times did this happen?
  • Where did it happen?
  • How did it happen?
  • Was anyone else present when it happened? Who?
  • How did you respond to the incident or behaviour?
  • How did they react to your response?
  • Did you report the issue to management? What did they say and/or do?
  • Did you tell anyone else about the issue? Who?
  • Has the subject of the allegation been involved in any other incidents?
  • Is there anyone else who I should speak to about this incident?
  • Is there anything else you want to tell me that I haven’t asked?

You may also have to interview witnesses. A witness can be someone who was present for the incident, or someone that heard about the incident after it happened.

Witnesses can help to corroborate the information provided when interviewing those involved in the complaint. You should ask them the same questions to ensure the stories line up.

A witness may be reluctant to help with an investigation. If this happens, you should try to find out why, and resolve their concerns.

Unfair disciplinary investigation

The law states that employers must hold as much investigation as is “reasonable in all circumstances”.

It can be hard to know what that means, but broadly it means that more serious allegations will need more thorough investigation.

If you don’t conduct a suitable investigation before making your decision, or hold a disciplinary without investigation, the employee could bring forward an employment tribunal claim - especially if you’ve dismissed the employee.

An employment tribunal could result in costly fines, or a reversal of any decisions made at the disciplinary hearing.

Get help with your disciplinary investigation today with BrightHR

There are two sides to every story. You need to make sure you have all the facts when faced with a disciplinary or grievance.

You could face serious legal issues, if you attempt to discipline an employee without completing a proper investigation first.

BrightHR’s HR management software can assist with your investigation. Our unlimited HR document storage will keep all of your documents securely stored in the cloud.

And the Blip clocking in app stores all of your attendance data in one easy to read dashboard, allowing you to start gathering evidence in minutes.

Book in a free demo today to see just how easy it is to manage HR with our app. Give us a call on 0800 783 2806.

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