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Disciplinary Investigations – Top tips

As all employers will appreciate, it is vital in any disciplinary investigation that a balanced and fair investigation process is carried out. But this is particularly important where there are allegations of serious misconduct which could lead to dismissal and potentially a claim for unfair dismissal.

Below we set out some key points that employers should keep in mind during the investigatory stage of a disciplinary process:


  • Where an employee claims unfair dismissal in the employment tribunal (tribunal), the tribunal will carefully consider the investigation carried out by an employer when deciding whether a dismissal process is fair.  If the tribunal considers an investigation is one sided or insufficient they are very likely to consider any resulting dismissal to be unfair.


  • A tribunal will consider the size and resources of an employer when deciding whether an investigation is fair. Clearly in very small businesses it may not be practical to have separate managers investigating and conducting a disciplinary process.  However, tribunals would usually expect that the manager to be appointed as an investigating officer will not be involved in any subsequent disciplinary process to ensure independence at the investigation stage.


  • Establish the key facts- what are the allegations against the employee? Do not get bogged down in irrelevant detail which does not relate to the key allegations.
  • Adopt a fair and consistent approach- the amount of investigation required will depend on the extent and seriousness of the allegations.  The more serious the allegation is, the more thorough an investigation should be.
  • The process should also be concluded efficiently and within a reasonable period of time. Always keep the employee updated on any delay.
  • Look for evidence both for and against the employee, not just against.
  • A thorough investigation is likely to include, at the very least, interviews with the employee and colleagues/witnesses and may also require a review of records/documents etc.

If you’re dealing with a difficult disciplinary matter, feel free to contact us on 0191 282 2880 for a no obligation chat or email us for further advice.

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