There is (arguably) nothing more frustrating from an employment lawyer's perspective than a client coming to you for advice/support at the stage where they've already had a formal disciplinary or grievance hearing with an individual and you discovering that the underlying investigation underpinning that process is flawed in some material way.
There is a common misconception that what is said and done at that final hearing (and in the outcome letter which flows from it) is the most important part of the whole process by far. Whilst it's undeniably very significant, the reality is that if such formal process is based on a shaky foundation of a poorly conducted investigation then you may end up with an unfair outcome which is wide open to challenge no matter how well those final stages are managed or how eloquently the outcome letter is put together.
Conversely, if an initial investigation is exceptionally well done (and the findings well documented and presented as if to be viewed by someone with no existing knowledge of the company, it's procedures, or the members of staff involved), then that can save a client from significant exposure in a subsequent employment tribunal even if the formal hearing (and the outcome letter which flows from it) is managed very poorly.
Foot Anstey Senior Associate Kathryn Evens has therefore summarized some useful top tips here for businesses to follow to ensure that they start from the right foot when undertaking any internal investigations.
An effective initial investigation will give you a more complete picture of the facts and an understanding of how your policies apply to those facts, and will increase the chances that you adopt a fair process and reach a fair outcome.