For the most part, being under investigation at work is an incredibly stressful situation to find yourself in. It can make you feel at risk of losing your job or, in a worst-case scenario, worrying that you might face prosecution.
We know this is a tough time. But don’t sit back. There are things you can do if you are under investigation at work to stand yourself the best chance of clearing your name and turning the situation around.
When can my employer begin an investigation against me at work?
An investigation at work will begin when someone raises a formal grievance against you or you are given a formal disciplinary.
In order for an investigation to begin, one of these two things must happen.
Your employer cannot just announce they are launching an investigation into you if there are no grounds and without following a set procedure, so you should have seen an investigation coming in some form.
Why am I facing an investigation at work?
You are likely facing an investigation at work because either a colleague raised a grievance against you or you were given a formal disciplinary by your employer or the relevant HR department.
This could be because:
- your performance has dropped,
- you have committed an act of misconduct, such as unacceptable or improper behaviour,
- you are frequently absent from work.
When this happens, your company must follow a set of rules before they can take any action against you. Often, this involves an investigation.
What happens if my employer investigates me?
If your employer is investigating you, they will have to follow the correct process. This involves:
- telling you why an investigation is taking place,
- assuring you that the details of the investigation are confidential,
- let you know who is handling the investigation,
- tell you what they plan to do as part of the investigation,
- tell you how long it will take,
- inform you of what they will do next,
- let you know if they will be speaking to any witnesses.
If they are suspending you, they will need to:
- Tell you why you are being suspended,
- explain that it doesn’t mean you are guilty,
- keep the suspension as confidential as possible,
- keep your suspension as short as possible,
- explain any rules (e.g do not discuss this with your colleagues)
- tell you who you can speak to about it,
- support your wellbeing throughout.
What should I do if I am under investigation at work?
If you are under investigation at work, there are several things you can do, depending on why you are under investigation.
First, though you do not have a legal right to be accompanied to any investigation meetings, it is good practice for your employer to let you have someone with you. Ask, and if they say no then keep a record of this rejection in writing.
Note that you yourself do not have to attend investigation meetings, but doing so will likely help your case. The person conducting the investigation should do everything they possibly can to make sure you can attend the meetings, even if this means hosting them elsewhere.
Your employer has a duty to make sure the investigation is fair, whether you are present or not. Keep a note of anything they do that makes you believe they are not investigating impartially.
If you are found guilty and disciplined or if you are dismissed due to misconduct, your employer must:
- give you an outline of the misconduct or performance problem,
- give you a copy of the investigation report,
- give you any written evidence, including witness statements,
- let you know what they plan to bring up in any meetings regarding this,
- tell you when your hearing will be held,
- let you know what types of people you are allowed to bring to your hearing (you are allowed a companion at this point).
If you are being investigated at work, it is very important you do not panic. The investigation could take several weeks. Stressing is not going to help you.
You should think very carefully about how you are going to respond to allegations against you. A solicitor can help you here. Your employer is required to give you information about the investigation and a solicitor will know what information they must provide and how to respond to it in a way that works in your favour
It might be difficult to cooperate, but you should. Attend as many meetings as you can and remain optimistic and helpful. Do not withhold information. Again, a solicitor will help you frame things in a way that is helpful.
You should also remain confidential. It might be your instinct to immediately disclose what is happening to other colleagues and friends, but this might help the case against you.
We recommend soliciting the help of a lawyer. They’ll know what signs to look out for that could get the investigation thrown out altogether, such as bias researching, failing to gather all relevant information, inadequate documentation of the investigation, not following the correct policies or procedures, and taking insufficient steps to resolve the issue identified for investigation.
JMR Solicitors can help if you are being investigated at work
To speak to us about your case, email email@example.com, or call 0161 491 3933.