Carrying out an investigation at your nursery
When an incident occurs in your nursery it’s difficult sometimes to know if any disciplinary action is required. Investigations are held to clarify and establish the facts of an individual case and to assist in a decision as to whether there are grounds to call a disciplinary hearing, or dismiss a member of staff.
It is important to carry out investigations of any potential disciplinary matters without unreasonable delay. Once you have completed the investigation you will then know if any further disciplinary action is required.
First of all you need to take steps to establish all the facts surrounding the incident, including any mitigating circumstances. The course of the investigation will vary, depending on the particulars of each case. However, the following should be considered.
- Decide who will conduct the investigation. Whenever possible, a different manager should conduct the investigation from the manager who will conduct any disciplinary hearing that may become necessary.
- Review whether the employee should be suspended while the matter is being investigated. Suspension will normally only be appropriate in cases of negligence or gross misconduct. Remember you must still pay employees if they are suspended.
- Interview witnesses. This should be done as soon as possible to ensure the incident is recalled accurately. Ideally written signed statements should be obtained from each witness.
- Obtain any other evidence that may be available.
- In some cases, this will require the holding of an investigatory meeting with the employee to establish their version of eventsbefore proceeding to any disciplinary hearing. In others, the investigatory stage will be the collation of evidence by the employer for use at any disciplinary hearing.
- There is no statutory right for an employee to be accompanied at a formal investigatory meeting.
- When investigating a disciplinary matter take care to deal with the employee in a fair and reasonable manner. The nature and extent of the investigations will depend on the seriousness of the matter and the more serious it is then the more thorough the investigation should be.
- It is important to keep an open mind and look for evidence which supports the employee’s case as well as evidence against.
- When holding a meeting give the employee advance warning and time to prepare. Any investigatory meeting should be confined to establishing the facts of the case.
- It is important that disciplinary action is not considered at an investigatory meeting. Don’t let this meeting turn into a disciplinary hearing. If it becomes apparent that formal disciplinary action may be needed then this should be dealt with at a formal meeting at which the employee will have the statutory right to be accompanied.
Remember as the employer you could be held liable if a poor investigation leads to an unfair dismissal which can prove very costly in an Employment Tribunal.