IOLIS Legal Services

Workplace Investigations

Getting to the bottom of things

Investigating a grievance or disciplinary matter may not be as straight forward as it looks. Getting an investigation wrong could be costly. Find out more about how we can help.

Call us on 029 2000 2339 or email to find out more about this service

What is a workplace investigation?

Life isn’t always straightforward, especially in business. If employee’s raise a grievance, whistle blow on other employees, or have behaved in a way that is against your policies or even in a criminal manner then you will need to follow a well-established and fair process to resolve the issue. To get to the truth, you may need to undertake an investigation into the events and circumstances.
A workplace investigation is a process that is used to determine the facts of a matter and includes looking at documentary evidence and talking to those who are involved. It doesn’t seek to confirm or deny any accusation, simply to establish facts and to decide if there is enough evidence to proceed to a formal or informal disciplinary process.

Why do an investigation?

If you don't thoroughly research issues, you run a lot of risks. The first is the possibility of a legal challenge, most typically for unfair dismissal based on the failure to follow a fair procedure, which can result in a 25% increase in compensation payments.

How much investigation is needed?

According to case law, an investigation should be conducted that is "reasonable in all the circumstances." In practise, this means that the severity of the concerns under investigation should be taken into account; the more serious the issues are, the more thorough the investigation is required. The inquiry should be thorough enough to determine the substance of the allegations.

How might a DIY investigation go wrong?

The stakes of conducting a flawed workplace investigation are high. The applicant may utilise procedural flaws to discredit the employer's actions in an appeal or in an Employment Tribunal. Even if the employer acted in good faith, the failure to conduct a thorough and reasonable investigation is the Achilles heel that can lead to a costly settlement or the loss of a case.
The Employment Tribunals use a test known as "The Burchell Test" to determine whether an employer fired a worker fairly after a reasonable investigation. You often read about the reputational and financial damage caused by a botched workplace probe in the media. Problems with the quality of an investigation can also lead to flawed decisions being made, with decision makers taking into account the conclusions and recommendations of the investigation.

What causes employers to make mistakes?

• Ineffective planning and ambiguous terms of reference
• Communication with the parties and suspensions were poorly managed.
• Using poorly qualified (or worse, untrained) internal investigators who have a million and one other things to do
• Investigations that take an excessive amount of time to finish
• Reports that are poorly prepared and include unclear or obscure findings

We frequently hear accounts of HR functioning as the investigator, the employer's adviser, and the final judgments panel in smaller firms with only one HR worker or an external HR consultant. HR effectively takes on the roles of judge, jury, and executioner. Conflicts of interest are readily apparent.
magnifying glass on white table

Who should do the investigation?

Appointing the right investigator is critical, but it is a process that frequently goes awry. The most typical blunder is entrusting the inquiry to someone too senior for the job, either because the original complaint or concern was directed to them, or because no consideration was made to who would be needed at later stages of a formal process. The separation of roles between the investigation, hearing, and appeal stages is critical, and those participating should ideally increase in superiority as the process progresses.
Furthermore, it is critical that the investigator is not personally invested in the matter and is properly neutral. Consider whether the possible investigator has the essential abilities to conduct the investigation; how will they handle a difficult or hostile witness during an interview? Should a legal challenge be filed, would they be a good witness before an employment tribunal? Do they have enough time to thoroughly explore the situation? Finally, if the topic is particularly sensitive or there is no one impartial within the institution, might an external investigator be considered?

Why use IOLIS for workplace investigations?

At the outset, we will adequately prepare and clarify the background and scope of the investigation. This includes establishing precise terms of reference before the investigation begins.

We understand the legal, moral, and organisational policy/procedural frameworks that govern workplace dignity, grievances, bullying, harassment, and disciplinary investigations.
We will remain objective, impartial, and free of bias or conflict of interest.

We apply rigour to evidence analysis and are cautious when forming conclusions based on facts and pertinent evidence.
We recognize how critical it is to look for mitigating or corroborating circumstances.

We will compile a final report that is clear and well-structured that will stand up to internal and external scrutiny.

We are familiar with relevant tests and stay current on case law and precedents.

We understand what happens once an investigation is finished, as well as the role of the investigator at hearings, appeals, and Employment Tribunals.
footprints in snow covered path


Q. What area do you cover?
A. We work mainly remotely online and cover the whole of England and Wales.

Q. How quickly can you start an investigation?
A. We can usually commence an investigation within 10 working days.

Q. What happens if more allegations come to light during the investigation process?
A. We will notify you as soon as possible. Matters that come to light may necessitate the modification of the terms of reference or even the termination of the investigation.

Q. How much does it cost
A. Our investigation rates start at £100 per hour excluding vat. We will be happy to discuss your requirements and give you an estimate of the likely costs involved.

Do you need a workplace investigation? Tell us how we can help you.

Call us to start the conversation on 029 2000 2339 or email

Contact us
IOLIS Legal Services is a trading style of IOLIS Ltd. Regd in England & Wales. Company Number 11968202. Regd office: International, House, 10 Churchill Way, Cardiff CF10 2HE. Total paid up share capital £10.
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