One of our large manufacturing clients was experiencing a number of disciplinary hearings failing to proceed as one would expect. HR believed this was due to the poor quality of the investigations being conducted by managers and this was confirmed when we examined the investigation process and practice. As a result, an already busy HR team had to be heavily involved with managing the consequences of these poorly conducted investigations. Of course, there were significant, time and legal risk implications of these poor quality investigations.
Our client was using senior managers who were otherwise competent in their particular functional areas (e.g. sales or manufacturing) to carry out disciplinary investigations. However, those managers had not been trained in investigations. They did not fully understand what they were supposed to be doing to make an investigation a robust one. Importantly, their investigations would not have stood up to scrutiny in the Employment Tribunal.
We needed to develop a group of managers who were trained, competent and confident in carrying out investigations. A lean internal HR team meant they did not have the time and resources to train the managers. Additionally, the business felt that investigations were firmly the role of their managers and wanted external training to ‘send a message’ about their accountability. This training also demonstrated they were investing in the skills of their managers.
Menzies Law developed a bespoke training programme in consultation with our client’s HR team. We wrote a ‘how to carry out an investigation’ guide for Managers which included specimen letters, scripts and forms and we incorporated this and the company’s disciplinary procedure into the training.
Combining the expertise of one of our trusted, long-term Associates (an experienced HR professional) and the expertise of one of our senior employment lawyers, we designed, developed and delivered a programme encompassing the legal framework that relates to investigations. This included practical advice on how to carry out investigations effectively and included several role plays. This approach enabled managers to practice and deal with ‘real life’ situations that might arise in the course of an investigation.
Managers’ confidence in dealing with investigations – as well as the overall standard of the conduct of investigations, improved considerably. This meant that the HR team were spending far less time intervening, allowing them to focus on more added-value HR matters. When they did become involved HR trusted that the manager had properly conducted their investigation.
One important outcome for our client was that with the improved robustness of their investigations, they became much more convinced that the hearing outcomes would stand up to scrutiny should an Employment Tribunal arise.