In an article titled “Under the lens: the rise of senior investigations,” Hina Belitz, a Employment Specialist partner at Excello Law, provided comments to Ben Gray, the Legal 500 investigator for London Employment. Gray discusses the increasing prevalence of investigations into senior employees due to factors such as growing employee willingness to voice grievances, regulatory interest, and the need to uphold company reputation and safe workplaces. Gray highlights that in-house legal teams need to understand when and how to conduct investigations, along with the potential consequences. Hina Belitz’s contributions provide valuable insights into the necessity of external investigations, proactive measures for workplace improvement, and the careful steps involved in launching and conducting investigations.
External Investigations and Taking Claims Seriously
Engaging external investigators for allegations against senior employees signifies a company’s serious approach to addressing claims, especially compared to internal investigations. Belitz emphasises that external investigations can help alleviate legal liability for employers, as proper investigation and resolution of complaints can be a defense in court.
Proactivity and Reputation Protection
The seriousness of allegations demands a proactive approach by companies to avoid damage to their reputation. Regular workplace culture audits or pulse surveys are suggested to identify and address issues before external investigations become necessary, enhancing workplace safety and countering bad conduct that can foster a toxic environment.
Steps in Launching an Investigation:
There is a lack of standardized form or length for investigations in employment law. Flexibility in the investigative process is vital, provided the process maintains integrity and purpose. Investigations often involve two work streams: fact-finding and advice, which can be handled separately to prevent conflicts of interest.
Choosing Investigators and Ensuring Thoroughness
Gray recommends selecting individuals with the required technical knowledge, confidence, and seniority to undertake investigation processes. Defining the scope and parameters of an investigation early on helps maintain focus and efficiency. The investigation level should be sufficient to support potential disciplinary actions and communicate allegations clearly to the employee under scrutiny.
Investigative Process and Avoiding Influence
Investigations commonly entail witness interviews, examination of evidence like emails and documents, leading to written or oral assessment reports. Gray cautions against trying to influence investigation outcomes and emphasises avoiding involvement of individuals who might handle the investigation’s results.