It was announced recently that the report following the investigation into the UK’s role in the Iraq war will be delayed yet again. Now 6 years since the start of the inquiry!
It was a useful reminder that employee investigations can sometimes take a very long time to complete. I was involved in a fraud investigation a number of years ago which took over a year to finish and resulted in the dismissal of 27 employees! There wasn’t unnecessary delay, it just took a really long time to review a massive amount of evidence and piece it all together.
But often investigations in the workplace can take longer than they need to and there are plenty of examples of employers being criticised, and in some cases penalised financially (by Employment Tribunals), for dealing with investigations badly. Often it’s for not progressing them in good time.
The relevant ACAS code of practice puts an obligation on employers dealing with a potential disciplinary case to investigate the issues “without unreasonable delay”.
There may be genuine reasons an investigation is delayed (e.g. witnesses off sick, complex searches for evidence, key personnel on annual leave) and it’s important to have an audit trail in place to explain that delay. But if it’s just because an employer hasn’t dedicated enough resource to the case, or managers are just slow making time to deal with it, they’re likely to be open to risk and a Tribunal finding “unreasonable delay”.
Our top tips for running an employee investigation are here. Perhaps we should also add, don’t delay to the list!
Posted on November 9, 2015