Over the next few months I will be sharing my top tips on investigating formal complaints of harassment and bullying. These are based on over 16 years conducting investigations for large, high profile employers.

Tip – Follow your procedures

When a formal complaint of harassment, bullying or discrimination is received, it is essential that you conduct a prompt, thorough and impartial investigation in line with your organisation’s procedures.

Your procedure should specify at least the following:

  • Who the investigators will be
  • Whether interview notes are disclosed to all parties
  • Timescales
  • The role of the investigator
  • Arrangements for note taking
  • The role of the decision officer
  • Appeal procedures

Do not delay in appointing an investigator once a complaint has been received. It is important that your investigators are trained to the same standard and understand your procedures so that you can quickly select the most appropriate and available investigator. Make sure the investigator is completely impartial and is not involved in any of the issues which feature in the complaint in any way at all.

Tip – Set realistic timescales

If the timescales for conducting an investigation are too short you will set yourselves up to fail. People may be on holiday, off sick, have heavy workloads, or need to find a trade union representative – all of these can cause delays. If the investigation is to be successful, it needs to be properly conducted and this can take some time.

Having said that, allowing the investigation to drag on for months is not appropriate either. So set realistic timescales, such as 30 working days, and only allow extensions if essential.

State in your policy that investigators will aim to complete in the set timescale – do not state that they definitely will! If you do the latter, you will open the floodgates to appeals.

Check out my blog in the next edition of HR Review for more tips on investigating harassment, bullying and discrimination.