A 10-step guide to conducting a disciplinary investigation


A reasonable investigation is a vital part of a fair disciplinary procedure. Taking time to establish the facts behind disciplinary allegations can help to ensure that employees feel they are being dealt with fairly and could ultimately save employers from unfair dismissal claims.

We look at the key steps to carrying out a fair investigation.

1. Take into account that a reasonable disciplinary investigation will be essential to ensure that a dismissal for misconduct is fair.

Is there a minimum disciplinary procedure that employers must follow?

2. Follow the recommendations about disciplinary investigations in the Acas code of practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures.

What are the possible consequences of failing to follow the Acas code of practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures?

3. Make sure that the investigating officer is not connected in any way to the facts giving rise to the disciplinary charge.

Who should carry out a disciplinary investigation?

4. Ensure that the necessary investigations are carried out without unreasonable delay.

5. Consider whether or not it is necessary to suspend the employee while the investigations are carried out.

When is it appropriate to suspend an employee who is suspected of misconduct?

If an employer wishes to suspend an employee during a disciplinary investigation, must it have a contractual power allowing it to do so?

For how long should an employee be suspended while a disciplinary investigation into alleged misconduct is carried out?

6. Where necessary, arrange an investigatory meeting with the employee accused of misconduct, to obtain his or her account of events.

Who should carry out an investigatory meeting with an employee suspected of misconduct?

Will it always be necessary to hold an investigatory meeting with an employee suspected of misconduct?

What is the difference between an investigatory interview and a disciplinary interview?

7. Arrange meetings with witnesses to obtain their account of the incident or events and take their statements.

Can an employee who is a witness to an incident be obliged to provide a witness statement?

8. Collect any relevant documents.

9. Prepare a set of witness statements and relevant documents to be submitted to the disciplinary hearing and to the employee in question in advance of the hearing.

Can an employer anonymise witness statements obtained during a grievance or disciplinary procedure?

10. Be aware that, although there is no statutory right for an individual to be accompanied at an investigatory hearing, the right may apply under the company disciplinary procedure or by reason of custom and practice.

Do employees have the right to be accompanied at disciplinary investigation meetings?

Who can be chosen as a companion at a disciplinary or grievance hearing?

What is the companion’s role at a disciplinary or grievance hearing?