The consultants at Narrow Quay HR are regularly instructed to carry out investigations for clients. Clients may want to engage external HR consultants because the issue is particularly sensitive, because they don’t have sufficient HR capacity in the business or because they recognise that investigations can be time consuming and may therefore pull key staff away from their day to day duties.
The investigations may form part of grievance, disciplinary or complaints processes. The case study below sets out some of the issues we regularly deal with when carrying out investigations, but is not based on the specific facts of one of our cases.
A client of Narrow Quay HR, has an administration team made up of approximately 10 members of staff. One of the staff working in the team, Jessica, joined the team less than a year ago. She offered her resignation, writing a letter which referred to bullying, harassment and victimisation by her line manager. Following this, the HR Manager met with her and persuaded her not to resign, and asked her if she would be happy to have her concerns treated as a grievance. She agreed to this and Narrow Quay HR were asked to undertake an investigation into the line manager’s conduct.
In order to give the investigation structure, the key components of Jessica’s grievance needed to be identified. In this case, it was possible to focus on the nature of the language used by the line manager to Jessica as one broad theme and to also focus on victimisation, in the way that Jessica understood it, in terms of being picked on by her line manager.
Jessica was very nervous about raising a grievance as she feared repercussions. In conjunction with the client we were able to reassure Jessica that she was doing the right thing by raising her concerns, that we were taking her concerns seriously and that the client would act should there be any negative consequences of bringing a grievance.
We then met with Jessica’s line manager. The line manager felt that Jessica’s performance was poor and that she failed to take on board or listen to instructions. She felt that Jessica was overly sensitive and denied her behaviour amounted to bullying, harassment and victimisation.
As part of the investigation we interviewed other employees identified as witnesses by Jessica and her line manager. This enabled us to gather further evidence as part of the investigation in order to consider all of the issues and arrive at our conclusions and recommendations.
Narrow Quay HR prepared a comprehensive investigation report containing an executive summary and detailed findings, which was provided to the client together with all evidence gathered during the investigation, in an indexed and paginated appendix to the report.
In this situation, where a member of staff has raised a grievance relating to bullying or harassment, we needed to not only to make a recommendation as to whether the grievance should be upheld or not, but also to recommend whether disciplinary action should be commenced in relation to the member of staff accused.
In this case it was found that Jessica had been subjected to bullying and harassment by her line manager and so we made a recommendation that her grievance should be upheld and that the client should commence disciplinary proceedings.
Using our report, the client had a clear route map to follow and was able to progress the matter in the knowledge that a fair and reasonable investigation had been undertaken by an independent third party.