Internal investigations

Internal investigations: when they may be needed

If an allegation arises which is serious or which requires someone independent of the business to review it, appointing a specialist investigations lawyer is often a good option.

Internal investigations may not always be suitable for an in-house HR team or senior managers to conduct because of the need for an impartial third party investigator, or the investigation may simply be too complex or time-consuming for internal resources to be used on it.

If you need advice on investigations or you need to outsource any investigations to an independent law firm, we can help. We are an award-winning law firm with extensive experience in conducting workplace investigations on a regular basis.

What types of workplace investigations are there?

Employers will usually need to conduct an investigation before starting on a formal process with an employee, in order to collect evidence. An employer might also want to commission an investigation into wider workplace or cultural issues in order to safeguard its reputation or improve its working practices.

The most common types of workplace investigations involve:

  • Grievances and discrimination complaints;
  • Disciplinary processes i.e. when there are allegations of serious misconduct such as bullying, harassment or fraudulent behaviour;
  • Whistleblowing allegations;
  • Disputes between Boards and senior management;
  • Workplace culture, leadership practices and organisational change; or
  • “Lessons to be learned” after the exit of a valued employee, or after an Employment Tribunal process.

Our expertise

Whatever type of internal investigation you need help with, our investigations team will be able to help. Whether you need assistance with workplace investigations, employment investigations, regulatory investigations or investigations relating to alleged bribery and corruption, our investigations team are able to offer you the full range of their expertise.

Our investigation lawyers have significant experience of conducting internal investigations in relation to workplace disputes, serious misconduct (including sexual harassment, bullying, and financial misconduct), whistleblowing, safeguarding, governance and collective grievances. Our clients range from financial institutions to charities to public sector organisations.

We are experienced in getting to grips quickly with complex cases, and will work according to your preferred timescale.

Why use our investigations lawyers?

Using an external investigator to conduct your workplace investigation can help to keep the investigation free from accusations of bias or unfairness, as might happen if the investigation was conduct by an internal manager.

In additional, our lawyers deal with cases involving employment laws covering unfair dismissal, discrimination and whistleblowing on a regular basis, and are experienced in carrying out or advising on fair internal investigations without falling foul of employment law.

This will help protect your business against any potential Employment Tribunal claims that might otherwise result from an internal investigation, especially if the investigation results in an employee’s dismissal.

Communication during our investigation

At the outset

You’ll be given 1-2 points of contact who will be dealing with you throughout the investigation, and we will discuss the scope of the investigation, and terms of reference, with you at the outset. We will give you a clear cost estimate once the scope of the investigation has been agreed.

We will also agree a timeframe for conducting the investigation with you, and let you know if there are any factors which could influence this, such as if any witnesses are unavailable for interview.

Keeping you updated

Our investigation lawyers will then keep you updated throughout the investigation, and will also identify any urgent or complex situations that you may need to address in relation to your employees or practices before the investigation is complete.

At the conclusion

We will prepare an investigation report summarising our findings and, if you would like us to, any recommendations for next steps in the short, medium or long term.

If you need further support going forward, our employment and dispute resolution teams will be well placed to help.

If you need help conducting your own investigation

For employers which prefer to conduct internal investigations internally and just need legal support, our team can provide advice and guidance behind the scenes throughout your process.

Employees who are accused of misconduct will often try to put barriers in the way of their employer, and we will help you to tackle any thorny issues which may crop up along the way.

For example, we can advise you on what to do if you have a potential witness who is reluctant to give evidence or wants to remain anonymous, or how to handle a case involving a difficult employee, or an employee who is absent on sick leave.

We can also review the evidence you collect and support with preparing investigation reports and other documents.

In such cases, our advice will usually be covered by legal professional privilege, meaning we can assist you with your investigation on a confidential basis and without our discussions with you having to be disclosed later under data protection law.

Other matters we can help with in relation to internal investigations

We can assist with crisis management, reputation management, culture reviews, or exits of senior executives if you have carried out your own internal investigation and identified problems in your workforce or culture.

Governance, regulatory and self reporting issues

We can also advise you on your governance duties, such as whether you may have self-reporting obligations to the relevant authorities (including if we find evidence to suggest potential economic crime, or another type of offence that could lead to criminal proceedings or international investigations) in your sector either before, during or after an internal investigation.

If any criminal investigations have been started by law enforcement agencies such as the police or National Crime Agency (for example if there has been potential fraud or money laundering), this can be a slow process. We can advise you on how to manage your internal processes on the employment law side while those external proceedings are ongoing.

Similarly, investigations where regulators get involved can be complex and stressful. Regulatory intervention can also delay things significantly. Our experts are experienced at providing advice to clients about regulatory interventions and when there are regulatory aspects to manage.

Recovering your losses

If there is evidence of civil fraud or other behaviour by an employee which has caused loss to your business, our commercial disputes team can work with you on the asset recovery side, including by representing you in any civil enforcement actions you may need to take.

Grievance and disciplinary hearings

As well as our lawyers, who can conduct or support complex or wide-ranging investigations or reviews, we also have a team of HR consultants who can investigate grievances and disciplinary matters, including holding grievance or disciplinary hearings on behalf of employers.

Find out more here.

Contact our investigations team

To speak to an expert in our internal investigations team, call us on 02920 829 100 for a free initial chat to discuss how we can help you with your internal investigation, or use our online contact form.

Contact Our Team
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