Workplace investigation reporting

A lot of time and effort goes into an investigation at work from interviewing witnesses, compiling evidence, reviewing policies and witness statements etc. Once all this work has been completed a report needs to be written to outline the evidence and make recommendations for next action. That all sounds great however, but when was the last time you wrote an official report? Depending on your job that could have been some time ago back in college or uni.

Daniel Barnett in his book Employee Investigations states that; ‘There’s no substitute for a really well-compiled, detailed report summing up what was done during the investigation and why – even in the simplest of cases.’ So, what should an investigation report contain?

ACAS gives a simple structure to follow:

  1. Introduction

Name of person who instigated the investigation, investigator name, overview of why the investigation was necessary and the terms of reference.

  • Process of the investigation

How the investigation was conducted, what evidence was collected, whether any pieces of evidence could not be collected and why, names and job titles of all witnesses and why each witness was relevant to the matter, whether any witnesses could not be interviewed and why, where a witness statement has been anonymised explain why and provide any details of enquiry into their character and background.

  • The investigation findings

Summarise the findings from all relevant documents , summarise the key evidence from each witness statement, what facts have been established, what facts have not been established, whether there are any mitigating factors to consider, whether there is any other relevant information to consider.

  • Conclusions

Recommendation based on all evidence collected, any other recommendations related to the matter. Recommendations should be either to take formal action, informal action or no action and conclusions should not include any recommendations for dismissal or demotion as this can be left for any disciplinary hearing.

  • Supporting documents

Copies of all documents and witness statements collected and referred to in the report should be included and clearly referenced.

Thankfully, ACAS also produce an investigation report template that follows this structure. There are plenty of resources out there to help put your investigation report together and give you guidance. However, once you’ve written the report your role as investigator doesn’t always stop there. You may be asked to go through your report in person, as you are in an ideal position to offer suggestions for policy review or lowering the risk of the issue happening again.

So, if you are asked to investigate an employee issue at work, remember to pop your report writing hat on to deliver your findings in the most concise way.

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