The steps involved in a disciplinary procedure

The steps involved in a disciplinary procedure

disciplinary procedure

 A disciplinary procedure is a formal and structured way of dealing with an employee’s conduct or behaviour that falls short of what is expected of them. It outlines a clear process for addressing any issues and aims to ensure that employees are treated fairly and consistently. The purpose of disciplinary procedures is to maintain a positive and productive working environment by setting expectations for behaviour and addressing any issues that may arise. 


What does a disciplinary procedure involve?

 The disciplinary procedures describe the steps companies take when an employee has failed to meet performance objectives or when they have breached company policies or procedures. This may include issues such as:


  1. Absenteeism or tardiness
  2. Lack of productivity or commitment to work
  3. Breach of health and safety regulations
  4. Harassment, discrimination or bullying
  5. Theft, fraud or other criminal activities
  6. Misuse of company equipment or resources
  7. Substance abuse or addiction
  8. Refusal to comply with reasonable instructions
  9. Conflict or disputes with colleagues or management.


 A disciplinary procedure should only be implemented after attempts to resolve the problem through informal means, such as conversations or training, have failed. The procedure should be clearly defined in company policies or employment contracts and should be fair, consistent and transparent. The contract should explain when a disciplinary procedure will follow and what the company standards are. 

 Disciplinary procedures typically involve a series of steps that range from warnings to more serious actions like an investigation. If the employee continues to breach company policies or fails to improve their performance, further disciplinary action may be necessary. This may include a final warning or dismissal, depending on the circumstances.

 All employees must be aware of company policies and procedures and the consequences of breaching them. This can be achieved through regular training and communication, which can help to prevent issues from arising and ensure a positive and productive working environment.


The steps of a disciplinary procedure

 A disciplinary procedure needs to be carried out properly to ensure that it abides by laws and regulations as well as company policies. This will ensure that everyone is treated fairly and employees do not feel like steps have been skipped or not given enough importance. The main steps are:


-Conversation with the employee


-Disciplinary meeting

-Taking action



-Employees may have the right to appeal


Conversation with the employee

 The first step of the disciplinary procedure is having a conversation with the employee(s) involved. During this conversation, it is essential to provide clear details and facts in an informative and sensitive way.

 This initial conversation aims to discuss what led to the disciplinary process. Providing specific examples and outlining how the employee has failed to meet the expectations set out in their role is important for highlighting what went wrong. At the same time, it is vital to approach the conversation with respect and keep an open mind, recognising that this is likely a difficult situation for the employee.

 In addition to outlining the problem, the company should be clear and specific about the potential consequences, as this will help the employee to understand the severity of the situation.

 Throughout the conversation, managers should maintain a professional and calm tone of voice. This means avoiding any language or actions that could be seen as threatening, aggressive or overly emotional. Instead, the focus should be on providing as much information as possible and ensuring that the employee understands why the conversation is happening and allowing them to open up to get to the root cause of the issue. 

 At the end of the conversation, remember to document what has been discussed, including any agreements or action points. This will ensure that all parties are clear on the next steps and that there is a record of the conversation that can be referred to if necessary.



 The investigation step involves gathering all relevant information, facts and evidence concerning the alleged misconduct or violation of policies and regulations. During the investigation, it is crucial to maintain an impartial approach to ensure that data is collected objectively. This may involve interviewing witnesses, reviewing records and documentation or collecting physical evidence.

 Any failure to conduct a thorough investigation may jeopardise the integrity of the entire disciplinary process and expose the employer to legal or reputational risks.

 Furthermore, it is important to ensure that the employee under investigation is fully aware of the investigation process, including knowing their rights and responsibilities and that they are given proper opportunities to present their side of the story and respond to any evidence presented against them.

disciplinary procedure

Disciplinary meeting

 The disciplinary meeting is an opportunity for the employer or HR or manager to discuss the concerns that they have, as well as for the employee to respond and provide their account of the situation.

 The meeting should be arranged in advance, allowing the employee enough time to prepare and gather any relevant information. The employee must be informed of the allegations against them and how they could impact them, including the range of disciplinary actions that may be taken.

 The employer or HR representative should explain the reasons for the meeting and provide evidence, where applicable, to support their position. The employee must be given the opportunity to respond and provide any mitigating circumstances that may be relevant.

 All parties should take turns and speak without interruption. Cutting off one another, even if a party disagrees, can create a hostile conversation rather than a productive one. If the employee is unable to attend the meeting, then an alternate time should be offered.

 Following the meeting, the organisation will make a decision regarding the appropriate disciplinary action, taking into consideration all of the information provided during the meeting. The employee will be informed of the decision and any appeals that may be available to them.


Taking action

 The company should take action after the assessment of all the evidence and the weighing of the employee’s responses and reasoning. Is the employee experiencing something temporary or is this a permanent situation? Are there any solutions that can be provided outside the workplace? The outcome must be proportionate to the severity of the conduct or performance issue and must be reasonable.

 To reach an outcome, there are some factors that must be considered, including the employee’s past performance, their length of service, the impact on the business, the employee’s level of responsibility and any apology or evidence of remorse. The managers must ensure that any actions taken are consistent with the organisation’s disciplinary policy and that there is no discrimination or bias in the decision-making process.

 Once a decision has been made regarding the outcome, this must be communicated to the employee in writing. The employee has the right to appeal any disciplinary or dismissal decision that is made against them. 



 In a disciplinary procedure, documentation is necessary for every step to ensure transparency and accountability throughout the process. This involves keeping detailed and accurate records of all conversations, warnings and actions taken during the process.

 These documents serve as a permanent record of the steps taken to address any identified misconduct and can also be used to track progress and ensure consistency in handling similar situations in the future.

 Documentation needs to be thorough, objective and precise and stored securely and confidentially. Our customers store their disciplinary procedure files in Polonious as they are certain that everything will be kept safe for as long as it is required. It also ensures that all parties involved have access to accurate information and that there is a clear record of the decision-making process. Another benefit of documenting is that it protects the organisation in the case of any legal challenges.


Follow up

 If an employee fails to improve based on the feedback they received after a verbal or written warning, the next step in the disciplinary procedure is typically a follow-up meeting. 

 During the follow-up meeting, the employee should be given the opportunity to explain if there is any possibility of willingness to change the circumstances that led to poor conduct. Is it in the control of the employee or is it something more serious? Just because an employee is willing to improve does not mean they have the resources or ability to do so. 

 During the meeting, the employer should consider what the outcome of the disciplinary actions were on the individual. Is there a slight improvement? If yes, the employer may be able to wait for another follow-up meeting to make a decision. If not, the manager should discuss with the employee what their next steps will be. 


Employees may have the right to appeal 

 Following disciplinary action, employees may have the right to appeal the decision made against them, seeking a review of the case for possible errors or inaccuracies. If that is the case, employers should not deny the employee(s) the right to appeal. 

 The right to appeal offers employees the opportunity to present their case and allows them to challenge any decision they believe to be unjust or inappropriate. Depending on the severity of the disciplinary action, employees may also be entitled to seek legal representation or bring another individual to the appeal hearing.

 The appeal process typically involves a panel or committee independent of the original decision-makers, who will review the case and determine whether the original decision was valid, based on the evidence presented. The decision of the appeal panel is final and binding and may result in either an upheld decision, a softer outcome or a change to the initial decision. After their decision is recorded in writing, the employee does not have a right to appeal again. To make a proper decision, another investigation may be needed.

 The appeal process must be conducted promptly and efficiently to avoid prolonged uncertainty and anxiety for the employee. Failure to provide a reasonable response to an appeal or a failure to conduct a fair appeal hearing, may result in the employee taking legal action against the employer, leading to further complications and potential financial implications.


Important to note

 Organisations need to have a clear disciplinary procedure to protect both the employee and the employer. This ensures that employees understand what is expected of them and the consequences that could follow. It also helps to ensure that any disciplinary action taken is reasonable and consistent, reducing the risk of legal action and maintaining a positive employer-employee relationship. All parties involved in the process must be treated with respect and the outcome must be based on facts and evidence rather than subjective opinions. 

 Polonious offers its customers a safe place to store their documents during the disciplinary procedure process. We assist them by making their case management more efficient by providing them with automatic case updates and reminding them of follow-up meetings. As we are ISO 27001 and ISO 9001 certified, our customers know that all information is kept confidential for as long as it is needed. If you are looking for a secure case management system that can minimise your costs and time spent, reach out!

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Tips for achieving efficient case management

Tips for achieving efficient case management

case management

 Case management is an essential practice for investigators and businesses. By ensuring that critical information is organised, tracked and readily available, case management streamlines decision-making, facilitates timely collaboration and ultimately drives a more efficient resolution of different issues. How can a business make the process more efficient?


What is case management?

 Case management is a strategic approach to handling complex and time-sensitive issues, which may include employee disputes, contract negotiations, legal matters, investigations or any other business-related matters. The primary goal of case management is to help businesses efficiently navigate and resolve these issues while minimising costs and risks.

 Case management is a process of coordinating and managing complaints and investigations. It involves the identification requirements, the development of a comprehensive plan and the ongoing monitoring and evaluation of the plan’s effectiveness. It is crucial then for the process to be efficient to avoid any additional case-related costs and avoid delays and errors. 


Components of efficient case management

 Effective case management involves several key elements, such as collaboration among different service providers, ongoing communication with the client, planning and monitoring. It also requires a deep understanding of the context of each issue, as well as the ability to adapt the plan as necessary to ensure the best possible outcomes.

 There are several key components that businesses should consider when implementing an efficient case management system:

1. Collaboration and communication 

 Efficient case management practices rely heavily on open communication and collaboration among all parties involved in the case. This keeps the team informed and ensures that everyone is on the same page. It minimises the appearance of errors and makes the process faster by avoiding misunderstandings.

 Great collaboration between team members and departments is essential for ensuring that all relevant information and perspectives are taken into account and that decisions and actions are coordinated and streamlined. By working together, teams can pool their expertise, resources and skills and devise effective strategies for addressing complex problems and challenges.

 Clear and streamlined communication is critical in case management and it involves more than just sharing information and updates between team members. It also involves communicating with external stakeholders such as clients, suppliers, and regulatory bodies. Strong communication ensures that all parties have a shared understanding of the situation and are aligned in their goals and objectives.

 Good communication enables proactive problem-solving and risk management. When team members communicate effectively, they can quickly identify and address potential issues, share feedback and ideas and identify innovative solutions to complex problems.


2. Centralise case data and documents

 Centralising case data and documents is critical for efficient case management. This enables case managers to access and update case information quickly and easily. It also reduces the risk of data loss, errors and duplication. Businesses should consider using a cloud-based platform to store case data and documents securely and provide access to authorised users from anywhere at any time.

 This is where an online case management system is useful. A well-organised and secure system carries many benefits for customers as it allows them to access all information from one place while ensuring that files are kept confidential. This is why our customers choose Polonious, because we are ISO 27001 and ISO 9001 certified, we can provide efficiency on top of security. 

 By collecting all relevant information and storing it in one central location, businesses can improve their staff productivity by reducing time spent searching for information and streamlining communication between team members. 

 A significant advantage of centralising case data and documents in case management is that it provides an added layer of security. Cybersecurity is a major concern for businesses, especially those dealing with sensitive customer information. By centralising their data, businesses can significantly reduce the risk of data breaches since access rights can be properly controlled, and backup and recovery procedures can be implemented.

case management

3. Establish Standard Operating Procedures

 Establishing standard operating procedures (SOPs) is essential for consistent and efficient case management. SOPs should define the steps, roles, responsibilities and timelines for each stage of the case management process. This ensures that everyone follows the same procedure and reduces the risk of errors, delays and inconsistencies.

 SOPs provide a systematic and structured approach to carrying out processes, enabling employees to follow a predefined set of steps while performing their duties. This makes the overall process more efficient for businesses. 

 By defining clear policies and procedures for handling cases in SOPs, businesses can provide their employees with a framework that outlines the necessary steps to be taken for every situation. This can range from intake procedures, case assignment, prioritisation, communications, documentation and closure of cases. The SOPs help to ensure that employees have a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities, as well as the expected outcomes of each step in the process.

 SOPs can be customised to the specific needs of the business, making them effective for various departments or units within an organisation. They can be reviewed and updated regularly to ensure that they remain current and relevant to the organisation. By adhering to standardised procedures, businesses can greatly reduce the risk of errors and inefficiencies associated with ad hoc decision-making.


4. Implement performance metrics 

 Implementing performance metrics and continuous improvement processes is crucial for evaluating the case management effectiveness and identifying improvement areas. Businesses should track key performance indicators such as case resolution time, customer satisfaction and compliance metrics. Based on the results, they can make data-driven decisions to optimise the case management process over time.

 By establishing a set of quantifiable measures, businesses can understand how well they are conducting the process. Metrics can provide useful information that shows how well case managers are:

  1. Ensuring objectives are clearly defined and measurable 
  2. Providing data-driven insights into how well case management systems are working
  3. Identifying areas for improvement and implementing changes to increase efficiency 
  4. Promoting a culture of continuous improvement that encourages ongoing review and refinement of case management processes


Principles for better case management overall

 Effective case management requires adherence to a set of underlying principles that guide the overall process, ensuring optimal results. Some of these core principles include:


1. Be proactive 

 Rather than waiting for issues to escalate, businesses should be proactive in identifying and addressing potential concerns. This means taking a preventative approach and identifying potential issues before they escalate. By being proactive, businesses can save time, money and resources in the long run, as they can avoid costly legal disputes or employee complaints.

 One of the most significant benefits of proactive case management is the ability to foster a positive organisational culture. When employees feel valued and supported, they are more productive, engaged and loyal to their employer. By identifying potential issues and addressing them early, businesses can create a culture of trust and transparency that fosters teamwork and collaboration.

 Another advantage of proactive case management is that it ensures compliance with legal requirements and ethical standards. Businesses that fail to comply with legislation or ethical codes are at risk of legal consequences, reputational damage and financial penalties. By proactively monitoring their practices and policies, businesses can ensure that they operate within legal and ethical boundaries and avoid potential legal or reputational risks.


Establish clear roles and responsibilities 

 This principle is reflected in the SOPs. It ensures that everyone knows their tasks and can work together cohesively. Case management is not just about handling cases, but it also involves managing people and their needs. A clear and defined role is essential to avoid confusion, conflicts and misunderstandings. 

 SOPs are targeting this principle as without clear roles and responsibilities, there will be a lack of direction in the case management process. It can lead to mistakes and conflicts as employees are unsure about who should do what and these issues may delay the case management process and prevent the team from achieving their goals.


3. Implement case management software 

 Utilising comprehensive case management software can help automate many tasks, streamline workflows and improve communication between team members, leading to better case outcomes. Polonious is chosen by many customers around the world because we are able to centralise case management and help our clients achieve a faster outcome. Our customers benefit from a lower administrative time of 38% and lower overall costs associated with case management. Polonious also keeps all of the files confidential for as long as it is required, which is an important element of efficient and effective case management. If you want to learn more about how we can streamline your workflows and make case management pain-free, request a demo


Wrapping up

 By understanding the difficult parts of case management and addressing weaknesses early on, businesses can achieve an efficient process that will allow them to focus on their key business tasks. It is important to continuously look for improvement areas and stay updated with the latest policies and systems regarding case management. This will ensure that the process is running smoothly without disruptions and with minimal to no errors. 

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Addressing minor workplace misconduct

Addressing minor workplace misconduct


 Addressing workplace misconduct is critical for ensuring a peaceful and comfortable work environment for every employee to be. Workplace misconduct includes actions that go against laws, policies and procedures. A healthy and productive work environment requires clear expectations, guidelines and a fair approach to addressing employee actions. 


Types of misconduct

 When addressing workplace misconduct, employers should understand its severity before they respond to it. It is important to distinguish between minor, major and severe offences when determining the appropriate level of disciplinary action. Examples of each type of offence include:


Minor misconduct

 These can usually be addressed within the workplace through informal conversations with the employee or low-level disciplinary measures:

  • Tardiness or absenteeism
  • Inadequate job performance
  • Disruptive behaviour
  • Violation of minor policies or protocols

Employers should manage these issues early so they do not lead to something more serious. 


Major misconduct 

Major offences usually warrant more formal disciplinary action, such as written warnings or suspension:

  • Repeated minor offences
  • Harassment, discrimination, or bullying
  • Breach of confidentiality
  • Negligence or gross misconduct

These issues are harder to ignore and need to be addressed quickly t protect other employees. 


Severe Offences

Severe offences often result in immediate suspension or termination of employment:

  • Theft or fraud
  • Workplace violence
  • Serious breaches of safety protocols or endangering others
  • Criminal activities

This is where an investigation is usually required to understand the severity of the situation and what action to take next. 


Addressing minor misconduct

 While there are many times when misconduct leads to an investigation, it is essential to know what to do when it is not significant enough for major action but still needs addressing. The usual steps include:

-Informal conversations

-Formal verbal warning

-Written warning




Informal conversations

 The informal conversation step is an opportunity for a manager or supervisor to have an open and honest discussion with an employee regarding their behaviour or performance. This step is designed to resolve issues before they escalate into more serious matters. The conversation should be approached calmly and professionally, to find a solution that is agreeable to both parties. The tone should be strict but not accusatory and the employer should try to be empathetic and find out if something is wrong. 

 Health issues, including physical and mental, are usually one of the reasons for high employee absenteeism. In that case, the company may need to look inwards to understand why employees do not feel comfortable discussing a plan with their manager. Is it an individual problem or an organisational one?

 The employee needs to understand the severity of the situation and that the conversation is an opportunity for them to improve their behaviour or performance. The manager or supervisor should provide clear feedback and guidance on what is expected of the employee and outline any consequences if the issues are not addressed properly. 

 It is also crucial for the manager or supervisor to document the informal conversation and any agreed-upon actions or expectations. This documentation can be used as a reference in future discussions or as evidence if the matter escalates to a more formal disciplinary process. It will act as evidence to show that the company took action to handle early issues.


Formal verbal warning

 A formal verbal warning is given when a manager or supervisor requests a meeting with the employee in question and makes clear that their behaviour or actions have been unacceptable. The employee will be informed of the specific details surrounding their misconduct and how it has impacted the organisation, its goals and its employees. A formal verbal warning is usually used for addressing repeated minor misconduct or misconduct of slightly higher severity. 

 The tone of this meeting will be serious and professional, with the manager or supervisor explaining the gravity of the situation and how the behaviour needs to change. The employee will be informed that a formal written warning could be the next step if improvements are not made.

 It is essential that all aspects of the formal verbal warning are documented, including the date, time, location and attendees of the meeting, as well as the details of the issue and any potential consequences if improvements are not made. This is important for transparency and accountability purposes and can be used as evidence if necessary.

 It is also crucial to note that the formal verbal warning should not come as a surprise to the employee. Proper communication, feedback and training should have been provided beforehand to try and resolve the issue. As such, the formal verbal warning should be seen as a middle ground, rather than a knee-jerk reaction.


Written warning

 This step usually occurs when the employee has not been successful in addressing minor misconduct and the previous steps have not worked. 

 It serves as a formal notice to an employee that their behaviour, conduct or performance has fallen short of the expected standards and demands and requires immediate improvement. 

 During this stage, the employer must clearly and accurately document the issues at hand, provide evidence of the employee’s actions and outline the potential consequences should the employee fail to rectify their behaviour. The written warning should also state what improvement is expected, the deadline for meeting the demands and the support and resources that are available to help the employee achieve the desired outcome.

 In addition to providing a clear record of the situation, the written warning stage also allows the employee an opportunity to respond to the allegations and provide further information or evidence to support their position. This conversation can highlight underlying factors that may be contributing to the employee’s poor performance or behaviour, which need to be addressed to prevent similar issues in the future.

 It is important to note that a written warning is not a disciplinary action in itself but rather a formal warning that the employee is at risk of disciplinary action if their behaviour or performance does not improve. As such, it is critical that employers follow the correct procedures and apply the warning consistently and fairly to avoid claims of unfair treatment or discrimination.



 When addressing minor misconduct, there may come a point when the employee in question is suspended from work. This step is taken to protect the interests of the business, its employees and customers. Sometimes this is done when conducting an investigation and the suspension may be temporary depending on the outcome. Suspensions are usually used as a way to ensure a fair and thorough investigation can take place.

 During the suspension, the employee will typically be informed of the reasons for their suspension and the expected duration of the suspension. They may also be required to hand over any company property, such as keys or laptops and be prohibited from entering the workplace or contacting colleagues.

 It is important to note that an employee on suspension is still entitled to certain rights, including any contractual entitlements and the right to appeal against the suspension. Employers should ensure that they follow the relevant policies and procedures and provide appropriate support and guidance to the employee during this time.



 The dismissal step is the most severe one that is used for addressing misconduct that has escalated. It is generally the last resort when all other forms of disciplinary action have failed or are deemed inappropriate for the situation at hand.

 In order to dismiss an employee, certain legal and procedural requirements must be met. These will vary depending on the country and specific laws that apply. However, in general, employers must follow a fair and objective process that includes providing the employee with an opportunity to respond to allegations and conducting a formal hearing if necessary. Again in this step, an investigation may be needed to figure out if the employee is really at fault. 

 If the decision is taken to dismiss the employee, the employer must inform them in writing, outlining the reasons for the dismissal and any evidence that was considered. The employee must also be given the right to appeal the decision within a specified timeframe.

 Dismissal can have serious consequences for the employee, including loss of income and difficulty finding new employment. Therefore, it is important that employers only use this as the last available step and ensure that the process followed is fair and objective. Failure to do so may result in an unfair dismissal case. 


Please remember

 Addressing minor misconduct can be tricky as businesses need to differentiate what separates each layer of offences. When does a minor offence become a serious offence? Those are some questions that have to be considered before taking action. Addressing misconduct quickly ensures better results and avoids business operation disruptions. 

 To achieve better outcomes, our customers use Polonious to manage each employee case. Polonious offers a single point of truth for all misconduct cases, with a fully audit logged trail of all activities so that you can justify your decisions if they are ever questioned. We provide our clients with a secure place to upload different types of files that can be addressed only by those involved in the case.

 Our system also provides red flags if key errors have been detected which warns employers if key performance indicators have not been met. Polonious increases the overall process efficiency by helping companies save time since everything is easily accessible from one place, anywhere, anytime. Do you want to see how our system works? Request a demo

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6 ways to write a better investigative report

6 ways to write a better investigative report

investigative report

 An investigative report can be very effective in resolving workplace issues. It follows a workplace investigation after the information has been gathered and evidence has been analysed. The investigator can then recommend the necessary corrective actions. Preparing a thorough investigative report can be a challenging task, especially for investigators who do not have a lot of experience. Some practical guidelines can improve your investigative report and ensure that it is comprehensive, well-structured and impactful. 


Six tips for improving an investigative report

 Every investigator has their own writing style but some elements can help any individual put together a comprehensive document that can contribute to creating a better investigation outcome. To keep your report insightful and persuasive, follow these six essential tips:


  1. Keep it formal but simplify 
  2. Clarify why certain steps were skipped/not needed
  3. Study another course
  4. Develop corrective actions that address the root cause rather than the obvious problem
  5. Use an investigation report template
  6. Get someone to read the report


1. Keep it formal but simplify

 A well-written investigative report should show professionalism through its language and tone. While jargon is sometimes needed, it is wise to avoid it when possible, along with overly technical terminology which may confuse the reader. Instead, use clear, concise, and easily understandable language. Ensure the report adheres to fundamental grammar and punctuation rules and make use of short paragraphs, bullet points, or numbered lists for better readability. Long paragraphs or huge blocks of text may convey information faster but the reader will have a harder time comprehending what the document is saying. 

 Maintaining a neutral tone is crucial when presenting facts, evidence or statements. Refrain from expressing an opinion in the report or using loaded words that may give the appearance of bias. The investigative report should be a factual recount of the workplace investigation, allowing superiors or third parties to make informed decisions based on the content. The corrective actions should only be phrased as recommendations, not requirements. 


2. Clarify why certain steps were skipped/not needed

 In some instances, you may decide not to investigate specific aspects, interview certain individuals, or collect particular documents. It is essential to document the reasons behind these decisions in the report. By noting the rationale, you demonstrate transparency in the investigation process and guard against accusations of unprofessional or biased conduct. Neglecting to take some certain action could raise questions among the management team and risk the effectiveness of the investigative report. 

 For example, you may opt not to interview certain parties because they were on leave or unreachable. You may also choose to exclude details about previous accidents or incidents if they are irrelevant to the current investigation. Providing reasons for an incomplete or shorter investigation can play a critical role in supporting your findings and recommendations. Employers are more likely to trust the result if the actions were adequately explained. 


3. Study a course

 Studying could be needed, especially if you have been appointed internally and have no specialised investigation experience, or as the investigation industry evolves and techniques are improved. While experience and intuition can go a long way in composing an effective investigative report, a formal training course in workplace investigations can significantly improve your skills. Many organisations offer specialised training programs for investigators, helping them identify relevant laws and regulations, gather facts and evidence, interview witnesses, analyse data and make insightful recommendations. One course may focus on a specific aspect that you are interested in; this course is more likely to be detailed and provide greater insights on the topic that other general investigation courses cannot. 

 Investigation courses typically cover essential skills, such as organising and planning the investigation, ethical considerations and confidentiality requirements. If you want to invest in further education and training, it would be wise to do thorough research and understand the fees, goals of each course and why you need it. Take your time and figure out which part of the investigative report you struggle with and do not underestimate the benefits a course can have in improving your writing skills.

investigative report

4. Develop corrective actions that address the root cause rather than the obvious problem

 In a workplace investigative report, one of the crucial steps is to identify the root causes of the issue at hand. Once the root causes have been identified, it is equally significant to focus corrective actions on those causes instead of just addressing their symptoms. Corrective actions that are tailored to root causes are more likely to be effective and sustainable in the long term. Those kinds of corrective actions are also more likely to drive improvement within the workplace. 

 When corrective actions only address the symptoms of an issue, it is often just a temporary solution, and the problem can resurface. For example, if harassment in the workplace is a result of a lack of training and awareness, training employees on appropriate conduct can prevent instances of harassment from taking place. However, if the root cause of the issue is a toxic culture that fosters harassment, just providing training may not be enough. In this case, the organisation needs to take more extensive measures, such as revising policies and procedures or making changes to the management structure, to effectively deal with the problem. They might need to re-evaluate their hiring practices and what kind of induction is carried out. 

 Moreover, when corrective actions only focus on the symptoms, they can lead to an endless cycle of repeatedly dealing with the same issue. This means more costs and lower productivity. It is, therefore, crucial to identify the root causes of the problem during the investigation, so the organisation can implement targeted and sustainable corrective actions. 


5. Use an investigation report template

 An investigation report template can provide a solid structure for your document, making it easier to organise the information and ensure you cover all relevant aspects. A standard template typically includes the following sections:

– Executive Summary: Briefly summarises the main findings and recommendations. Ensure you include details such as who and when. Including dates and exact times are important for a better investigative report. 

– Background: Describes the incident, complaint or issue under investigation. It should explain clearly what the allegation was and who the parties involved are. 

– Process: This section outlines the methods used to conduct the investigation, such as interviews, document reviews and site visits.

– Findings: This section presents the factual findings of the investigation, including testimony gathered from witnesses and supporting documentation. Investigators should avoid sharing any unnecessary details and ensure they include the evidence that lead to the findings.

-Analysis: This section provides an analysis of the findings, interpreting the evidence gathered in the investigation and applying relevant legal and policy frameworks. The analysis should highlight how the evidence and findings potentially breach rules or laws. 

-Recommendations: This section identifies the strengths and weaknesses of the organisation’s existing systems and processes and provides clear and actionable recommendations for improvement.

-Conclusion: This section summarises the investigation’s findings and recommendations and may include closing comments.

A thorough template can remove the need for investigators to remember every single detail they need to include in each section. Alternatively, an investigator may also use a checklist. 


6. Get someone to read the report

 If possible, it could be beneficial to get someone else involved in the case to read the investigative report. This additional step helps ensure accuracy, clarity and comprehensiveness. It is crucial that a person who already knows all details and has permission to access the documents is chosen rather than an outsider. Usually, this individual might be another investigator who assisted in the case. A fresh pair of eyes may help identify errors or omissions that the primary investigator may have overlooked, such as inconsistencies in the facts, ambiguous language, or incomplete information.

 Moreover, having another person review the investigation report can help to validate and ensure the findings and conclusions are correctly presented in the report. They might also find bad phrasing or grammatical errors that the writer did not notice when proofreading. This additional review can enhance credibility and allow for more reliable recommendations.

 Another person may also offer a different perspective or interpretation of the events being investigated. This additional insight could lead to a more comprehensive understanding of the situation, which can be valuable for determining appropriate responses or solutions. The better organised an investigative report looks, the more likely it is that it will be taken seriously and will be more effectively targeting the root cause of the problem. 


To conclude

 It is important that investigators understand which part of the investigative report they struggle with. It could be writing the whole document or just one section. Understanding this difference is essential for ensuring the investigator can find the correct way to improve, as an investigative report has many sections. Focusing on one area at a time can also help as the investigator can practice and feel more comfortable before moving on to the next one. 

 Polonious helps its clients with their investigative reports by automating a great deal of the report writing – Polonious can insert client, POI, and other information into template fields, as well as selectively insert contemporaneous notes, ID photos, surveillance/CCTV photos, and so on, all according to your custom designed templates. Additionally we keep all information and evidence securely stored for as long as it is needed. We ensure that the confidentiality of all parties is protected and allow investigators to upload different types of files in our system, allowing for better flexibility. Moreover, investigators can set permissions for who is allowed to access the files or who can see certain case updates. This allows for parties only to see the information that is relevant to them. Do you want to know more? Request a demo

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7 ways to protect employee confidentiality during an investigation

7 ways to protect employee confidentiality during an investigation

employee confidentiality

 Employee confidentiality is required for conducting an investigation that has minimal impact on employee well-being, business operations and employee/employer reputation. A successful investigation needs many boxes to be ticked. One of them is keeping all information secure internally and not allowing outsiders to access any sensitive data that could negatively affect the investigation process or business growth. How can this be done? We have come up with some strategies that will be helpful. 


What does employee confidentiality cover?

 When referring to confidentiality in an investigative context, it means protecting the privacy of those involved in the investigation, such as the complainant, witnesses and accused individual(s). Confidentiality is essential to ensure that these individuals feel safe to report any wrongdoing or cooperate fully with the investigation without the fear of retaliation or unwanted publicity. Employee confidentiality includes names, positions or anything else that could potentially identify employees. 

 Maintaining confidentiality is crucial in any investigation, but it becomes even more significant when dealing with high-profile cases like the Wells Fargo scandal. In such cases, ensuring the anonymity of the parties involved can prevent media coverage, encourage more witnesses and whistleblowers to come forward, and ultimately lead to a more effective investigation.


Protecting employee confidentiality

 So, how can businesses ensure that they maintain confidentiality during an investigation? Here are some practical tips and best practices:

  1. Establish clear confidentiality policies
  2. Use secure software
  3. Hire experienced investigators
  4. Limit the sharing of information
  5. Communicate securely
  6. Seek legal advice
  7. Conceal and double check


1. Establish clear confidentiality policies

 Companies should have clear policies in place that outline how they will handle confidential information and communicate these policies to all employees involved in an investigation. They should also communicate their policies to the investigator responsible for carrying out the process. 

 Just like most policies, investigation confidentiality policies should be established with employee contribution to get a better idea of what will work for the organisation. For example, the IT department can share what is possible within the systems, while the accounting department can share whether something can be afforded. Other employees can offer ideas about how the policy can be improved. 

2. Use secure software

 Many programs purport to provide case management solutions or features – for example, there are numerous ‘case managers’ built on the back of popular CRM software, or your HRM system may allow for ‘case notes’ on an employee file. However, these are not dedicated investigation systems designed for running investigations and, along with not having the same kind of features required for running an efficient investigation, they’re also not designed with detailed security in mind.

 To maintain confidentiality in an investigation, while being able to share the information you need to share, you need a dedicated investigation management system designed with granular security – down to the level of individual documents and individual fields. This way, you can share the information that needs to be shared with stakeholders, while ensuring the rest is only accessible on a need to know basis. Further, everything that is kept confidential should be stored in an encrypted format, and accessible only with strong password security and multi factor authentication. Many of the points discussed here require, or are at least easier to control, with the right software.

3. Hire experienced investigators

 When it comes to protecting employee confidentiality, businesses cannot take any chances. Even though hiring experienced workplace investigators may seem like an added cost, it is a wise investment that can save the company from potential lawsuits and reputational damage.

 Experienced workplace investigators have the necessary skills and expertise to conduct thorough investigations that respect employee privacy and confidentiality. They know how to collect evidence without violating anyone’s rights and can identify any breaches of company policies or legal requirements.

 Moreover, hiring reputable investigators can enhance the trust and confidence of employees in the company, making employee morale and loyalty increase. When employees feel that their privacy is respected and protected, they are more likely to stay with the company and perform at their best, especially when it has to do with a sensitive matter. 

 Conducting internal investigations can be time consuming and detract from other important business functions. By outsourcing this task, companies can free up their own resources and focus on core business operations, while also ensuring the investigator is impartial. That way they ensure that confidentiality is protected and they reduce both administrative time and costs. 

4. Limit the sharing of information: 

 In order to protect employee confidentiality during an investigation, it is crucial to limit the information that is shared. Gossiping and sharing confidential information with outsiders can have a negative impact on employees who are under scrutiny or are suspected of wrongdoing. Outsiders could create rumours or spread false details that could make the investigation process more stressful and potentially cause retaliation. Making it clear to employees that they are not allowed to share any information with outsiders (except for professionals) can help to preserve the integrity of the investigation as well as the privacy of employees who may be involved.

 By not leaking the details of the investigation, management can maintain control over the process and ensure that sensitive information does not fall into the wrong hands. It is important to communicate only what is necessary to those who are directly involved in the investigation, such as HR staff and legal counsel. This may require the company to implement strict protocols for handling information and limiting access to certain documents or files.

employee confidentiality

5. Communicate securely

 When conducting a workplace investigation, employers need to ensure that sensitive information remains secure at every stage of the process. Failure to do so could harm or embarrass the individuals involved. 

 Secure communication channels, such as encrypted messaging or password-protected file sharing, can help prevent unauthorised access to personal data. These technologies provide an additional layer of protection against cyber threats that may attempt to access confidential information as well as any other outsiders.

 When conducting interviews with employees, it is important to ensure that the conversations remain confidential. One way to achieve this is by conducting interviews in a private and secure location, away from prying eyes and ears. During the planning phase of the process, investigators should take some time to consider where the interviews will take place and why. A place away from the workplace (such as the investigator’s office) or a place within the business with low foot traffic could be ideal. 

 Another detail that must be considered is how the investigator records interview notes. Should they use handwritten notes or a digital device? They should think of how strong their security is and what the chances are of physical notes ending up compromised. If the interviews are taking place online, the meeting should be password protected to prevent third parties from joining. 

 All parties involved in a workplace investigation should be mindful of their communication practices. This includes avoiding discussing investigation progress and updates over unsecured channels, such as social media or personal email accounts. This will ensure that employee confidentiality is protected, as people will not be able to forward or screenshot messages and emails. 

6. Seek legal advice

 Obtaining legal advice can ensure that all aspects of the investigation are conducted in compliance with the applicable laws and regulations, preventing any breach of employee confidentiality. This is especially important when an investigation is led by internal staff members. They might not have enough experience or might not be aware of all the relevant rules they need to follow. 

 Legal advisors can provide guidance on how to maintain employee confidentiality during an investigation. They can advise the employer on what information can and cannot be shared with third parties, including other employees, to prevent the breach of privacy of the employees under investigation. It is always beneficial to have another perspective or someone more knowledgeable sharing strategies and assisting with completing a smooth investigation. 

 Legal advisors can help employers to establish strict procedures for handling sensitive information, including documentation, evidence gathering and witness statements, to preserve the confidentiality of employees throughout the investigation process. This can directly relate to the first tip which requires strong policies and procedures. 

7. Conceal and double check 

 One of the most effective ways to protect employee data is by concealing their names in interviews or documents. This method ensures that their identities are not disclosed to unauthorised persons who may try to access these records. It would be beneficial to have a conversation with the employer and discuss whether it is necessary for the accused to know who reported the incident.

 Concealing would also include witnesses not knowing who else is involved – that way, individuals will not be able to agree on a fixed story. They will be able to provide a more honest recount of events. It is necessary to note that this is not always possible if witnesses are friends or work closely together as they will share their involvement with each other. However, it can increase the integrity of investigations as they will not be aware of the questions asked if they are interviewed one after the other. As mentioned above, using investigation software with detailed, granular security will allow you to provide necessary information to witnesses and other persons of interest, while concealing key information such as names.

 Double-checking personal details such as home addresses, phone numbers and email addresses can also help prevent any unintentional data leaks. This involves taking the necessary verification steps to confirm that the information provided is correct and ensuring that it is kept confidential while being used for internal purposes only. When sending an email it is wise to check whether there is a dash, weird spelling or other symbols that could look like letters. For example, someone using 0 as o or L as I. If possible, double-check with all parties and copy-paste addresses when applicable. 

 By taking these measures, organisations can protect employee confidentiality and ensure a more private investigation. 


Wrapping up

 In many cases, it is not possible to guarantee complete employee confidentiality. Just like with every risk, companies can try to minimise it or avoid it but may not be able to eliminate it. Make it clear to those involved that the findings may need to be disclosed to others, primarily for legal reasons. Any breach of confidentiality can not only have devastating consequences for employees but can also result in legal and financial penalties for businesses. Therefore, it is essential that companies prioritise confidentiality as a core value and take proactive steps to protect employee privacy. 

 At Polonious, we know how important it is to protect employee confidentiality and ensure a private and effective investigation. We offer our clients a secure system to store sensitive information and record cases, with detailed security settings down to the field level. We provide them with automatic follow-up case updates and only share information with those responsible for each issue. Moreover, we are ISO 27001 and ISO 9001 certified which highlights our commitment to high-quality and confidential case management. Request a demo to learn more about how we can help you!

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Learn more about how Polonious can help you conduct a successful investigation.