You might be thinking about using an external provider to carry out an investigation into an employment issue that has arisen. This might be because your internal resource doesn’t have enough time, or perhaps they have been involved in the issues that need to be investigated.

Alternatively, you might not have anyone in your organisation who has the skillset to carry out the investigation if the issues are complex.

The organisations that call us in typically have a dispute that needs to be resolved. At Narrow Quay HR, we help organisations get to the root of workplace disputes by conducting complex and sensitive investigations on their behalf. We cover areas such as disciplinary allegations, employee grievances, bullying and harassment, allegations of discrimination, whistle-blowing, employee fraud, and breakdowns in trust and confidence at board level.

So What Do We Do When You Instruct Us?

The first step is for us to let you know how much we think it is going to cost. We generally tend to charge per day so once we’ve taken some initial information from you we will let you know how many days we think it will take us to conduct the investigation and provide you with an investigation report. We’ll break it down so you can see what’s involved and how the time will be spent.

Once you’ve given us the go ahead, we’ll work with you to prepare the Terms of Reference. These set out the areas that we are asked to look into. It is often the case that our clients will take legal advice about the Terms of Reference. Preparing the Terms of Reference is an important stage because it tells us what we are investigating, and sometimes what we are specifically not being asked to investigate.

For instance, sometimes an employee may have raised a previous grievance or there may have been a previous disciplinary or capability matter they were not happy about. The employer will therefore not want us to deal with that because it has already been looked into. It is sometimes the case that during the investigation other matters crop up and we will always go back to the client to establish whether they want us to also investigate those matters.

What is also usually included in the Terms of Reference is the list of the people that we have been asked to interview. We’ll look at how we carry out the interviews below but in terms of interviewees, again this is sometimes something that changes during the investigation.

I recently interviewed someone who was accused of bullying. When I interviewed them they and their union representative named 15 additional people they said I needed to interview. When that happens, we need to take a view about the best approach to take. We need to be proportionate in how we proceed, we need to weigh up the relevance of the evidence to the matters we have been asked to investigate. We also need to consider questions like ‘are we likely to get several people telling us the same thing?’ We also need to think about the effect that carrying out any additional interviews will have on the time the investigation will take.

So, We Have Received the Terms of Reference, What Next?

We will usually be sent the relevant documents, so for example in the case of an investigation into a grievance we will be sent the grievance letter and the supporting documents. It’s also important for us to review the policy under which we are carrying out the investigation. This document will for instance say whether people can be accompanied by a work colleague or trade union representative in the investigation. The basic position is that there is no right to be accompanied at an investigation meeting but sometimes, particularly with public sector employers, there is that right included in their policy.

Having read the background documents and policies, we will then set up the interviews. When dealing with a grievance, we will try to interview the complainant first as it is important to fully understand the nature of the complaint or dispute. Experience says that the complainant tends to expand on what is included in the initial documents.

When we do the interviews, we don’t tend to record them. We take notes of the interview and after the interview send them to the interviewee to check, amend and approve. It’s often the case that the people we interview will send us further documents, which we will consider and add to the documentary evidence.

When we have interviewed everyone, we will then prepare our investigation report. We will set out the key elements of the Terms of Reference, the process we followed, then analyse the evidence we have received and set out our findings, conclusions. If we have been asked to do so then we also set out our recommendations. We will add as appendices to the report the notes of the interviews we have carried out and the documentary evidence we have collected.

It’s important to remind ourselves what our role is in investigations – we are fact gathering. We don’t make any decisions, although we may make recommendations.

What Does That Mean?

In a disciplinary matter, our role is to gather all the evidence and then at most we would recommend whether, based on the evidence we have seen, that we think it would merit being heard in a disciplinary hearing. We will never make recommendations about the level of warning for instance as that would be to overstep our remit.

Our approach is to take a balanced, objective approach and set out our thought processes, refer to the key evidence and then how we have arrived at our findings and conclusions which we arrived at on the balance of probabilities.

At Narrow Quay HR, we are all former employment lawyers with over 70 years’ experience between us. We understand how employment law requires investigations to be carried out properly and that informs our approach. I have acted for a number of employers over the years in Employment Tribunals and have been doing the advocacy when Employment Judges have spent a lot of time dissecting the investigations that were carried out. I have used that experience to inform my approach when conducting the investigation.

Our aim is to make our reports speak for themselves, so that the key evidence is referred to and our findings, conclusions and recommendations are clear. What that means is that it is very unusual for us to need to attend any subsequent grievance or disciplinary hearing for example.

I hope that gives you an idea of what we do and how we do it. Of course if you need any more details please contact Simon Martin on 07384 813 076, Sarah Martin on 07799 136091, or Caitlin Anniss on 07909 683938.

Unconscious bias can have implications on decision making. We discuss how to mitigate this to create an inclusive working environment.

In this podcast, we discuss:

  • What is unconscious bias and where does it come from?
  • Why is it relevant in the workplace?
  • Examples of how it can effect decision making for HR teams
  • Steps you can take to create a fair and inclusive work environment

How Can We Help?

Our specialist HR consultants can help your organisation by:

  • providing support with your day to day HR issues
  • auditing your HR policies and procedure to identify problems and suggest improvements
  • training for your staff
  • practical support with consultations and other HR projects
  • carrying out investigations into grievances, disciplinaries and other matters

Related Resources

If you require specialist HR support relating to workplace investigations, please contact HR Consultant Sarah Martin on 07799 136091.

We discuss some of our top tips for effective remote performance management whilst working at home.

In this podcast, we discuss:

  • Reinforcing your organisation’s values
  • Open Communication
  • Recognition and trust
  • Goal setting and feedback
  • Development opportunities

How Can We Help?

Our specialist HR consultants can help your organisation by:

  • providing support with your day to day HR issues
  • auditing your HR policies and procedure to identify problems and suggest improvements
  • training for your staff
  • practical support with consultations and other HR projects
  • carrying out investigations into grievances, disciplinaries and other matters

Related Resources

If you require specialist HR support relating to carrying out workplace investigations remotely, please contact HR Consultant Caitlin Anniss on 07909 683938.

We consider the challenges of carrying out a workplace investigation remotely during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

In our podcast, we discuss:

  • Planning for a virtual workplace investigation
  • Practical steps to consider 
  • What to do if an employee refuses to participate
  • Can furloughed staff participate?

How Can We Help?

Our specialist HR consultants can help your organisation by:

  • providing support with your day to day HR issues
  • auditing your HR policies and procedure to identify problems and suggest improvements
  • training for your staff
  • practical support with consultations and other HR projects
  • carrying out investigations into grievances, disciplinaries and other matters

Related Resources

If you require specialist legal advice relating to carrying out workplace investigations remotely, please contact HR Consultants Caitlin Anniss on 07909 683938 or Sarah Martin on 07799 136091.

NQHR HR Club - Redundancy Masterclass

We discuss the importance of effective consultation and how to correctly consult staff remotely, in our first Narrow Quay HR club webinar.

Included in this webinar:

  • Why are consultations needed?
  • Effective consultation
  • Individual and collective consultations
  • Consulting with staff remotely

How Can We Help?

Our specialist HR consultants can help your organisation by:

  • providing support with your day to day HR issues
  • auditing your HR policies and procedure to identify problems and suggest improvements
  • training for your staff
  • practical support with consultations and other HR projects
  • carrying out investigations into grievances, disciplinaries and other matters

Related Resources

If you require support with consulting your staff, please contact Caitlin Anniss on 07799 136 091 or Jessica Scott-Dye in the VWV Employment Law team on 07799 901 428.

We consider the challenges of establishing and maintaining teams whilst working in a virtual environment. Also providing practical steps to mitigate the impact on productivity.

In our podcast, we discuss:

  • issues when team bonding in a virtual environment
  • how to retain the effectiveness of teams
  • developing new teams and integrating a new team member
  • the role of managers
  • mitigating the impact of virtual environments

How Can We Help?

Our specialist HR consultants can help your organisation by:

  • providing support with your day to day HR issues
  • auditing your HR policies and procedure to identify problems and suggest improvements
  • training for your staff
  • practical support with consultations and other HR projects
  • carrying out investigations into grievances, disciplinaries and other matters

If you require specialist legal advice relating to managing teams in a virtual environment, please contact HR Consultant Caitlin Anniss on 07909 683938.

Managing the menopause in the workplace has become a more topical issue in recent times.

In this article, we will consider:

  • why employers need to think about this
  • the legal context and risks
  • practical tips for managing staff who may be going through the menopause.

There are 15 million women in the UK workforce, and 3.5 million women over 50 in UK workplaces. Currently, one in eight women in the UK workforce is over 50, but this is forecast to rise to one in six by 2022. In the UK, the average age for a woman to go through the menopause is 51, so there is a large group of UK employees who are going to go through, or have gone through, the menopause.

ACAS suggests that two million women aged over 50 will have difficulties at work, due to symptoms of the menopause and that one in three women over 50 will have had severe symptoms from the menopause or perimenopause.

How employers manage the menopause in the workplace will impact on staff well being, staff retention, and equality and diversity.

Legal Context

Employers have a duty to minimise, reduce or where possible remove, health and safety risks for workers. So, ensuring that menopausal symptoms are not made worse by the workplace or work practices, and making changes to help a worker manage their symptoms at work is critical. There is also a duty not to behave in a way which may undermine the implied duty of trust and confidence.

There is limited case law dealing with menopause transition in the UK but two first instance decisions have recently linked the menopause to the protected characteristics of sex, and disability. There is the possibility of other successful discrimination claims being brought in future, for example, indirect discrimination, failure to make reasonable adjustments, victimisation or harassment.

Employers should consider how to manage their risks by carrying out risk assessments, reviewing their policies and procedures, considering training and thinking about environmental factors, such as temperature control.

What is the Menopause?

The menopause is a natural stage of life, usually starting in the late 40’s and involves the decline of women’s oestrogen levels until no eggs are produced. As it goes on for a number of years, it is better to view it as a stage or transition rather than an event. Some women may also have an early menopause, either naturally, or as a result of surgery or medical treatment. The perimenopause usually starts in mid 40’s.

There are a number of symptoms of perimenopause and menopause – both physical and psychological. Symptoms affect women differently and some can experience very mild symptoms while others experience very severe ones. Symptoms can include; feeling tired and low on energy, hot flushes, irregular and heavy periods, aches and pains, mood swings, difficulty sleeping and night sweats, anxiety and panic attacks, struggling with concentration or focus, and headaches and migraines.

Women who do not get support with symptoms may lose confidence in their roles at work, and may suffer with poor mental health.

What Can Employers Do?

  • Think about and talk about the topic
  • Treat symptoms of the menopause as you would any other health condition.
  • Make work an open environment where employees can talk about their symptoms, if they are causing difficulties at work
  • Think about introducing a Menopause Policy
  • Talk to staff who are struggling about appropriate adjustments
  • Involve line managers
  • Think about appointing Menopause Champions in your workplace
  • Raise awareness of the topic in your workplace, in a way appropriate for your culture – posters, newsletters, a menopause policy, menopause cafes can all work. Use simple messages and get senior management on board.

Appropriate adjustments may include private areas to rest, working time arrangements, access to toilets, and a good temperature in the workplace. Discuss options with the staff concerned. Think about alleviating the barriers to allow women affected to carry on in their role.

Think about how this process will be managed in practice. There should be conversations with the employee, identifying specific issues, and identifying any appropriate adjustments which may help. These should be recorded and a follow up should be arranged. Decide who can make decisions about adjustments; line managers or senior management?

The Role of Line Managers

Line managers are critical in managing the menopause in the workplace. They are typically the first point of contact for people who are struggling with symptoms. They are responsible for implementing policies and supporting good performance, as well as also responsible for managing absence and supporting returns to work.

  • Encourage regular one to ones between managers and their staff. This can create the environment where staff can speak up. Managers should keep information discussed at these meetings confidential and agree with the staff member who they are happy to inform and how.
  • Train line managers in how to deal with sensitive conversations such as these.
  • Encourage managers to ask about staff well-being or issues which they have noticed, but not to ask direct questions about the menopause. Remember that it is up to the individual to disclose their symptoms.
  • Create awareness for managers so that they are comfortable in providing information and training on the topic.

Difficult Areas:

  • For some women, the symptoms of the menopause may affect their performance or cause absences. Take this into account when managing performance and making adjustments, for example by treating absence related to the menopause separately to absence for other reasons.
  • Remember that the menopause is potentially a long term health issue and may fluctuate over time.

Summary

There is likely to be an increased focus on managing the menopause in the workplace as the number of women going through the menopause increases in the UK workforce. This presents potential challenges to employers, but also rewards in terms of increased staff well-being, good staff retention rates and good HR practice.

Related Resources

The HR consultants at Narrow Quay HR are available to chat through any queries you may have related to menopause and are able to help with any of the issues raised, including menopause policies or a review of your practices and procedures. Please contact our HR specialist Caitlin Anniss on 07909 683 938.

How do you appropriately manage the process of a redundancy situation? Narrow Quay HR Consultant, Sarah Martin provides practical advice for dealing with difficult conversations

Included in this webinar:

  • What is a redundancy situation?
  • What is collective consultation and how does it work?
  • Interaction between individual and collective consultation
  • Who are the employees representatives?
  • How do notice and redundancy payments work?

How Can We Help?

Our specialist HR consultants can help your organisation by:

  • providing support with your day to day HR issues
  • auditing your HR policies and procedure to identify problems and suggest improvements
  • training for your staff
  • practical support with consultations and other HR projects
  • carrying out investigations into grievances, disciplinaries and other matters

Related Resources

If you require any HR support in relation to dealing with a redundancy situation, please contact our HR Consultant, Sarah Martin on 07799 136 091.

Experienced HR Consultants, Simon Martin and Joanne Hill, from Narrow Quay HR, provide practical advice for managers on improving your team’s ability to work remotely.

In our podcast, we discuss

  • The role of managers
  • Facilitating wellbeing discussions
  • How to maintain regular contact
  • Tips for remote working

How Can We Help?

Our specialist HR consultants can help your organisation by:

  • providing support with your day to day HR issues
  • auditing your HR policies and procedure to identify problems and suggest improvements
  • training for your staff
  • practical support with consultations and other HR projects
  • carrying out investigations into grievances, disciplinaries and other matters

Related Resources

If you require any HR support in relation to the challenges of working from home, please contact HR Consultant Simon Martin on 07384 813 076.

How can managers support individuals going through the menopause? Our HR Consultant Caitlin Anniss and VWV’s Employment Associate Jessica Scott-Dye discuss.

In our webinar, we discuss:

  • Why it’s important
  • Legal context
  • Options for employers
  • Current guidance around managing the menopause in the workplace
  • Practical tips
  • Raising awareness

How Can We Help?

Our specialist HR consultants can help your organisation by:

  • providing support with your day to day HR issues
  • auditing your HR policies and procedure to identify problems and suggest improvements
  • training for your staff
  • practical support with consultations and other HR projects
  • carrying out investigations into grievances, disciplinaries and other matters

Related Resources

If you require any HR support in relation to consulting with your staff, please contact our HR Consultant, Caitlin Anniss on 07909 683938 or VWV’s Employment Law Associate, Jessica Scott-Dye on 07799 901 428.