Conducting sound and effective investigations

Our regulatory, public Law and employment specialists, Megan Richards, Briony Davies and Molly Powers recently presented seminars on conducting sound and effective investigations.

Offering insights, our experts addressed when organisations might need to carry out an investigation and some of the key factors impacting how robust an investigation is in terms of both process and substance.

Key points from the seminars include:

  • Behind every successful organisation there should be a feedback process in place to:
    • catch issues early that may require investigation;
    • help to facilitate timely resolution; and
    • prevent larger incidents from occurring.
  • If an incident or issue raises any major financial, reputational, or criminal risks for an organisation an external investigator should usually be engaged. Allegations of sexual harassment and other sensitive matters may also fall in this category.
  • An external investigator may not always be truly independent – a process is needed to check for conflicts of interest such as relationships, financial dependency, or frequency of use of an investigator and patterns in past outcomes.
  • It is best practice to establish a Terms of Reference for all investigations. The Terms of Reference should:
    • identify the investigator and the decision maker;
    • determine who will be involved;
    • detail the scope (and limits) of the issues to be investigated;
    • clarify the output of the investigation;
    • confirm the expected timeline of the investigation;
    • specify the fact-finding methods that will be used; and
    • explain the general process to be followed.
  • Terms of Reference should be narrow enough to target the focus of the investigation but flexible enough to respond to changes and new information throughout the investigation.
  • Contact internal or external IT teams early in the investigation process to collect information held electronically – but don’t forget old fashioned paper records also.
  • Plan ahead at the outset and think strategically about how to approach issues such as:
    • privacy and confidentiality;
    • managing stakeholder, public and media interest and communications;
    • application of legal privilege;
    • difficult employee interactions; and
    • protected disclosures.

This will help to smooth an investigation process as it unfolds.

If you have any questions around investigations, please contact a member of our team.

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