Employers should consider whether the allegation of complaint is serious enough to warrant an investigation without delay. Considering the social distancing measures currently in place, employers must:
- ask whether it is practicable to conduct an entire or part of an investigation remotely and to collect any relevant evidence; and
- ask whether delaying an investigation would risk rendering the process unfair.
When considering the answers to these questions, factors such as the following might an have impact:
- Workplace stability – are the employees involved still working together, whether face-to-face or remotely, on a regular basis? Is this likely to cause further stress or tension in the workplace?
- Witness memory and the impact of time.
- Collecting evidence and whether this is impacted by an organisation operating wholly remotely.
- Employee cooperation, which may be more relevant for private employers, particularly those where employees have been wholly or partially stood down and employees may not feel inclined to participate if not directed to do so.
- Employee perceptions of how quickly the employer responds to complaints can build or break down trust.
If the answer to either 1 or 2 of the above is ‘yes’, the employer should consider conducting an investigation remotely.
Look out for my next article regarding some practical steps about how to go about actually undertaking a remote investigation during COVID-19 – and beyond.