How do I Investigate Complaints?
Assess your Investigation Procedures and Practices
Why have an Investigation?
An investigation may be required in the following circumstances:
- A suspected breach of the organisation’s Code of Conduct, rules, policy and/or procedure has occurred;
- A formal complaint has been received;
- A safety incident has occurred
What Key Principles do I Need to keep in Mind?
- Investigate the complaint as soon as possible - delays have a detrimental effect on morale, important information being forgotten or incorrectly presented to the investigator.
- Treat all complaints seriously and with sensitivity.
- Keep the investigation confidential. Talk to people only on a “need to know” basis, do not publish or talk about a complaint or the results.
- Investigate the complaint to get facts, not to create allegations or rumours.
- If there is more than one incident/complaint, investigate each one separately but be aware that there might be a pattern of behaviour.
How do I Conduct an Investigation into a Complaint?
Each issue requires its own method of investigation; however, there are some common steps:
Step 1 Analysis
- What/who is being investigated?
- Does the investigator have a conflict?
- What has happened?
- What policies and legislation are relevant?
- Are there any relevant documents or is other advice required before starting the investigation?
- Is it unlawful or misconduct?
- Is expert or legal advice required?
- Should the police be contacted?
- Does a letter of allegations need to be prepared by the investigator for the respondent?
- Who else needs to know?
Step 2 Plan
- What does the investigator need to know?
- Who needs to be interviewed?
- Who may require counselling (offer to both the complainant and respondent)?
- What documents are needed?
- In what order should witnesses be interviewed?
- Where and when should interviews be held?
- What time frame should apply?
- What questions should be asked in interviews?
- Do any staff/other people need a briefing about what is going on?
Step 3 Interview
- Explain the purpose and process of the investigation to the interviewee. Explain that other people will be interviewed
- Explain confidentiality issues and the roles of all those involved in the investigation including the role of any support person/s
- Start the interview with background information (e.g. interviewee’s position/role within the sport, how long they have known other people relevant to the investigation)
- Use open questions to get a description of the issues/allegations and to obtain more detail where possible (“You have told x, y, z - tell me some more about that”)
- Get specific details not generalised comments. Find out what they saw, where, when, who else was there, why something happened (if known), what happened next etc.
- Do not ask leading questions that suggest a particular answer
- When informing the respondent of the complaint/allegation, describe the details of the complaint as the complainant gave them (be accurate)
- Check other evidence to corroborate the version of events provided by each interviewee (e.g. diaries, file notes, video footage, other witnesses)
- Assist recall by suggesting that the person being interviewed reconstruct the incident in their own mind such as thinking about venues/rooms, clothing, weather etc.
- Test the person’s recollection and your understanding of it. Note that the intention is to double check the information provided and your comprehension of it, not to trick or deceive the interviewee.
- Carefully note all the areas of disagreement between the two people/parties. It is reasonable to expect a denial of allegations so note any inconsistencies
- If there is contradictory information, put this to the person and ask for their response
- Keep good notes of the interview. Record the interview if appropriate and you have the permission of the interviewee. If possible, obtain a written statement from the interviewee.
- Maintain objectivity and use empathy, not sympathy with interviewees.
- Be aware of interviewee’s body language and eye contact
- Explain there may be a need to meet again to confirm information or clarify inconsistencies
- Inform interviewee of what will happen next and if appropriate possible outcomes
- Discuss a time frame
Step 4 Review
- Are any documents missing?
- Have all witnesses been interviewed?
- Has the respondent been given the opportunity to respond to all allegations?
- Has the complainant been given the opportunity to respond to the respondent’s explanation?
- Have inconsistencies been put to all witnesses?
- Have all other sources of information been checked?
- Is there a full picture of what happened?
- Is there a clear time line of events?
Step 5 Evaluate and Conclude
- What are the allegations?
- What evidence is there to support each allegation/refute each allegation?
- How much corroborating evidence is there?
- How reliable is the evidence:
- Who created it (bias)?
- How recent is it?
- Could it have been tampered with?
- How credible are the witnesses (consider any inconsistencies of the accounts provided, honesty and demeanour of interviewees and the possibility for collaboration)
- Can conclusions be drawn (on the ‘balance of probabilities’ rather than ‘beyond reasonable doubt’)?
- Are conclusions linked to/justified by information?
Step 6 Report Writing
- Describe allegations/complaint
- Identify investigator and qualifications/position
- Include timeframes of investigation (if the investigation is prolonged, explain why)
- Provide background information including relevant policies and/or law
- Include names of people interviewed and their position in the organisation
- Include other steps used to collect information
- Identify issues/incidents investigated
- Explain what is agreed and what is in dispute
- Use a logical sequence (e.g. chronological) to present the evidence
- Show sources of evidence
- Discuss factual conflicts and why certain information was disregarded or taken into account
- Explain any collaboration of information between interviewees
- If required comment on the reliability of witnesses
- Must flow logically from evidence
- Do not jump to conclusions
- If the investigator cannot make any conclusion, explain why
- Only include if specifically asked to
Get in Touch with Jump
If you need help, or you answered no or unsure to any of the questions in the assessment tool, then Jump Business Solutions can help you. Phone us on +64 6 754 8987 or +64 27 450 5271 or email firstname.lastname@example.org and Jump will come to you, discover your needs, and develop a solution that will create real, long-term and positive change for you and your business.
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