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Informal/Supported Improvement

Informal Investigation – Fact Finding

Where an alleged act of misconduct has been reported, and before a formal investigation has been initiated, the manager should carry out initial enquiries to establish whether there is the need for a formal investigation. It may be that upon asking the employee about the allegation, there is a simple satisfactory explanation, and the matter requires no further action.

Where the nature of the conduct or behaviour is not felt to be serious, or is the first indication that the employee’s conduct does not meet the standard required, a process of supported improvement may be put in place by the manager.

If the allegation is more serious the manager should request that the employee and any witnesses write a statement in response to the allegation detailing factual information only. These statements would then be reviewed prior to instigating a formal investigation process. If the allegations were to be formally investigated the submitted statements would be part of the formal investigation.

Supported Improvement

It is the employee’s line manager who will be responsible for managing a process of supported improvement. Although supported improvement is referred to in the Disciplinary Policy and Procedure, it is not a formal part of the policy.

In most cases, issues concerning poor standards of behaviour/conduct may be adequately resolved on an informal basis through discussion with the employee. In many cases, drawing the employee’s attention to what they have done may be all that is needed and it will often be a more satisfactory method of dealing with a minor breach of discipline than recourse to the formal Disciplinary Procedure.

It should not be necessary for a Trade Union/Professional Organisation Representative or a representative from Human Resources to be present at these informal discussions.  (See more formal supported improvement processes below).

Points to Consider:

  • Any discussion with the individual should be in private and on a one to one basis.
  • Listen to their explanation of the incident or circumstances. If this explanation means there is no case to answer, make this clear to the individual concerned.
  • Criticism should be constructive and the emphasis should be on remedying any shortcomings.
  • Ensure the individual knows what needs to be improved, the standard of conduct/behaviour required, and the timescale for improvement. Consider further training, development plan etc., with reference to the KSF outline for the post (and the PDR Framework).
  • Ensure that the discussion does not develop into a formal investigatory interview but let the person know of the potential consequences of failure to improve or comply with the supported improvement process.
  • If, in the course of a supported improvement conversation, issues come to light that require a formal investigation, then stop and follow the Disciplinary Procedure, seeking advice from Human Resources.
  • Keep a record of the discussion, and confirm in writing to the employee, to ensure a shared understanding of the supported improvement process.

If the problem that has been highlighted requires a more structured process of supported improvement, but is still considered not to be misconduct in terms of the Disciplinary Policy, employees may be accompanied at such meetings by a Trade Union/Professional Organisation Representative or a colleague, friend or relative not acting in a legal capacity.  The purpose of which is to enable the employee to have someone with them who can support them in understanding the issues being discussed at the meeting and the ensuing actions.

Targets in the form of an agreed action plan are important with support in the form of mentoring, training and coaching being implemented, if appropriate.

The individual should be given written confirmation, by their manager, of what has been agreed in terms of:

  • Expected outcomes
  • Timescales for improvement
  • Monitoring mechanisms to be used
  • Timescale for reviews
  • Consequences of a failure to improve
  • A copy of the agreed action plan

The frequency of meetings regarding supported improvement should relate to the specific agreed actions. For example, if the supported improvement plan is to cover a three month period, then as a guide it would be expected that the manager would meet with the employee every month to review progress. In the interim, there may be other meetings / development sessions arranged with the manager / professional lead/ practice development to address the agreed areas for improvement.

At the end of the supported improvement period a formal meeting should take place to review progress and determine if all actions have been completed to the agreed standard.  If all agreed actions have been completed to the agreed standard and there is no further supported improvement necessary, then in line with policy, any documentation relating to the supported improvement period will be held in the employee’s personnel file and will be removed after six months if there has been no further incident or no further cause for concern.

There may be a range of reasons why a plan is not completed within the original agreed timeframe, e.g. manager / mentor / employee on leave, off sick, or other operational reasons. The circumstances should be considered and where an extension is needed this should be agreed.

Where the necessary improvement has not been reached then consideration should be given to formal investigation in line with the Board’s Disciplinary Policy and Procedure. However, managers should also consider if another policy may be more appropriate i.e. capability or attendance management and Human Resources advice can be sought where necessary.

If management decides to use an alternative policy or procedure initially, it does not prevent instigating the Board’s Disciplinary Policy and Procedure at a later stage if it is believed that the alternative policy has not provided a resolution, or if the matter has escalated. 

The manager should confirm the outcome of the supported improvement process to the employee within 5 working days.