No one wants to become a victim of allegations, especially untrue ones. The corporate world and its politics don’t require an introduction. Almost all the workers have gone through the allegations during their working hours and duty. Seriously, no employee desires to face any accusation, as it can lead to feelings of humiliation, embarrassment, and depression.
As an employer or HR person, you must look at these complaints and grievances fairly and lawfully, especially when you have even one per cent doubt. These accusations become tougher and more complicated when the employee seems suspicious.
In any typical workplace, all colleagues’ relationships experience highs and lows. Therefore, when these relationships come to the point where matters among the employees escalate, resulting in malicious accusations. In these scenarios, it becomes a headache for HR managers and employers to make decisions after listening to and investigating the workers. This stressful job must be done after ensuring all parties are heard and dealt with fairly. You need to handle the issue with extreme caution.
In this blog post, we have tried our best to describe the handling of the FALSE ACCUSATION at your organisation. You will know about all your queries after reading this step-by-step guide. So without wasting any time, let’s dive into the article.
If an organization lacks a grievance policy, they must follow the ACAS Code of Practice before taking any steps following an accusation in the workplace. This would refer to any internal policy at the workplace.
Clear statement in the internal policies is necessary that making false accusations is considered an act of misconduct. An Employer needs to investigate the case carefully, as the allegations may have valid ground realities. Most importantly, the HR manager must differentiate between a false accusation and a false allegation with malicious intent.
After knowing about the allegations, the HR department needs to initiate the claim with an investigation. This process involves gathering and collecting the evidence and compiling them. You should speak to the witnesses and don’t forget to interview the witnesses independently and individually.
Before the result, the HR manager needs to investigate the complaints raised. Also, if you suspect a malicious complaint or an accusation made with bad intent, you must still conduct a fair investigation.
Your available notes and points should match the witnesses’ points of view. If not, you will have to take their points. If the amendments are rejected, the points should be kept safe in the case of a claim to the tribunal hearing.
The nominated person from the employer or HR department for the investigation must be unbiased and have no prior involvement with any parties.
However, in the case of larger firms or companies, the nominating individual may be a member of the HR Department or a manager from any other department of the organisation to the accuser and alleged person. For the investigation of smaller companies, a third-party professional can carry out the work.
The investigation should carry out with utmost care and confidentiality, especially when dealing with sensitive issues such as bullying or sexual harassment.
The investigating individual must promptly manage the claim of the accusation by compiling evidence and interviewing witnesses.
The Key Questions during the investigation should address the following concerns:
- Does an accuser have some solid evidence?
- Is there any prior history of issues between both parties? For example a recent dispute?
- Is conciliation available between the parties so the case can end early?
- Can the alleged accuser provide any defence evidence?
The conducting investigating person should ensure that all the detailed minutes/points are taken out from every meeting of the parties. The relevant witnesses should sign these minutes at the end of the interview. In the end, inform all the relevant parties about the timescale in resolving the case of the allegation.
How to Deal with a malicious complainant?
Dealing with a suspicious complainant is stressful if you feel the complaint is troublesome and intentionally made with bad intent. In this case, your next step will depend on the available facts. If there are no available facts, then you must find out evidence from the workplace, from other colleagues, and their records. If still not found, a police investigation will take place for this claim.
In some cases, if you have clear evidence that tells the deliberate intentions of the accuser to harm the other colleague, in this case, you should consider whether disciplinary sanctions are appropriate for the false accuser. However, in some cases, bad intent can lead to dismissal. An individual intentionally making a false or malicious allegation against one of the employees can be sentenced to six months of prison and have to pay heavy charges or both. This is the punishment from the law against these malicious complainants.
This was a brief explanation for dealing with a malicious complainant. Hope you understand your concerns. After this, let’s move down to the most critical next step.
Making a decision
The conducting officer must go through the investigating process without pre-empting a decision. The decision after all the investigations must be made rapidly, and there should be no delay in explanation and reaching any decision.
After concluding the investigation, you must prepare a brief report on any inconsistencies and evidence discovered. Additionally, you should review the findings of the report or investigation to determine if the evidence supporting the accusation is false.
However, if the witnesses or evidence suggest that the alleged accuser is not wrong, then it will not be eligible for disciplinary action.
While the evidence suggests the accuser did believe and understand the allegations to be wrong, then appropriate action under the disciplinary policy must be taken.
How to Discipline a malicious complainant?
On a serious note, you must inform the employee about the result of the allegations and tell them that you have found a false accusation from the opposition.
Once you get into the matter, you notify them of the allegation against them and give them sufficient time to reply and tell their side of the story.
This would be a sensitive issue if you made a mistake during the process, resulting in the tribunal’s claim for unfair dismissal. Therefore, you should handle it with the utmost care and dedication. If the company dismisses an employee for not complying with the disciplinary policy, it could be considered a breach of contract. The breaches of contract occurred in two places as described below:
- Country Court or High Court
- Employment Tribunal
However, suppose the employee has not completed his two straight years of service in the company/organisation. In that case, the employee has no legal right to claim in the employment tribunal for unfair dismissal. But the above-mentioned employee can claim the breach of contract through the court (Country Court or High Court).
In some cases, a small written warning may be given to the employee for making a false accusation.
Disciplinary Action for Employees Making False and Malicious Accusations
Any employee making fake and malicious accusation will breach the law and breaks the trust and confidence between the parties. As a result, employers want to terminate them by sanction. It is crucial to ensure that the disciplinary action process is conducted thoroughly and fairly, allowing the accused party sufficient time and opportunity to defend themselves.
If there is no clear evidence of malicious intent by the complainant, it is important to note that even if the accusation was made with bad intent, they may still claim to be a victim and file a complaint. Therefore, it is important to review the evidence and facts carefully before making any decisions, including taking disciplinary action or dismissal.
Suppose the investigation needs to be carried out properly. In that case, failure in the punishment will harm the employee even though the false accuser with bad intentions will still be in the same workplace.
What are the Areas of risk when handling false allegations?
As you know, if you by mistake do not handle the false allegation at the workplace, there would be a risk of employment tribunal claim for your company. Don’t worry; here we have listed some risks along with their solutions:
You should hand over the relevant evidence, such as documents or witness statements in the form of social media posts or other evidence, to the employee. Furthermore, It should be provided at the time of the invitation before the investigation meeting or interview. This will help them in preparing a proper defence.
Don’t allow the only same person to look at the whole allegation process. Different people should investigate the witnesses. This is because; the employment tribunal usually faces the issues of claims that the same person used to investigate the whole process. But how will you resolve this issue while running such a small firm? It is impossible to have separate individuals take charge of this sensitive issue. Although, you must make clear that the final decisions are made appropriately.
Avoid unnecessary and unexplained delays in the case. You should deal with most of the cases in weeks. Hence, an unnecessary delay will result in an employment tribunal. It should also be kept in mind these complex cases of an accusation such as sexual harassment, fraud, or corruption may take more time than usual.
In other cases, you must warn the employee before the possible consequences of disciplinary action.
Any employee subject to disciplinary action must be given the appeal opportunity to the decision against them.
The company’s disciplinary policy and the guidelines of the ACAS require that if one desires to increase any sanction on appeal, they must state it. The company should allow the employee an additional right to appeal after the entire process has been completed.
Dealing with false accusations at work is a challenging task. It not only damages your reputation but also affects your emotional well-being. HR professionals must develop fair and impartial policies that protect employees from such accusations.
I provided tips to help HR professionals deal with false accusations. These tips will prove useful in mitigating the damage caused by such unfounded allegations.
Remember, it’s essential to remain calm, record events, report the incident immediately, and, most importantly, have faith in the HR process. False accusations should not undermine your professional growth, and with the right approach, you should be able to clear your name and restore your reputation in no time.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
The employees’ rights against false accusations will depend on the facts of the case. However, legal complaints from the worker could include unfair dismissal against the employer. The employees could sue in court if the disciplinary process were not lawful. The legal action can be against the person who made the false allegations and defamed the character.
A person or an employee, who makes a false accusation with bad intentions to other colleagues, can lead to a police investigation. This leads to a possible offence having been committed, and one may be guilty of an offence. However, this does not need to go to court, but if the situation worsens, it can lead to an employment tribunal. This means that false accusation is a crime in the UK.
You can go to jail for false accusations. Yes, you read that right; the punishment for making false allegations could land you a fine, up to Six months in prison, or both.
The ACAS Code of Practice must be followed before any step after the false accusation at the workplace. This would refer to any internal policy at the workplace. If these accusations are found false, they should be clear within the internal policies after claiming it as an act of misconduct.
The investigations should be done should promptly by the investigating individual. Typical investigations usually take days to sort out. However, in the case of complex or complicated cases, the investigations can last about weeks. It means the length of the investigation can depend upon the complexity of the problem.