A member subject to a fact find interview (an investigation meeting) asked for a copy of the recording made at the meeting or a transcript, only to be told by the Bank that she couldn’t have one.
Leaving aside the wider implications of refusing to provide evidence crucial to the member’s defence, the Bank’s refusal to hand over a copy of the recording was a clear breach of Lloyds’ own policy, which says:
“If requested, a copy of the recording will be available from Human Resources after Group Investigations have finished their investigation and before any subsequent disciplinary interviews.”
There are only two possible explanations:
- Incompetence: the investigating officer did not understand the policy.
- Wilful intent: the investigating officer did understand the policy, but decided to circumvent it – a clear disciplinary offence!
What Was Going On?
We don’t know and won’t be told who decided to break the Bank’s own rules or why, but this sort of behaviour should be a real concern for the people who run Bank HR because:
- It betrays a lack of concern for basic fairness and openness on the part of people who are themselves supposed to be investigating inappropriate behaviour.
- If managers in the Bank can choose which policies to observe and which to ignore, showing an apparent disregard for their integrity, it can hardly be surprised if junior staff adopt the same approach!
- It indicates a basic lack of integrity in a regulated environment.
One has to assume that this was a deliberate and crass attempt to make it harder for the individual concerned to defend herself by ensuring that only the ‘prosecution’ had all the evidence.
Two Steps Forward One Step Back
After a particularly bad spell, which I referred to in a number of newsletters, new people running HR in Lloyds undoubtedly set about cleaning up the Bank’s act. Things are now much better than they were three years ago and clearly there has been some much improved decision-making and greater attention to ethics: those concerned deserve credit for that and it would be churlish not to say so.
However, if the Bank wants the rule of law and for its staff to behave with integrity at all times, it needs to set a better example than this.
What Will Happen?
On the assumption that there won’t be an investigation into this matter, we’ve decided to provide our version of how the investigation meeting might go, if it ever took place, embodying some of the black arts we’ve seen practised by investigating managers in recent years:
Investigating Manager “I’d like to have an informal chat with you about a couple of things.”
Interviewee (the investigation manager being investigated) “Certainly, do you want to talk about them now?”
Investigating Manager “Yes, I’ll be with you in 5 minutes.”
Interviewee (entering the room and finding another investigation manager, ready to act as note-taker, with a recording machine). “Hang on, I thought you said this was just an informal chat?”
Investigating Manager “It is just a chat really and obviously you’ve got nothing to hide, have you? All we want to do is confirm some facts.”
Interviewee “If it’s just a chat, why are you recording it?”
Investigating Manager “So we have a record of what was said.”
Interviewee “I’d like to have my union representative with me.”
Investigating Manager “That’s fine is he or she in the building?”
Interviewee “Of course not, why would she be? You haven’t given me any prior notice and have misled me into thinking this was just a chat.”
Investigating Manager “Well if she’s not available we’ll need to get on with the interview.”
Investigating Manager (pressing on) “Would you say that you’re fully trained and fully competent in your role?”
Interviewee “Well.. (recognising the significance of the question)”
Investigating Manager “Look we just want a Yes or No answer to a simple question. Have you been fully trained and are you fully competent?”
Interviewee (starting to get flustered) “Well, I suppose I am.”
Investigating Manager “O.K. so we’ve established that you are fully trained as an investigating manager and consider yourself fully competent. Given you’ve admitted that, why did you breach Bank policy by refusing an interviewee a copy of her investigation meeting interview tape?”
Interviewee “Come on, you know why! If we give her a copy of the tape it will show that we put her under massive pressure to tell us what we needed to establish and after all she did admit breaching procedures.
Investigating Manager “Maybe, but we’re not here to investigate her case; we’re here to find out why you broke Bank policy by refusing to provide her with the tape, which you’ve admitted. `You seem to be arguing that the end justifies the means. Did you also tell her she couldn’t be accompanied at the interview?”
Interviewee “No, I didn’t.”
Investigating Manager “O.K. I’ll ask you the same question in a different way. Did you fail to tell her that she could be accompanied by a union representative or a colleague?”
Interviewee “I didn’t ‘fail’, it was just going to be easier if we got on with the interview and didn’t give her too much time to think about her answers. I didn’t want to make it harder for us.”
Investigating Manager “O.K. so that’s another breach of Bank policy you’ve admitted.”
Important Advice on Fact Finds:
- The Bank has to behave reasonably. The Bank should not be springing fact finds on staff with no prior notice or time to seek union representation. If you’re pulled in to an investigatory meeting, make it clear that you are happy to engage with the process but that you want to speak to us first. We’ll then advise you on how to proceed.
An Employment Judge said in a Tribunal case taken by BTU and lost by Lloyds Bank:
“I thought it unfortunate… that the Respondent as a matter of policy does not inform its employees that an investigatory meeting is due to take place, or give the employee time in which to seek an appropriate companion… I can see no justification for the subterfuge used in this case.”
- Don’t go in to meetings without us.It’s essential that you’re represented by us so that we can ensure you’re treated fairly. If you’re unsure whether you should be represented at a meeting, don’t take a chance. Give us a call at any time on 01234 262868.
As one member said after a recent investigatory meeting:
“If I had not been supported by the Union, I think the interview would have been very different. The investigator was not happy to wait for my Union Representative, but I am so glad I did.”