Today Dame Carolyn McCall, the ITV’s chief executive, said there is “no question” that more allegations will be made about inappropriate behaviour towards women and abuse of power, in the entertainment industry and beyond.
In my role as an HR Consultant, I frequently undertake investigations for clients where allegations of misconduct, sexual harassment, bullying or detrimental treatment are made and these often include situations where the power dynamics are very relevant. Each situation is unique, and the aim is always to establish the facts as best as possible while showing respect and sensitivity to all those involved.
Engaging an external consultant for investigations like these demonstrates that allegations are being taken seriously. It also safeguards the impartiality of the investigation which is reassuring to all those involved and means that individuals feel comfortable to speak openly in investigation meetings. Where issues of anonymity arise, an independent investigation also ensures this can be handled in line with the wishes of witnesses.
There is no doubt that embarking on investigations into upsetting allegations can feeling daunting and can lead to employers choosing to manage things in an overly informal way, or to deciding on doing nothing. As we have seen, this is rarely the right decision and employers find that in allowing the allegations to go unanswered they have failed to establish whether there is a misconduct case to answer or not. At worst they may have enabled misconduct to continue or escalate and have potentially neglected their duty of care to those who work for them.