Workplace Investigations – what you need to know!

In workplaces big and small, there will sometimes be a need to carry out an investigation into the conduct of an employee or group of employees.

Workplace investigations may arise as a result of a complaint made by one employee against another, a safety incident or by an employer’s observation or suspicion about possible misconduct.

Carrying out a workplace investigation may seem daunting. Remember, it is a process that involves thought and planning before jumping in.

Keep in mind that because your investigation may result in a termination of employment, you will need to ensure you follow a procedurally fair process that with stand up in Court.

5 steps to investigate!

Broadly, there are 5 main stages or steps to a workplace investigation. These are:

STEP 1 – planning the investigation (making time to do the investigation, and identifying who will be the lead investigator).

STEP 2 – gathering the facts and information (is there a written complaint, an incident report, emails, CCTV etc).

STEP 3 – interviewing any complainant(s), respondent(s) and witnesses.

STEP 4 – document the allegations, evidence and findings into a report (ideally privileged – so speak to a lawyer if possible!).

STEP 5 – resolve the issue (such as taking disciplinary action, directing employees to undergo training etc).

Each investigation will be unique and the above steps do not represent a complete guide! Always take advice first.

Tips and tricks

Ask yourself the following questions before getting started –

  • Is it necessary to suspend or stand down any employee (i.e. if their presence in the workplace is causing a health and safety risk)?
  • Is the investigator sufficiently removed from the issues being investigated, or should an independent (external) investigator be appointed?
  • Ensure everyone is reminded about confidentiality and victimisation. Conduct interviews in a discreet location (possibly off site).
  • Abide by any relevant workplace policies you have in place as they relate to managing workplace grievances, complaints, disputes and safety issues.
  • Keep good written records but remember, they may end up in Court!
  • Always give people an opportunity to respond to allegations and offer them a support person.
  • Leave no stone unturned – if a mater of relevance is raised, follow it up.
  • Communicate clearly and accurately with all people involved.

If you are unsure about how to proceed, Progressive Legal can assist you with your next workplace investigation.