What is a workplace investigation?
We are engaged as external workplace investigators to go into a workplace to establish the facts and circumstances surrounding a serious complaint or allegation.
Why would you need to request a workplace investigation?
The main reasons are:
- The conduct of an employee is not acceptable and may justify disciplinary action/dismissal – for example breach of a rule or policy or illegal conduct with confidential information.
- An employee lodges a complaint about another employee or a manager/employer’s behaviour such as sexual harassment, bullying or discrimination.
- An employee claims they have a ‘workplace right’or have been subjected to ‘adverse action’ in regards to that right. This is under the new provisions of the Fair Work Act.
Sometimes the allegations can be extremely serious such as:
- Allegations of theft or fraud
- Bullying and Harassment
- Breaches of safety provisions
- Whistle blowing complaints
- Damage or misuse of company property (e.g. vehicles, computers)
- Sexual harrasment
- Contravening workplace rights
An investigation has two purposes:
- To determine whether the alleged incident actually occurred.
- To identify and take account of any mitigating circumstances of the alleged incidents.
The bottom line for management is to only act on the basis of provable facts, not hearsay or suspicions, and to be able to justify every action you take.
The investigator’s role:
The investigator’s role is simply to establish the facts of the matter, not to judge whether anyone is ‘guilty’ or ‘innocent’. The investigator prepares a report and it is ultimately the organisation’s responsibility to decide how to act upon the investigation’s findings.
It’s best to carry out the investigation as soon as possible after coming to the organisations attention, otherwise it may send the message that they do not regard the alleged incident as serious, and may even be perceived as condoning the behaviour. Further delays make it harder for witnesses to remember what really happened, which may later undermine the organisation’s case.
How do we conduct a workplace investigation?
- A workplace investigation is conducted by an external investigator to establish the facts and circumstances surrounding a serious compliant or allegation in the workplace.
- The independent investigator takes into account all the relevant information to establish findings and make recommendations to the organisation.
- Investigations are handled confidentially, promptly and with a high level of sensitivity and include interviewing relevant employees
What occurs during a workplace Investigation?
- Our role is to collect facts. After getting an overview of the situation from the organisation, we will interview the complainant to get their perspective of the situation.
- We will then interview the person/s about whom a complaint is made to reply to specific allegations and to have their say about the events outlined in the complaint.
- We will interview witnesses so that they can describe in their own words what happened, focusing on the facts.
- Where possible, we will examine ‘hard’ evidence such as video surveillance tapes, emails and letters, etc. be informed about the evidence collected.
- Once the statements are completed and all supporting information is collected, we will write a report about whether there is substance to the complaint and providing recommendations regarding the issues concerned. This will include a range of options available to bring the matter to a close.
- The report may also include recommendations which will vary depending on the situation and on whether the complaint is substantiated.
- Once the organisation receives the investigation report, it is their responsibility to communicate the findings to those involved and their decision on whether to implement any recommendations.