What are workplace investigations?
Put simply, an investigation is an unbiased gathering and evaluation of evidence (and can be undertaken in various contexts); but we undertake workplace investigations, as they’re conducted in a workplace environment.
When should workplace investigations be undertaken?
Often when issues arise in the workplace there are a number of competing viewpoints and versions of events, particularly where there are accusations of bullying or harassment. In these circumstances, a workplace investigation will often be necessary to establish exactly what has happened so that the appropriate action can be taken.
An appropriate investigation is also important to protect the business from any claims arising from disciplinary action taken against employees. Prior to initiating any disciplinary process against an employee for issues of misconduct, you must establish all relevant facts so you can make a decision based on the evidence. If you dismiss or discipline an employee for misconduct without thoroughly investigating, you are exposed to the risk of claims being made against the business in the Fair Work Commission. If it is found you unlawfully took adverse action against an employee or you are unable to show you afforded an employee procedural fairness, you may be ordered to pay significant compensation, penalties and/or to reinstate the employee.
However, we acknowledge that conducting a workplace investigation is not always the answer to every situation. Workplace matters are complex and nuanced, and sometimes an issue is best addressed via other means such as informal counselling or mediation. As specialist employment lawyers, we can assist you in identifying other options you may wish to pursue and when an investigation is, and is not, required.
How do we conduct investigations?
Briefly, we will generally undertake the following steps when investigating issues of misconduct:
- Review all relevant documentation, including any initial complaint and relevant company policies;
- Make an initial assessment regarding whether an investigation is required;
- If so, develop the scope of the investigation;
- Advise the parties involved (as appropriate);
- Interview the complainant;
- Interview witnesses;
- Collect all other evidence;
- Formulate the allegations against the ‘respondent’ and give them notice of all the relevant details of the complaint;
- Interview the respondent;
- Interview any additional witnesses;
- Evaluate all evidence;
- Make findings of what has occurred based on all the evidence; and
- Draft final report.
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Please note: although the above steps remain relatively consistent in every investigation, sometimes the order in which each step is undertaken varies depending on the specific circumstances of the matter.
Why choose us to conduct your investigation?
One of the best ways to ensure a workplace investigation is unbiased and conducted thoroughly is to engage a third-party investigator to carry out the investigation for you. This also avoids putting one of your own people through the stressful and time-consuming process of leading an investigation.
Further, choosing EI Legal to conduct a workplace investigation means the investigation will be conducted by specialist employment lawyers who understand concepts integral to an effective investigation, such as rules of evidence, conflict of interest and procedural fairness. Having us conduct an investigation will significantly reduce the risks associated with employee claims originating from misinformed disciplinary action.
Contact us today to discuss whether an investigation is right for you and how we can help.
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