4 things you must consider when conducting a workplace investigation

By Charles Power on December 14th, 2011

When you are conducting a workplace investigation, there are a lot of things going on…

You’re trying to plan the investigation process, collate evidence, interview witnesses and co-ordinate a number of different parties – all while having to ensure that you are conducting the investigation in a procedurally fair manner.

So it’s not surprising that sometimes you can become so focused on getting an outcome that you forget other factors that could expose you to legal liability.

Well to help you with this difficult process, the Employment Law Practical Handbook has prepared a brand new chapter on workplace investigations (written by Grevis Beard and Lisa Klug of Worklogic Pty Ltd).

Here are 4 things discussed in the new chapter that you should consider when conducting a workplace investigation (which you may not have thought of!):

  1. Effective communication and pre-investigation dealings with all parties. You need to remember that being involved in a workplace investigation can be very stressful for all participants – and you should take steps to provide support and clear explanations to each person. This will minimise the risk of a participant feeling negatively impacted by the investigation and making a stress claim or other claim against you.
  2. Confidentiality. Workplace investigations are confidential processes – and you need to ensure that this is always the case. Remind all participants that they cannot speak about the investigation with other employees or with other witnesses involved in the matter. If a participant feels that confidentiality has been compromised, they may lose confidence in the process and feel they are not being protected.
  3. Anonymity. While you must maintain confidentiality, if a participant requests anonymity, you may not be able to grant their request as you could breach the principles of natural justice. In most cases, it will be necessary for you to disclose the identity of the complainant and/or respondent in order for witnesses to provide relevant evidence.
  4. The reluctant complainant. Sometimes a complainant does not want to be named or formalise a complaint, but you should explain to them that as an employer, you have a legal duty to investigate the matter under workplace health and safety laws and discrimination laws.

For more information on how to conduct thorough and legal workplace investigations, check out the brand new Workplace Investigations chapter in your most recent Employment Law Practical Handbook update (due on your desk about now!). It includes very clear and practical guidance on who should conduct workplace investigations and how they should be conducted.

Not yet a subscriber to the Employment Law Practical Handbook? Click here for more information on how you can trial a copy for free in your workplace for 14 days!

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