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Workplace investigations

Last updated February 2022

This chapter explains how to conduct a procedurally fair workplace investigation into employee misconduct.

What is a workplace investigation?

Definition: Workplace Investigation

A workplace investigation is a process initiated by, or on behalf of, an employer to discover the truth about a workplace matter.
Important: This chapter explores workplace investigations initiated internally – not investigations conducted by regulators, such as WorkSafe, the Fair Work Ombudsman or the Wages Inspectorate.

There are two types of workplace investigations:

  • employer-initiated; and
  • complainant-driven.


Some investigations are initiated by the employer in response to anonymous complaints or observations by departing employees. For example, an employer may investigate a safety incident to find out what happened and what can be learned from the incident.

Important: A key issue in an employer-initiated investigation is the extent to which persons asked to assist in the enquiry can be assured that whatever emerges from the investigation will not form the basis for disciplinary action against them.

Under Part 9.4AAA of the Corporations Act 2001, public companies and large proprietary companies are required to investigate anonymous disclosures of information concerning misconduct, or an improper state of affairs or circumstances, in relation to their organisation. These companies need to maintain a policy that explains how whistleblowers will be supported and protected, and how the company will ensure fair treatment of employees who are mentioned in protected disclosures in investigations.


An employer may investigate in response to material supplied by an employee that raises allegations against one or more employees.

This type of investigation process will be much more reactive to the needs and wishes of the individual complainant.