Preparing for and Conducting Workplace Investigations: what you need to know
The purpose of a Workplace Investigation
A workplace investigation is a process to collect and review information in relation to a complaint of inappropriate behaviour (such as harassment, discrimination & bullying) and form a judgement as to what happened. The overall aim is to help resolve the situation to achieve a productive working environment.
Workplace Investigation Process
The process of conducting a Workplace Investigation has 4 main stages:
1. Preparation and infomation collection
2. Interviewing the relevant parties
3. Making a finding and report
4. Resolution Activities
Additional infomation on the process of conducting a workplace investigation can be found in our Fact Sheet on the Workplace Investigation Process.
Reasons for Workplace Investigations
Workplace investigations can be carried out for a number of reasons – these reasons include the following:
- Unlawful discrimination;
- Workplace / sexual harassment;
- Bullying behaviour;
- Breaches of internal codes of conduct / organisational values;
- OHS related investigations (i.e. being pursued via OHS legislation and processes such as work-cover authorities etc); and
- Industrial Relations (union) related matters including proceedings before FWA
Parties that may be involved in an Investigation
The parties that can be involved in an investigation can either be internal to the organisation or external. The following are some examples of each:
Internal to the organisation:
- Line managers;
- Senior Manager/Decision maker(s);
- Public Relations;
- Legal team; and
- Support resources.
Things that need to be considered when planning for an investigation include:
- Whether you are the right person to investigate this matter, i.e. is there a conflict of interest due to a relationship with either of the parties / skill / availability;
- Identify and categorise the nature of the complaint;
- Identify the parties to the matter and their location and availability - Complainant(s) / Respondent(s) / Witnesses / Other interested parties such as Unions etc; and
- Obtain any relevant background information available, including:
- Any relevant investigation protocols;
- Complaint document(s);
- Relationships (organisational structure);
- Relevant policies and procedures and codes of conduct;
- Enabling legislation;
- Training records;
- Position descriptions;
- Employment contracts. Establish if covered by an Award or Workplace Agreement and any relevant term(s) or obligations;
- Past performance reviews / Employment records / CV's;
- How previous incidents have been managed, relevant operational processes and procedures;
- Previous investigations / complaints / observed patterns of behaviour; and
- Environmental factors such as industrial climate, structural change operational pressures, threat of job loss etc.;
- Determine an appropriate location for interviews and administrative matters such as who organises the interview times etc. Take into consideration geographical factors for interviews such as work locations and travelling times, and availability of parties if involved in shift work, weekend work or currently on leave etc;
- Consider representation matters i.e. union availability etc.;
- Be realistic in scheduling appointment times. Allow at least 2-3 hours with the complainant and a similar time with the respondent and 1 hour for each witness;
- Who will be interviewed, in what order?
- Prepare an interview question guide based on the allegations;
- Review the plan after initial interviews with the complainant(s) and the respondent(s);
- Allow for a second interview with both the complainant and the respondent to provide them feedback from the initial round of interviews and particularly around any conflict in evidence or statements that you do not feel have been supported in the investigation thus far.
Ensuring investigations are carried out fairly and thoroughly is essential, as these processes often form the basis for any decisions made regarding disciplinary action. They will also come under scrutiny if the employee later challenges the decision.
Fortunately, iHR Australia can offer a number of services to help your organisation to ensure accurate and thorough workplace investigations are conducted.
• Independent Workplace Investigations
• Workplace Inquiries and Assessments
• Workplace Mediation Services
• Workplace Investigation Officer training
• Workplace Mediation Skills training
To find out more about iHR Australia's Workplace Investigation services please contact us on 1300 884 687 or make an online enquiry.