Why incidents of workplace harassment or discrimination require the attention of expert investigators
All employers have an ethical and legal responsibility to ensure that their workplaces are safe and comfortable environments for every employee. If incidents of harassment or bullying occur in your organisation, employing the services of skilled workplace investigators can ensure the problem is dealt with before it reaches the courts.
According to a recent report by the Law Council, one in four female Australian lawyers and barristers say they have experienced sexual harassment.
A number of respondents recounted being routinely subject to inappropriate attention from senior male lawyers. Many also found that, upon reporting an incident, little action was taken by their employers.
Michael Harmer, one of Australia’s leading sexual harassment lawyers, said that the law profession was notorious for high levels of sexual harassment, and lax efforts in investigating or dealing with it.
“[The legal profession] is still a highly male dominated industry and basically within that power imbalances these ‘protected species’ get away with blue murder,” Harmer said.
Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission Director Catherine Dixon said law firms needed to take a stronger stance in addressing such behaviour.
“There’s a positive duty on employers, including law firms, to actually make these changes themselves and for women and for the range of employees working for them.”
Sexual harassment is also against the law. Many forms of unlawful discrimination – including, but not limited to, sexual discrimination – are subject to the Fair Work Act 2009, and can thus be immediately subject to a range of remedies and penalties.
With the greater vigilance of Fair Work investigators in responding to complaints, employers and companies can avoid costly legal action by undertaking their own workplace investigations into complaints and allegations of misconduct. Address any complaints before they reach a point where complainants need to contact the Fair Work Ombudsman or the Australian Human Rights Commission.
Workplace investigations involve the collection and review of information in regards to allegations of illegal or inappropriate behaviour. In selecting an investigator, it is essential that they are independent of the parties involved in the complaint, and are capable of reaching a fair and balanced decision.
iHR Australia is a leading provider of workplace investigation services. Their investigations can follow a range of formats, from dealing with informal complaints to significant and complex formal investigations. We have experience investigating complaints from an organisational, through to a senior executive and board level. iHR’s workplace investigators can also examine internal investigations you have conducted, to ensure they are sound and will stand up to external testing.
All workplace investigators at iHR Australia are senior HR and Employee Relations professionals with a minimum of 15 years’ experience. Several members of our investigations team also have legal qualifications and experience.
The workplace investigations conducted by iHR investigators seek to identify any underlying causes of a complaint, rather than simply dealing with matters of evidence. Often workplace issues can stem from a lack of capability, cultural issues, systematic process failures and risky management styles.
iHR Australia also offers Workplace Investigation Officer Training programs. In this one-day course iHR’s Senior Investigator guides participants through the lawful workplace investigation procedure.
Participants will also observe our unique Workplace Reality Theatre where an actor will re-enact relevant and engaging scenarios from real-life investigations for group discussions and exercises. During this program, participants are also given the opportunity to practise newly acquired skills through interaction with the actors, building confidence and embedding learning.
Re-enactments can be tailored to suit the work environment; this might include amending the scripts or language featured to reflect the setting or team culture. Your organisation’s policies can also be included and training can be modified to focus on particular objectives, specific behaviours or cultural issues.