Much like a criminal investigation, when an employment matter is raised in a workplace, every case is different – and the approach to solving each matter will be different too.
Understanding when it’s best to have an independent investigation or just have one of your own team ask a few questions can make all the difference to the outcome and speed of resolution.
Trust and confidence in the investigation process is key for employers, who will need to manage perception of fairness not only by the parties involved but the wider team, and potentially other external stakeholders.
Typically, investigations will be necessary when an employer receives a complaint or has concerns about bullying, sexual harassment, or other misconduct.
Calling in independent assistance may be the wisest course of action for several reasons, including the nature and volume of allegations made, or who any the allegations are made against.
Employers often won’t have the time or expertise to investigate to the level that might be required, or to provide a line of sight to all potential legal risks in any course of action.
Workplace investigations – what to expect
Once an independent investigation starts, terms of reference will usually be drafted as a first step. This might seem a formal process, but these are important as they provide a ‘road map’ for any investigation. They’ll set out things like how the investigation is to be approached, scope of the enquiries, how interviews will be held and timeframes.
The investigator would then meet the complainant, respondents or any other witnesses to interview them and understand the key relevant information. A written report would then be drawn up with findings and recommendations to provide confidence in the next steps.
One other valuable aspect of an investigator’s role during employment investigations is to guard against accusations of bias. Using someone independent to complete an investigation means you can demonstrate objectivity, which sometimes just isn’t possible with internal investigations.
Legal specialists can also offer expertise in some of the more specialised areas of employment law, such as bullying, harassment and sexual harassment, dedication to client service, professionalism, integrity and commitment to community.
Further information: parryfield.com/employment