Workplace Investigations… where to start

Posted by Roxanne Chugg

When an Employer suspects that there has been a policy breach they will usually take it upon themselves to conduct an investigation. There is little thought regarding the objectiveness of the individual tasked with the investigation, usually it will be the Department Manager who already has an existing relationship with the employee and knowledge of his or her past issues. Unfortunately this is one of the biggest mistakes made by Employer’s in investigations.

It is possible for an Employer to conduct an investigation ‘in-house’, but there needs to be some thought behind the skills and knowledge of the individual tasked with conducting the investigation and also their level of objectivity. Otherwise the investigation will be compromised from the start and this has proved to be an expensive oversight in numerous unfair dismissal cases.

If an Employer identifies that there are potential conflicts of interest or a lack of objective individuals with the skills to complete the investigation then it is essential that the investigation is outsourced to an external party.

Procedural fairness must be considered from the start and progressed throughout the process particularly if the matter moves to a disciplinary process. The disciplinary process will need to focus on the facts of the matter and as an Employer you will be relying on the quality of the investigation and findings of fact to support your decision making.