Workplace Investigations typically take place following one or more employees acting inappropriately, and they are becoming an increasingly challenging and time consuming problem for employers to deal with. The type of investigation, and the resources the employer allocates to resolving the issue, depends on the seriousness of the behaviour and the extent to which that behaviour has impacted the business.
The first decision employers must make when resolving such an issue is whether to have the investigation conducted internally or externally.
External Workplace Investigations
As a rule of thumb, the more serious the behaviour and potential for follow on litigation, the further the pendulum swings in favour of an external investigation. For example, if the allegation is bullying or sexual harassment, there is an obvious possibility of a complaint to Fair Work, the Anti Discrimination Board or WorkCover. Those bodies will want to know that you took the complaint seriously. The best way to do that is to engage a reputable external organisation to undertake an investigation, and then act on its findings and recommendations.
The alternative is an internal investigation with the suggestion of bias.
Internal Workplace Investigations
If the issue isn’t so serious, and you have the internal resources and skills to be able to conduct an internal investigation professionally and fairly, we recommend you do so. It sends a strong message to your team that you’re in control, professional and fair.
Consequences of Inadequate Workplace Investigations
Courts and tribunals are constantly criticising and penalising organisations that fail to deal with workplace complaints appropriately.
It is wise to treat every complaint of misbehaviour seriously, and seek advice if you are in any doubt as to what is an appropriate response to the complaint.
A failure to do so could expose you to a successful claim, a fine and public criticism from a judge.