Cairns Employment and Workplace Lawyers | Employment and Workplace Lawyers

An Insight Into Workplace Investigations

An Insight Into Workplace Investigations

Considering the amount of time we spend at work, workplace grievances are bound to arise at some point. How these grievances are managed makes all the difference and Council, as an employer, bears the responsibility of responding to grievances promptly, appropriately and fairly.

Whilst some grievances arise out of disagreements and misunderstanding, they often include allegations of a more serious nature. Grievances that include reports of a serious or complex nature should be investigated. 

Workplace investigations are never pleasant, however, there are times when they are absolutely necessary. The three most common reasons for workplace investigations are: 

  • Potential employee misconduct that may result in disciplinary action or even dismissal.
  • Complaints by one employee against another pertaining to allegations of bullying, sexual harassment, discrimination or micromanagement.
  • Allegations that an employee has been subjected to adverse action in connection to a workplace right.

Generally, the purpose of an investigation is to look into the circumstances of the matter, work out what has occurred and make a finding of fact in relation to conduct.

Tips On Managing a Workplace Investigation 

  • Consider who is the most appropriate person to conduct the investigation. Some Council’s have access to internal resources. However, depending on the nature of the grievance, it is more appropriate for the investigation to be outsourced to an independent third party.
  • Be clear about what the investigator’s role is and the scope of the investigation. That is to establish what the facts are and to prepare a comprehensive report - not to determine guilt or recommend disciplinary action.
  • Be clear about the procedures for collecting evidence. Look to collect facts and speak to witnesses. Avoid leading questions and what is known as fishing expeditions. Examine all hard evidence available such as letters, emails and video evidence if available.
  • Know how to interview witnesses and record and prepare their statements effectively.
  • Be fully aware of your legal obligations. Dismissing an employee prior to conducting a full investigation may be perceived as a denial of procedural fairness and may result in an employee being reinstated or compensation awarded.
  • Know how to complete an investigation report. It is good practice to present the information in chronological order, with any supporting evidence attached to the report as annexures.
  • If any allegations arise from the workplace investigation, they must be presented in a Notice of Grounds for Disciplinary action, and the employee must be given an opportunity to respond.
  • Be fully aware of your legal obligations. Dismissing an employee prior to conducting a full investigation may be perceived as a denial of procedural fairness and may result in an employee being reinstated or compensation awarded.

It is important to remember that the workplace investigation has the sole aim of establishing the real facts about a particular matter and it is, therefore, critical that sides are not taken while the investigation is in process.

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