The Importance of Workplace Investigations
When possible disciplinary or grievance issues occur in the workplace, employers have a responsibility to find out all they reasonably can about the situation to ensure matters are resolved fairly and effectively. To do this, they should conduct a workplace…
Blog29th Sep 2023
When possible disciplinary or grievance issues occur in the workplace, employers have a responsibility to find out all they reasonably can about the situation to ensure matters are resolved fairly and effectively. To do this, they should conduct a workplace investigation as soon as possible after the issue is raised.
What is a workplace investigation?
A workplace investigation is an objective, independent, and systematic process of uncovering facts about a particular incident that occurred at work. It involves carefully discussing a complaint or grievance for specific misconduct, policy violation, or unethical behaviour to reach a final decision and determine the appropriate course of action.
A thorough investigation will allow employers to decide whether there is a case to answer and whether a formal process should be followed.
During the investigation process, employers should gather as much evidence as reasonably possible from all sides to understand what has occurred and to help determine next steps. It is essential that everyone involved in the process is treated fairly at all times.
Why are workplace investigations important?
If conducted properly, investigations can help to protect the interests of the organisation by identifying wrongdoings and to support the employer with fair, objective and informed decision-making. An investigation may uncover extenuating circumstances which mitigate or justify the allegations that were made, meaning that formal action is not required. Instead, the employer may decide it is more appropriate to deal with the matter informally instead.
If a reasonable and fair investigation is not carried out, any decisions an employer makes in relation to the allegations may be unfair which could risk legal action.
While an investigation should be completed as quickly as possible, it is important that the investigation is thorough and fair. Therefore, some investigations might take longer depending on the case and how many people need to give information.
A comprehensive and fair investigation will protect all parties as employees should feel they have been treated fairly and have had the opportunity to explain things from their point of view. In addition, employers will be confident in the fact that they have made an informed decision.
Who should take part in a workplace investigation?
- Complainant – the person who submitted the grievance or complaint.
- Respondent – the person accused of the violation or misdeed.
- Witness – the person having knowledge of the events either from observation or personal experience.
- Investigator – the person or body in charge of determining the facts of the case; usually involves a HR professional, legal team, department head, or an independent third-party investigator.
Tips for conducting a successful investigation meeting
- DO ensure you act in a fair and objective way.
- DO follow any policies or guidelines your organisation might have.
- DO allow the witness to refer to any documents to refresh their memory.
- DO pause the meeting if the witness needs a break, or adjourn it if the witness is very upset.
- DO record all the pertinent facts, e.g., dates and times, names and context of behaviour. You may find it easier to have a separate note-taker to accompany you.
- DO keep calm and focused.
- DO remind the witness to keep the matter confidential.
- DON’T be afraid to question the witness’s version of events.
- DON’T encourage the witness to offer their opinion.
- DON’T offer your own opinion, be judgmental or speculate on the outcome of the investigation.
- DON’T try to prove guilt, but get balanced evidence from both sides.
- DON’T draw hasty conclusions.
- DON’T disclose any confidential information.
Whether formal or informal action is required following an investigation, we are here to help. If you would like support for effectively managing workplace investigations and following a fair procedure, please do not hesitate to get in contact with or your usual AAB People contact.