The process of conducting workplace investigations can be a complex and challenging exercise, requiring highly-specialised, professional and thorough processes.
Edge Investigations offers organisations – small or large – a full suite of investigative services, including full Workplace Investigation and supported Workplace Investigation services. All investigation undertaken by Edge Investigations’ team of professional, experienced and highly trained investigators is conducted to the highest standards, in full compliance with any and all applicable legal and regulatory requirements.
WHEN MIGHT YOUR ORGANISATION REQUIRE A WORKPLACE INVESTIGATION?
In situations where a workplace dispute has arisen, an organisation may choose to conduct an internal Workplace Investigation, independent from any formal investigation that may be conducted by Fair Work Australia.
Such situations may include those where there have been instances or allegations of employee misconduct, or those stemming from possible breaches or contraventions of workplace laws. For example:
unlawful discrimination on the basis of sex, age, race or disability,
sexual harassment or assault,
unfair dismissal, or
coercion of an employee by an employer.
WHAT IS THE GOAL OF A WORKPLACE INVESTIGATION?
The goal of a Workplace Investigation is to determine the facts of the matter, evaluate the evidence at hand, and resolve the issue in an efficient manner that adheres to the relevant legal requirements. The aim is to undertake an investigative process that is both fair and robust, and able to withstand the potential scrutiny of a tribunal or court proceedings.
PROCEDURAL FAIRNESS IN WORKPLACE INVESTIGATIONS
There are a number of general, fundamental principles that must be adhered to when undertaking a Workplace Investigation. An independent investigator acting on behalf of an employer or organisation must operate within the principles of procedural fairness whilst also taking into consideration the employer’s legal obligations and the employees’ legal rights, giving particular regard to all applicable legislation, regulations and guidelines, industrial agreements, and the specific terms of the employment contract.
Any conduct that may be seen as a breach of an employer’s duty of care when conducting a Workplace Investigation – particularly with respect to procedural fairness – may constitute a failure on the part of the employer to afford their employee/s the consideration and support they are entitled to. Furthermore, where procedural fairness is neglected in the conduct of a Workplace Investigation, any findings of the investigation may be called into question and decisions made by the employer on the basis of those findings could invite criticism of the organisation and expose the employer to legal liability.
WHY DO WORKPLACE INVESTIGATIONS REQUIRE SPECIALISED PROCESSES AND PROCEDURES?
It is imperative that every aspect of a Workplace Investigation be conducted with total transparency, in accordance with proper legal principles and competent, specialised investigative procedures, to ensure that findings of the investigation and decisions made on its basis are fair, unbiased and able to withstand intense scrutiny.
Any error, omission or deviation from legal and/or procedural requirements may invalidate the investigation, jeopardise any potential civil or criminal case that may exist and give an employee cause to take legal action against the employer, even if an allegation is well-founded or an employee’s dismissal was warranted.
REQUIREMENTS FOR CONDUCTING EFFECTIVE WORKPLACE INVESTIGATIONS
Successful workplace investigations ultimately rely on the investigator’s ability to conduct a rigorous, completely unbiased and confidential investigation in accordance with proper and lawful investigative principles, practices and processes. To that end, the investigator must:
carefully plan the workplace investigation, giving due consideration to potential conflicts of interest and consequences,
provide adequate information to all parties regarding the Workplace Investigation process and their rights, responsibilities, and obligations,
ensure all pertinent information is collected and considered – including witness reports, interview transcripts, relevant policies and procedures, and other information and documentation,
maintain respectful contact with all parties at all times, giving due consideration to the nature and circumstances of the dispute and communicating professionally and with sensitivity,
help to ensure that channels of communication between the complainant and respondent are kept open throughout the workplace investigation process, and
clearly demonstrate their objectivity throughout the workplace investigation process, particularly when conducting interviews, assessing the validity of evidence, coming to a conclusion and making a finding, and preparing a formal investigation report.
HOW CAN EDGE INVESTIGATIONS ASSIST YOUR ORGANISATION TO CONDUCT EFFECTIVE WORKPLACE INVESTIGATIONS?
While some organisations have their own HR officer or team, many don’t. For those organisations that don’t, a simple fact-finding process may be relatively simple, whereas the task of undertaking a larger-scale formal Workplace Investigation may be quite daunting and seemingly impossible. Furthermore, depending on the nature of the situation, it may be inappropriate for a Workplace Investigation to be conducted internally, especially in smaller organisations.
It is important that the chosen investigator is a highly-experienced professional who is well-versed in the legal and procedural requirements for conducting specialised investigations into workplace disputes – especially when those disputes pertain to particularly serious allegations, such as discrimination and sexual harassment. Flawed or botched investigations can be extremely damaging to all parties involved, so it pays to have an experienced, unbiased, external investigator handle Workplace Investigations.
Edge Investigations’ specialised investigative procedures are based on fundamental legal principles and accepted practices and processes for Workplace Investigations, enabling our team of qualified investigators to make fair, unbiased and robust determinations and deliver reliable investigation reports that meet employers’ obligations under the Fair Work Act and Work Health and Safety legislation and are strong enough to withstand legal challenge.
If you require assistance with investigating workplace disputes, allegations of misconduct, or breaches or contraventions of workplace laws, contact Edge Investigations today.