Independent workplace investigations - Why they matter

Investigating workplace misconduct complaints and disputes between employees can be a complex and time-consuming task. And if these investigations are not conducted well, they can have serious negative impacts on both the individuals involved as well as teams in general.

It is common for workplace misconduct complaints such as bullying or sexual harassment to be ignored due to managers having insufficient time or skills to handle emotionally charged and complex matters.

In many cases, the outcome of an in-house investigation may be rejected by one or both parties because of a perception of bias. Indeed, some managers may be too close to the situation to be able to reach the requisite standard of impartiality.

For this reason, outsourcing workplace investigations to an impartial external expert can be the most practical and time-efficient solution.

Benefit of hiring an external investigator

Independent workplace investigators specialise in tackling complex and difficult complaint investigations ranging from complaints about high level bullying, sexual harassment, breaches of anti-discrimination laws, fraudulent acts and breaches of workplace policy or procedure.

An outsourced investigator can make impartial findings of fact in relation to allegations of workplace misconduct and provide recommendations about any contributing issues, suggesting ways to manage and support the parties to a complaint, post investigation.

Engaging an external investigator with the right experience, will ensure;

  • The complaint is managed efficiently and in accordance with the rules of procedural fairness
  • The rules of evidence are upheld
  • Defensible decisions can be reached based on reliable information
  • Managers and core personnel are able to focus on the important work of running the business, meaning less operational disruption
  • Those involved in the investigation will have greater confidence in the conclusions reached and any resulting action.

How an external expert will manage your workplace investigation

When conducting a workplace bullying investigation, for example, an external investigator will usually follow the following process:

  1. They will ask for a terms of reference document. This is a document setting out the scope and parameters of the investigation so that everyone is on the same page in terms of expectations.
  2. The investigator will ask for the complaint material, any file notes or diary notes, a history of the complaint as well as organisation conduct, grievance and disciplinary policies for review, along with any other relevant policies and procedures.
  3. An interview with the complainant will be undertaken to determine the specifics of the matter to be investigated
  4. An investigation plan will be compiled along with a brief of allegations which will form the framework of the investigation.
  5. Interviews with witnesses for the complainant will usually be carried out next
  6. Any other available evidence will be collected
  7. The Respondent will be given a summary of the allegations and will be invited to an interview for their response
  8. Witnesses named by the respondent will be interviewed and the complainant/respondent may be interviewed a second time to clarify any new facts.
  9. Evidence is examined and findings/recommendations are decided upon.
  10. A detailed investigation report is compiled, setting out the allegations, the evidence and providing a detailed explanation of the findings and recommendations.

For more information about how to start a workplace investigation with an external provider click here

Synergy Workplace Investigations will also provide ongoing free advice and support post-investigation to help organisations manage those involved to rebuild and strengthen relationships. 

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