When to hire an independent workplace investigator

Whenever a manager receives a verbal or formal written complaint, there is a range of thought processes, lines of questioning, evidence and facts that need to be collected.

From the moment a grievance or complaint is received, two critical steps must be taken:

Critical Step #1 – Document Everything!

Many people undertake a preliminary investigation without even realising it, and consequently do not document this crucial information.

The initial discussions had with the complainant and respondent become the foundation for understanding the heart of the matter. Documenting these discussions enables the person who is investigating, whether they are an internal or independent party, to establish the allegations and to resolve the issues in an efficient manner.

Critical Step #2 – Decide: Do you need an independent workplace investigator?

Whether an investigation is conducted internally or externally, it must adhere to natural justice principles, confidentiality, rules of evidence, legal and policy compliance, and health and safety regulations. These standards help to ensure a fair and equitable process for all and allow an organisation to respond with the appropriate action.

Conducting an investigation internally will have some advantages – the internal investigator (Staff Member) understands the unique culture of the organisation, knows the parties involved, and is in an appropriate role to make recommendations and implement decisions.

However, internal workplace investigations are prone to accusations of lack procedural fairness, transparency or perceived conflict of interest.

5 reasons to hire an independent workplace investigator:

  1. Lack of sufficient internal resources. If your organisation does not have staff who are trained in conducting investigations, or if you cannot afford to redirect limited internal resources away from their day-to-day operations, a poorly-planned investigation could expose you to a number of risks.

  2. Objectivity. Your internal investigator (e.g.HR person) may feel uncomfortable or unable to undertake the investigation process objectively. Engaging an independent workplace investigator is critical when there is a risk that an internal investigator may be biased, or perceived to be biased.

  3. Efficiency. Resolving a complaint requires prompt action. An independent workplace investigator will ensure the management of the process within the appropriate time frames, the minimising of poor staff morale, the health and wellbeing of the parties involved, and the protection of your organisation’s reputation and/or expense.

  4. Serious allegations. If there is a complaint against a member of staff, or a serious allegation that may require organisational culture and operating frameworks to be considered, an independent investigator has the capacity to bring a fresh perspective to the situation and offer change management support.

  5. Third party legal requirements. Certain complaints and grievances have the potential to lead to litigation or involve third party intervention, e.g. allegations of discrimination and potential workers’ compensation claims such as bullying or harassment. Third parties such as insurers and unions may require an organisation to hire an independent workplace investigator.

Workplace investigations must be conducted professionally from interview stage through to the final report. This strengthens the findings, in case they are challenged by the staff member, union or court system.

WorkPlacePLUS provides full investigation services of the highest standard, which are able to meet your obligations under various legislation such as Fair Work Act and Work, Health & Safety, while you continue on with business as usual.

Being independent, WorkPlacePLUS reduces the potential claims of conflicts of interest. We are able to provide a rigorous independent workplace investigation, from initial interview through to final report. Our consultants are trained private investigators and experts in remaining focused and sensitive throughout the entire process. We can even support your organisation to return to normal after the investigation by assisting in restoring harmony and productivity.

For more information, please contact us today.

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