HR WORKPLACE INVESTIGATIONS
Workplace Investigations and Preliminary Reviews
Disputes and misconduct can occur in any workplace. They can take the form of allegations of bullying, harassment, discrimination, fraud, or unethical behaviour, all of which have serious consequences for the people involved, and the organisation as a whole. Unaddressed, the issues can continue to escalate, resulting in greater anxiety and unrest in the workplace, further problems amongst employees and unnecessary costs to the employer.
Investigations are difficult processes for all parties, so if it is not the best method of responding to workplace complaints or behavioural concerns, other options should be considered. A preliminary review (also sometimes called a pre-investigation, or a preliminary assessment) occurs before a decision is made to proceed with a full workplace investigation. It involves the conduct of preliminary enquiries to collect more information about workplace complaints in order to assess whether the evidence will be of sufficient substance to warrant a formal investigation. It can ultimately save time, money and minimise risk to the organisation.
A preliminary review involves interviewing the complainant to better understand the issues of concern, the availability of witnesses and/or corroborating information and evidence, whether the allegations appear to represent a breach of a workplace policy or standard. It is also important to ascertain what resolution the complainant is seeking. This information enables the employer to assess whether another process such as mediation, training or coaching might better resolve the issue than a formal investigation process.
To protect the confidentiality of parties and the integrity of any potential future investigation, the respondent and witnesses would not normally be spoken to as part of the preliminary review. There may be situations in which there is benefit in collecting further data and statements from multiple parties to establish the nature of the dispute and the different perspectives, however, as a general principle, notifying people of potential allegations that may not eventuate and might not be confirmed is unhelpful.
Red Wagon will investigate the matter efficiently, thoroughly, and tactfully. Our approach is fair and impartial; our advice is practical and straight-forward with recommendations taking into consideration the best possible outcomes for all parties and the organisation.
Key elements of our approach are:
1. Understanding The Issue
We will discuss the matter with you and review the written complaint if available. Understanding what actions have already been taken and why you believe an investigation is the best approach informs the scope of work, and will provide us the basis from which we can advise you of options for management and resolution of the issue other than a formal investigation is all part of our pre-investigation review.
Not all workplace issues require an investigation, and sometimes other strategies such as mediation will achieve a better result.
We will advise you as to whether we believe an investigation is appropriate and whether we believe the investigation should be conducted under legal professional privilege, and have significant experience working with Australian law firms to investigate complaints for their clients.
2. Preliminary Review
The preliminary review process involves a formal interview with the complainant to better understand their concerns, the available evidence to be considered, and potential witnesses to be interviewed. The investigator will make an assessment of whether the allegations, if substantiated, may constitute a breach of a workplace policy or standard, and prepare a summary report documenting the recommendations.
3. The Right Framework
Having an agreed scope of investigation (which allegations will be investigated) and a mutual understanding of the process, roles and framework is key to a smooth and efficient investigation process.
4. The Investigation Process:
Our process will be tailored to your unique needs, but can include:
- Preparing notification of investigation to relevant parties on your behalf, including a statement of allegations.
- Conduct of interviews with relevant parties (complainant, respondent and witnesses).
- Preparation of formal interview statements.
- Collect relevant evidence, which may include emails, file notes, internal documents and electronic evidence.
- Ensure that parties are provided with the opportunity to review and comment on any evidence as required.
- Analyse the available evidence and draw conclusions based on the standard of proof, the balance of probability.
- Prepare an investigation report clearly setting out the allegations, our findings and any additional comments, observations and practical recommendations of the investigator. All evidence relied upon in drawing conclusions will be provided as part of the report.
5. The Support And Communication You Can Expect
We will provide support and coaching to you and your managers where needed throughout the process to ensure a consistent and unified approach to resolving the complaint.
We know that an investigation process is difficult and can be upsetting for everyone involved. We will make every effort to communicate clearly and regularly with the relevant parties so that they understand what involvement is required from them and when, their rights, the support available to them, and the progress of the investigation.
Supporting You to Achieve Better Outcomes
Getting the best outcome from an investigation process involves far more than ‘just’ having an experienced investigator complete the assessment for you. You need someone who takes the time to understand and apply your processes and policies, displays care and consideration for all the parties involved (and that includes you!) and will provide you with practical and useful insights into what is actually going on.
At Red Wagon, we understand people and we know business. A powerful combination when combined, we utilise these skills to complete our analysis and recommendations as to which facets to consider to make defensible decisions. Our expertise in workplace investigations and knowledge of employment law not only ensures a robust investigation process but also forms the solid foundation of our assessment and recommendation regarding potential breaches of workplace policy and state or federal laws.
Let us help you get to the bottom of your investigation.
Straight Talking HR Advice On Workplace Investigations
3. Get results
Feel confident knowing that you and your people will be supported through the investigation, and that you will be provided with practical and clear evidence-based recommendations.
Experienced In Workplace Investigations
With over 10 years of experience investigating a variety of employment issues including bullying, sexual harassment, abuse of power in the workplace, fraud, misuse of company resources, stalking, negligence and fraud; Director of Red Wagon and lead investigator, Susan Sadler, is known for her flexible approach, astute problem solving and the application of a practical HR lens to observations and recommendations. Susan’s strong interpersonal skills support her ability to sensitively engage with all parties and manage their concerns while getting to the heart of the issues.
Red Wagon Workplace Solutions is a licenced investigation agency under the Security and Investigation Industry Act 1995.
Lic/Reg number: ISL 318234
About the Author
As President and South Australian State Councillor of the Australian HR Institute (AHRI), Susan is a valued advisor and thought leader to her clients and the HR community. Maintaining an extensive understanding of employment law and business acumen through her work and connectivity to the AHRI and the business community, Susan is a master at finding innovative people orientated solutions, carefully balanced with the commercial reality.