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Workplace worries? What about a Workplace Investigation?

Workplace worries? What about a Workplace Investigation?

Workplace Investigations

by Ross Wakeford on 11 Feb 2024

Workplace investigations have become a common feature of Australian workplaces since the introduction of the Fair Work Act in 2009.

This is in part due to the introduction of a workplace right to make a formal workplace complaint, but also due to a need to proactively understand and address workplace issues to prevent them from occurring in the first place.

What is a robust workplace investigation?

When conducted properly, a workplace investigation should ensure that it is undertaken on an impartial and objective basis with a focus on fact-finding and correct investigation process.

An investigator must undertake a procedurally fair process and deliver clear findings of fact on the balance of probabilities. There are clear principles that make for a ‘good’ workplace investigation, which should consider:

  • Whether based on an initial assessment a formal investigation is warranted?
  • Appropriate planning and management of the investigation
  • Ensuring the investigation satisfies procedural fairness and other requirements
  • Understanding the types and nature of evidence which can be relied on in an investigation
  • Conducting interviews including acknowledging the impact this has on participants
  • Ensuring clear, concise, and accurate report delivery and writing

What if a workplace investigation is not conducted properly?

Workplace investigations can be difficult and require a clear understanding of different legal tests and how to apply those tests when both investigating a matter and providing findings in an investigation report.

Failure to do so can invalidate findings so that they would not withstand the rigour and scrutiny of courts and tribunals if required but also diminish the trust and confidence your people have in an organisation to appropriately address workplace issues.

What are the benefits of a workplace investigation?

A procedurally fair and robust workplace investigation process has many benefits:

  • Provides a clear and objective insight into workplace cultural and interpersonal issues
  • Provides findings which can withstand the rigour and scrutiny of courts & tribunals
  • Provides clear and concise findings on which decision-makers can base outcomes
  • Helps to resolve interpersonal conflict, workplace complaints, and disputes
  • Provides object insight to enable a business to address significant business risks

At it’s core a workplace investigation aims to investigate and make an objective finding of fact to address legal requirements and assist decision-makers with outcomes and corrective actions.

The range and scope of matters to be investigated in the workplace can vary – but often cover:

  • Fraud, theft, financial misappropriation and financial crime
  • Bullying and harassment (including sexual harassment and discrimination)
  • Conflicts of interest
  • Breaches of Policy and employee misconduct
  • Theft of intellectual property
  • Breaches of confidentiality and unauthorised sharing of confidential information
  • Data Breaches, business email compromises and other scams
  • Workplace grievances & formal complaint investigations
  • Favouritism/nepotism in recruitment matters

Workplace Culture Reviews

Nellers HR are often approached by clients whose business is experiencing internal workplace conflicts such as personality clashes, gossiping, workplace harassment and bullying, and other negative workplace issues. A workplace culture review is a great way to address these matters.

A workplace culture review involves one of our highly skilled consultants interviewing, investigating, and understanding the core of workplace issues and then mapping these in a findings report with recommendations and support to take corrective action to address the issues.

Investigations Training

We provide training and tools needed to uplift internal capability around workplace investigations. In particular how to conduct investigations to achieve procedural fairness and in accordance with legal principles such as Briginshaw v Briginishaw and assessing outcomes on the balance of probability.

If you need help in understanding your obligations, contact us now for a FREE consultation.