Workplace investigations take many forms and may take place for many reasons. It is important when confronted with an issue or a complaint that the employer quickly assesses the situation and decides whether a formal investigation is necessary or not. Not every complaint or incident requires a formal investigation. It is, however, important to be aware that there are risks in incorrectly deciding not to investigate a matter.
A formal workplace investigation may be necessary when:
- An employee complains of bullying, harassment or sexual harassment at work and the issue(s) cannot be resolved informally or through mediation.
- You suspect an employee is stealing from the business or is engaged in some form of fraudulent activity in the workplace.
- There are serious issues of misconduct which could lead to the dismissal of one or more employees.
A workplace investigation is a fact-finding exercise and is often fraught with difficulty. The investigator is required to be an impartial fact-gatherer, and is required to observe the rules of natural justice, before coming to any conclusions.
Failure to conduct a thorough investigation or to demonstrate an impartial and objective approach can lead to unnecessary and costly litigation and a war of attrition between the parties. This is well illustrated in the case of Michael Morales v Carton Brothers (UD 835/2011) where the employer was criticised by the Employment Appeals Tribunal for its failure to conduct an “open minded” and “full” investigation and the employee was awarded €65,000.
Many companies rely on their internal HR departments or senior managers to conduct workplace investigations. This can be a sensible and economical approach to take – provided of course – that the managers conducting the investigations are properly trained, are capable of taking an objective and impartial approach to the investigation and are not involved in the suspension, discipline or dismissal of that employee at a later date.
Our experienced investigators understand the legal complexities involved in carrying out a thorough and objective workplace investigation, as well as the requirements and expectations should a case proceed to the Employment Appeals Tribunal, the Equality Tribunal or a court of law.
To find out more about workplace investigations or to talk to one of our consultants in confidence call us on 056 770 1060 or email firstname.lastname@example.org