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Workplace investigations and procedural fairness

A lack of procedural fairness has been the undoing of many a workplace investigation.

Inadequate evidence, lack of notice, pre-determined decisions – are just some of the elements that can derail a workplace investigation. Take a moment to consider the employee under investigation – the investigation could result in them facing disciplinary action, or even dismissal. You can see why it's important that the I's are dotted and the T's crossed.

So how can employers make sure they conduct their investigations fairly?

  • Be impartial – appoint an investigator who is unbiased and impartial. In normal circumstances an investigation should not be conducted by the direct supervisor of the employee under investigation. 
  • Gather evidence – start by making sure there is a foundation for the allegations. Check facts, review records, or interview the complainant if appropriate. Be specific about dates, times and events related to the allegations. 
  • Notify the employee under investigation – let them know about the allegations and the grounds for investigation. Ensure they understand the process.
  • Give the employee a chance to respond – conduct a thorough interview. Let the employee know they can have a support person present. And most importantly, make sure the employee's response can influence the final decision i.e. their comments will be given consideration – it's important that a final decision has not already been made.

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