If you require an investigation to take place...

Carrying out workplace investigations – what employers need to consider

Many managers will eventually encounter a situation where they are required to look into complaints surrounding an employee’s behaviour, which will require an investigation to take place.

This forms a crucial part of employer responsibilities, but it is essential for the manager to fully investigate the issue before deciding what action to take.

Workplace issues can be assessed either through a formal or informal process – it is up to the employer to determine which course of action is most appropriate, depending on how serious the matter is, or what level of information is already at hand about the alleged conduct.

Making the right decision is important to help avoid complaints by members of staff that could ultimately lead to legal disputes where the employer is held accountable for employee actions.

For many bosses, an investigation will begin by determining whether a dispute is simply interpersonal conflict or part of a more serious issue – if it is found to be due to a personality clash, quite a different course of action will be needed than if there is actual or perceived harassment.

Mediation is a common means of dealing with interpersonal conflicts – having both parties discuss their issues in the presence of a facilitator can be effective and quick.

Inaction Regarding Complaints

Another factor that needs to be considered is how long the employer has been aware of the allegations – if the issue has been around for some time, then employers must make sure they address it as soon as possible, particularly for more serious complaints or where an employee has been significantly affected by another employee’s conduct.

Inaction puts employers at serious risk, so encourage workers to come forward with any concerns they might have sooner rather than later to avoid the problems escalating.

In many instances, misconduct can be addressed in-house, but more serious allegations (for example, of an allegation of assault) may need to be reported.

If the offence in question is criminally motivated, it is possible that the employer will have to report it to the police and any other relevant authorities.

Managers who are considering employee dismissal over the allegations must ensure their actions are legally acceptable. Following the correct process is the best form of protection for employers considering this most serious course of action.

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