07 July 2016

6 common mistakes in workplace investigations

Author :

Teamwork and effective relationships with colleagues are key elements to a productive and profitable operation of most organisations. Inevitably though, there are disputes and conflict, and it’s up to the role of HR to know how to appropriately deal with them. 
The purpose of any workplace investigation is essentially to determine what happened in a particular set of circumstances. A good starting point for employers is to determine whether they have a policy or procedure in place that regulates how investigations should be conducted.

What are some of the pitfalls that employers should watch out for?

The first issue for employers to be aware of is to ensure they have a policy that regulates how investigations are to be conducted and actually follow that policy. Another concern is to ensure the person who conducts the investigation, whether it’s internal or external, doesn’t have prior involvement in the issue to be determined, to avoid claims of bias by parties who are involved.

The other thing to consider is in terms of the individuals who are involved in the investigation process and how they may be implemented in a way that doesn’t prejudge the outcomes of the issue.

Confidentiality is an issue that often arises in investigations and employers need to be aware of the need to maintain confidentiality to limit the damage that can sometimes be caused by the stress of an investigation.

Another issue that arises in the context of workplace investigations is how records are kept. It’s important that when employees are interviewed, records in writing are made of what those people have said. It’s also important that employees are then given the opportunity to review those records to ensure they are comfortable with the information recorded and that it’s an accurate record of what was said.  This can often avoid subsequent problems that arise that can undermine the investigation process.

Natural justice is also an important issue to bear in mind when conducting workplace investigations. Employers should also be mindful that in most cases documents produced in the course of the investigation process and the investigation process itself may well be subject to scrutiny in light proceedings.  

Akolade’s upcoming 11th Workplace Law Roadshow in August 2016, provides practical tips and tools for HR Managers to stay abreast of employment law. Featuring speakers from leading law firms and in house counsels, the 1 day roadshow explores the roles of HR in workplace conflict, managing disputes and conflict and strategies for effective dispute resolution. 

The best part of my job as a Conference Production Manager is to create and manage my own conferences from concept to delivery, identify future conference topics as well as giving me a chance to expand my business card collection. Having a bit of a sweet tooth, you will always find me having lollies on my desk or you will catch me browsing on fashion sites during lunch breaks.


  1. Im in New Zealand and wondering whether the roadshow content will be directly broadcast online, or later? If not, will access be available to ccourse notes/documentation? Thank you and well done!

  2. Hi Rosina, the Workplace Law Roadshow was designed to provide practical and legal information to mitigate the risks of workplace claims and disputes. The presentations will be delivered by Australia's top law firms and in house counsels however each session will draw from current case law reviews and key learnings from each case so you can take back and apply in your organisation. Would you like to register for the conference? Here is the link to the roadshow - https://akolade.com.au/events/workplace_law_fundamentals/