As employers, we strive to create a harmonious and productive workplace which is beneficial for both employees and employers — but the truth is, disputes may arise from time to time. What do you do if you’re suddenly presented with a workplace bullying claim or an allegation of employee misconduct? How do you approach the situation delicately to ensure it is a fair process for all parties involved? This blog considers this conundrum and what employers should bear in mind when carrying out a workplace investigation.
Consider the circumstances
Employers should not withhold an investigation because of the pandemic. Employers must prioritise responding to complaints, especially during a crisis where a focus on employee welfare needs proactive effort.
Courts and tribunals are also increasingly critical of businesses that fail to promptly respond to complaints of employee misconduct by other employees.
Are you the best person to investigate?
The person who investigates the matter should be impartial to the circumstances and have experience in investigating such matters. Usually, an employer would appoint an HR consultancy like Positive HR to investigate on your behalf. This helps to ensure the matter is looked at not only with integrity and fairness but also in a timely manner, so there is minimal disruption to your business and maintains employee morale.
Confidentiality — keep it under wraps
Workplace investigations are sensitive matters. Employers must ensure that the evidence and documents collected are relevant to the matter and that the investigation doesn’t diverge from the original intention.
When sharing any form of data or evidence, the information must be protected and secure to prevent any unauthorised distribution or access.
Those involved in the investigation should only be able to review the information that is relevant to them only. For example, the witnesses should not check each other’s statements. It should only be visible to the investigator.
Investigations are very stressful
It’s important to be mindful of the health and wellbeing for everyone involved. Even if it is a simple witness statement, there is still some level of angst for everyone.
It’s even more stressful if you have remote working employees and the ability to read body language and cues is a lot more challenging and emotionally taxing (we all know that Zoom fatigue).
To minimise disruption and stress, the investigation should be carried out in a fair and swift manner. Employers need to be flexible to accommodate an employee’s schedule and responsibilities.
You should offer the employee the option to have a support person too — but just make sure the support person is only there for emotional support and not to act on behalf of the employee. They should also treat the matter with sensitivity and confidentiality. If the investigation is long, consider breaks if needed.
Employee misconduct woes? Our workplace investigation can help you
When employers are faced with employee misconduct, bullying or any form of harassment, it must be dealt with immediately and ideally with a professional for the best outcomes.
While many employers have good intentions, we’ve seen how mismanagement in the process can cause damage to the reputation of your business, affect employee morale and trigger further issues.
As trained workplace investigators, Positive HR can act urgently to investigate concerns and workplace matters. We will provide you with a full report of findings and proposed solutions. Let’s start a confidential discussion today.