Conducting Fair and Robust Workplace Investigations

This summary article provides some essential guidance on some of the key preliminary steps that should be taken to ensure that a workplace investigation process is robust and can stand up to scrutiny in the event that it leads to further action being taken under the disciplinary policy or findings of misconduct such as bullying and harassment being made against employees.

  • All workplace investigations must as a minimum be carried out in line with the Statutory Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures, which enshrine the right of employees to a fair hearing and the opportunity to respond to any allegations that are being presented against them.
  • In addition where specific guidelines exist in documents such as an organisation’s bullying and harassment policy, these must be followed and the conducting of the investigation should not deviate from the relevant policy.
  • Employees who will be involved in the investigation as named parties must be formally notified of the commencement of the investigation, under which policy the investigation is being conducted and also of any potential consequences of the investigation e.g. a finding of bullying being made against them or alleged misconduct being progressed under the disciplinary policy.
  • Specific Terms of Reference for the investigation must be drafted and issued to the parties prior to the commencement of the investigation. The Terms of Reference should detail the allegations under review, proposed time frames for the investigation,the right to be accompanied at meetings, protocols around the issuing of meeting minutes, the process for sharing evidence and statements etc. The drafting of clear Terms of Reference at the outset of an investigation will ensure clarity for all parties concerned and will enable the process to run smoothly and efficiently without unnecessary queries during the process.
  • Investigators must always understand that they will have a specific objective to determine if the allegations as presented should be upheld on the basis of the evidence available to them, and at all times investigators must be impartial and objective in how they ask questions and deal with information and evidence presented to them (a future article will look at this in more detail).

If you would like further information on the correct procedure to follow when instigating a workplace investigation please contact Carmel Murphy by emailing Carmel is a highly experienced independent workplace investigator who regularly conducts investigations into bullying and harassment allegations and workplace misconduct as well as running disciplinary and grievance hearings for organisations who require an external HR expert.