Conducting Workplace Investigations

As the WRC and Courts have continued to highlight deficiencies in workplace investigation practices, and employers have to deal with the implications and costs of inadequate investigations, this short article summaries some key points to consider when setting up a workplace investigation.

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, the opportunity to respond to any allegations that are being presented against them, advance notification of hearings, right to be accompanied etc.

  • In addition where specific guidelines exist in documents such as an organisation’s Bullying and Harassment or Disciplinary policies, these must be followed, and the investigation process 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 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. The Terms of Reference should detail the allegations under review, whether findings of fact or fact gathering is the purpose of the investigation ( a further article will deal with this matter), 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.
  • Investigators must always understand that they will have a specific objective to act within the Terms of Reference and as per the purpose of the investigation, and it is critical that there is no deviation from this, that perhaps could jeopardise any further process that may need to happen. The role of Investigator must not stray into that of applying or recommending a disciplinary sanction.

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 workplace 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.