Setting Up a Workplace Investigation

This article outlines some key considerations when setting up a workplace investigation, whether it is to deal with alleged misconduct, a bullying or harassment complaint or an employee grievance. Taking time at the outset to ensure that an investigation is correctly framed and structured, will help ensure that all parties receive a fair hearing and that outcomes will be robust and stand up to scrutiny if challenged.

  • 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 or Disciplinary policies, 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.

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.