Fair and equitable work environments in which all employees can participate and do their best work should be the goal of all employers. As part of that goal, there is a need for accountability by both employees and employers when issues arise in the workplace. That’s where a workplace investigation may be appropriate.
Some allegations of misconduct can be investigated and addressed internally, but there are many situations where employers should consider hiring an external workplace investigator. It is valuable for employers to be aware of when they are unable to handle an investigation. There is no specific list of circumstances to determine when an external investigator should be retained because every situation is unique. Below are some factors and scenarios to consider:
The Allegations Are Serious
When serious allegations, such as sexual harassment or criminal conduct, are made, it is advisable to have an investigator with the necessary legal knowledge, training and expertise handle the matter.
Also, if an employee’s job is at risk, the employer should take the necessary precautions to ensure that a fair and proper investigation is undertaken and the rights of all parties are respected. An external investigator with a background in employment law has the necessary skills to make sure this is done.
Impartiality in the workplace investigation
It is vital that workplace investigations be conducted by an impartial investigator with the necessary knowledge, training and expertise. You want all parties to accept and abide by the recommendations of the investigator. A necessary part of this is for the investigator to appear neutral and unbiased. Hiring an external investigator can shield the employer from claims of bias.
Lack of Time and/or Resources
Conducting a proper investigation takes significant time and resources, which otherwise would be devoted to regular workplace activities. An external investigator will be able to conduct their investigation with only minimal disruptions to the day-to-day operation of the workplace.
Helps to Re-build Morale
Allegations can cause a serious rift in employee relations and workplace dynamics. Employees often feel more comfortable reporting incidents when they feel that their employer takes such allegations seriously. Hiring an external investigator is a way for employers to elevate the trust and confidence their employees have in them.
Prepares for and Simplifies Litigation
Similar to avoiding the spectre of bias, hiring an external investigator can safeguard the investigation against allegations of procedural unfairness. A report by an external investigator can be used as a shield against potential litigation and can be relied on by adjudicators in human rights or employment disputes. This will save all parties time and money in the long run.
For more information, please see our workplace investigations page here.