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When Should Employers Conduct a Workplace Investigation?

Table of Contents

As an employer, conducting a workplace investigation is necessary in various situations to ensure a safe and compliant work environment. You owe your employees a legal duty to look after their health and safety. One way you can fulfil this duty is by conducting an investigation when certain issues arise. This article explains the different reasons you may need to conduct an investigation in the workplace and how to conduct one.

What is a Workplace Investigation?

Conducting a workplace investigation in New Zealand involves a structured and thorough process to gather information, assess evidence, and reach appropriate conclusions. It is essential to conduct workplace investigations promptly, impartially, and in compliance with New Zealand’s employment laws and regulations. Maintaining confidentiality and protecting the rights of all parties involved in the investigation is crucial throughout the process. 

The specific steps can vary depending on the nature of the issue, although the table below provides a general outline of how to conduct a workplace investigation in New Zealand:

StepsExplanation
1. Prepare for the InvestigationThis involves:
+ determining the scope and purpose of the investigation;
+ selecting an impartial investigator who has the necessary skills and expertise; 
+ notifying all relevant parties about the investigation while maintaining confidentiality as much as possible;
+ developing an investigation plan that outlines the objectives, timeline, and a list of potential witnesses and evidence; and
+ identifying and securing relevant documentation and records.
2. Gather EvidenceThis involves:
+ interviewing the complainant, the alleged wrongdoer, and any other witnesses;
+ conducting interviews in a private and confidential setting;
+ documenting the interviews with detailed notes or recordings;
+ collecting any relevant documents, emails, text messages, or other evidence related to the complaint; and
+ ensuring the chain of custody for physical evidence.
3. Report and ConcludeThis involves:
+ reviewing all collected evidence to determine its relevance and credibility;
+ analysing the information and making preliminary findings;
+ preparing a detailed investigation report that includes a summary of the complaint, findings, and recommendations;
+ determining the complaint based on the evidence; and
+ concluding the investigation and deciding on appropriate actions, such as disciplinary measures or corrective actions.

You should communicate the findings and any recommended actions to relevant parties, including the complainant and the alleged wrongdoer. Additionally, you should:

  • implement any recommended actions, such as disciplinary measures, changes in policies, or other corrective actions; and
  • monitor the situation to ensure that the issues have been resolved.

Workplace Investigation For Misconduct Allegations

You should conduct a workplace investigation when an employee or third party makes a formal complaint or raises concerns about workplace misconduct. Workplace misconduct includes: 

Misconduct can also be serious. If the alleged action may amount to serious misconduct, termination may be possible at the end of the investigation following a fair process. Serious grievances, such as those related to harassment, discrimination, or workplace bullying, may require a formal investigation to determine the facts and take appropriate corrective action. 

Sometimes, regulatory bodies or the law may require an investigation into certain workplace matters, such as allegations of discrimination or harassment. Compliance with such requirements is essential. In these situations, temporary suspension may also be necessary to work out the best course of action.

For example, in cases where there are suspicions of fraudulent activities or theft, an investigation can help uncover the facts and take appropriate action, which may include involving law enforcement authorities. If any of this amounts to criminal behaviour, it is vital that this is reported to the police.

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Workplace Investigation For Health and Safety Concerns

If there are concerns about unsafe working conditions, accidents, or incidents that may risk employee health and safety, you should undertake a workplace investigation. Investigating these issues is crucial to ensure compliance with New Zealand’s health and safety regulations. It is also crucial that if there is a major accident or crime, this gets reported to the Police immediately.

Workplace Investigation For an Employee Dispute

When workplace conflicts or disputes between employees cannot be resolved through informal means or mediation, an investigation may be necessary to determine the root causes and potential solutions. Remember, during this process, it is essential to stay impartial and treat all parties fairly.

Workplace Investigation For Breach of Employment Agreement

When an employee is alleged to have breached the terms of their employment agreement or contract, it may be necessary to investigate the matter to determine if any violations have occurred.

Key Takeaways

Conducting a workplace investigation in New Zealand involves a structured and thorough process to gather information, assess evidence, and reach appropriate conclusions. You owe your employees a legal duty to look after their health and safety. One way you can fulfil this duty is by conducting an investigation for:

  • misconduct allegations;
  • health and safety concerns;
  • an employee dispute; and
  • a breach of the employment agreement.  

It is essential to conduct investigations fairly and impartially, treating all parties involved with respect and sensitivity. If you are uncertain about the specific steps to take or the legal requirements in New Zealand, our experienced employment lawyers can assist as part of our LegalVision membership. For a low monthly fee, you will have unlimited access to lawyers to answer your questions and draft and review your documents. Call us today on 0800 005 570 or visit our membership page.

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