Carrying out workplace investigations over the past ten years I’ve regularly encountered cases where the poor handling of an earlier concern was cited in support of allegations claiming unfair treatment, these have included:

The investigation into an earlier concern was inadequate and did not delve deep enough; asserting that the worker was subject to ongoing unfairness, including a range of discriminatory practices, harassment and victimisation.

The earlier concerns had been raised informally, yet a formal investigation was carried out; asserting the unnecessary escalation and exacerbation of the situation, and against the individual’s wishes.

A previous investigation had been inadequate; asserting increased levels of individual stress, on-going bullying and loss of business.

The overarching allegations in all of these cases included: discrimination, harassment and victimisation.  In addition, all of the cases had the potential to damage the business in terms of reputation, working environment, workplace relationships, escalation of conflict and tension, and reduction in productivity and performance.

Concerns regarding the handling of an earlier concern can also cause unnecessary complications for the current investigation, for example:

Terms of reference – to what extent does the investigation explore the earlier concern? Is there to be a re-investigation? Where is this particular matter procedurally?

Time-scale – identifying the appropriate approach re the earlier investigation, exploring the matter further, compiling and reporting on findings, only serves to add to the time to complete the current investigation and resolution.

Financial and people resources – the more complex the investigation, the higher the cost with workers being distracted from their everyday roles, whether as witnesses or in an investigatory capacity.

A clear and consistent approach and on-going communication with all relevant parties from the outset, will help to prevent claims that the way a concern was handled was discriminatory, unfair, or inadequate.

Coreen Nugent
Director, Opt for learning

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