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Employment Law – The Need for Proper Workplace Investigations

Employment Law – Background

Employment claims like bullying and unfair dismissal continually on the rise in employment law. Consequently, employers are increasingly required to take pro-active steps to investigate suspected workplace incidents and disputes before they lead to such claims.

A workplace investigation is a formal investigative process into an alleged workplace incident or dispute and it may be necessary to undertake same even if the complainant objects to it (ie, because they only wish to make an informal complaint).

Employment Law – Key Principles

When it comes to workplace investigations, the basics involve:


  • communicate the allegations in writing with as much detail as possible
  • advise the employee an investigation will be conducted. In addition, provide a summary of the process and meeting times


  • if the allegations are serious or there is a risk of victimisation or reprisal, the employee should be suspended with pay (although subject to consideration of industrial instrument, contractual and company policy provisions)
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Anti-Bullying Order Dismissed But Corrective Action For All

A Civil Aviation Safety Authority inspector brought 30 bullying allegations against his team leader and a colleague, but only one was held to constitute unreasonable behaviour. The anti-bullying order was dismissed but Commissioner Nick Wilson noted the interpersonal dysfunction of the team that could potentially have the ‘severest consequences’.

The Fair Work Commissioner recommended a three-month ‘workplace culture and improvement plan’ and for the inspector to participate in a performance review with CASA and his team leader to work on a work plan together.
The inspector, his colleague, his team leader and CASA have been requested to write to the Fair Work Commission within a month to advise of a negotiated contract of employment. Cultural barriers were believed to have affected the functionality of the team and cultural training should be undertaken to better ensure fair work for all employees.

Tips for Employers

  • seek advice from a workplace lawyer in order to ensure that you have policies and systems in place, to recognise when an employee may require cultural training
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