As an employer it is almost inevitable that you will encounter issues with employees that will require an employment investigation. The issues that could arise are as many and varied as the employees themselves, however, some examples are: complaints by an employee against another employee, complaints by clients or customers or accidental discoveries suggesting misconduct or dishonesty by an employee. Any action taken by an employer involving an employee can be scrutinised by way of the affected employee raising a personal grievance, and employment investigations are no exception. If the need for an employment investigation arises, an employer must ensure that the investigation can withstand scrutiny, and that any action resulting from the process was what a reasonable and fair employer could have done in all the circumstances.
When an issue comes to the attention of the employer, the employer should refer to the written employment agreement of the employees involved, and any policy and procedure documents that may set out the process to be followed in an employment investigation. It may be that these documents are silent about process, but if they do set out a process to be followed it is important that it is adhered to for the robustness of the investigation process.
Depending on the nature of the event or incident, an employer may wish to suspend the employee while the investigation is undertaken. If an employer wishes to suspend an employee, the written employment agreement must provide for this. If suspension is contemplated, the employer must obtain the employee’s views regarding suspension before making the decision to suspend the employee. The next step is to gather the facts of the event or incident. The employer should carefully consider who needs to be spoken to in the course of the investigation. For example, the complainant and employee directly involved in the issue would be spoken to, as well as any others involved. The employer should gather as much detailed information about the event or incident as possible through direct interviews and other information, for example emails, photographs or other documentary evidence. Any interviews or discussions with people involved should be carefully noted, as this information is at the very heart of the investigation process and may well form the basis of any future decisions regarding the employment of the employee under investigation.
Ideally, the person who will make the final decision regarding the outcome of the employment investigation should be actively involved in the investigation process. If the final decision maker is not actively involved, that person should satisfy themselves that they are adequately informed of the details of the investigation process to enable them to make a decision.
Once the employment investigation is completed, the employer will need to make a decision about whether the matter needs to be taken further, or whether the employer is satisfied that no further action is required. Whilst conducting a proper investigation may seem onerous and time consuming, the failure to conduct a fair and reasonable process can cost employers dearly.
“I can't speak highly enough of Jenny. She got everything done in a timely manner and when my ex-husband threw a spanner in the works at the eleventh hour she got the required documentation to his lawyers and settlement back on track.”
“Joy, we cannot thank you enough for your help with our purchase! You have been wonderful to deal with and so proactive (and patient with my numerous emails). We will be visiting NZ in April so will make sure we drop in to thank you in person.”
“To Michael Robinson – I wanted to thank you and your colleagues for many years of excellent service to the Bank. You have an outstanding business that has proved to be one of the most reliable and ethical businesses that Collections have dealt with in the almost 9 years I was with the Bank.”
“I have struggled with different legal firms over the years, but over the past few years I have engaged with Turner Hopkins with various requirements from personal relating to wills, family trust, property settlements and contracts through to commercial engagements including employment advice, commercial lease agreements and general legal advice. I have engaged with a number of the people in the firm and always found them professional, punctual in their responses and very sound in the advice provided.”
“I have used Turner Hopkins for my legal services for over eight years. I have always found their level of service excellent and their work to a very high standard. I have used various lawyers at their firm for various businesses I have been involved with and have always had very positive experiences. I would highly recommend them.”