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The rules you need to know about workplace investigation interviews

There are many reasons why you may need to conduct workplace investigation interviews. There may have been an incident that needs further examination, or there could be allegations made against an employee including fraud, harassment or bullying. Whatever the need for the investigation, there are rules that need to be followed to ensure that all parties have a fair hearing and that the right outcomes are achieved.

The basic rules around workplace investigation interviews

Whilst these rules are not enshrined in any legislation or legally binding documentation, they are going to ensure that you are more likely to get the information you are looking for. These rules provide the roadmap you need for a successful interview that is fair to all parties.

It all begins with proper planning. Set up a formal order of proceedings so that everybody is aware of what is happening. The complainant should always be the first to be interviewed so that you can get all the detail possible about their complaint and the circumstances surrounding it. All parties should be advised that they are allowed to have a support person present. Ensure that you have outlined a clear purpose for the interview, create broad topics and then drill down into narrow subtopics. When you are conducting the interview remember to:

  • Treat each interviewee with respect
  • Approach each interview with an open mind
  • Don’t make any assumptions about the interviewees
  • Build rapport

During the planning phase of workplace investigation interviews, it is critical to take into consideration the legislated rules that you need to follow to ensure your interviews are lawful.

The rules of evidence

Evidence is extremely important in determining an outcome from your investigation, but only evidence that directly relates to the matter at hand should be considered. Just because the respondent may have behaved in a certain way in the past, does not mean that they have behaved that way in this instance. There are four types of evidence to consider including:

  • Relevance: As stated, the evidence should only be related to the matter at hand.
  • Hearsay: This is third party evidence, for example, one person may be presenting the information they heard from another person. This means you will need to interview that third party to establish the veracity of that evidence.
  • Best evidence: These are official, original documents and direct eyewitness accounts
  • Corroboration: Multiple sources of evidence are more likely to deliver a result, especially witnesses to an event – the more the better.

The rules of procedural fairness

There are six primary rights that all respondents have in workplace investigation interviews that fall under procedural fairness that include:

  • The right to understand the allegations and have the information required to make a proper response
  • The right to have a reasonable amount of time to make a response
  • The right to be able to respond to all allegations made against them
  • The right to a decision-maker that is independent and unbiased
  • The right for a final decision to be based on the evidence presented
  • The right to have a support person present

To ensure that a fair interview process is conducted and that the final outcome will be upheld, it is imperative that all of these rules are followed.

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