12 Point Checklist for Briefing an External Investigator

Melanie Roberts
January 17, 2018

“To outsource or not to outsource an investigation…”

That is often the question HR professionals and senior managers are faced with when needing to conduct an investigation into serious misconduct at work.  Factors of time, risk and cost will all influence this decision (see our related blog post “Warning Indicators – When to Conduct an External Investigation” for more information on making this decision).

On those occasions when you do decide to outsource the task of investigating, it is vital to ensure that everyone is ‘on the same page’ about the scope, activities and logistics of the investigation. To ensure that expectations are clear, and to avoid any misunderstandings or potential for disagreement between the investigator and instructor, it is important for the instructor to thoroughly brief an external investigator and cover off all bases.

Given that an external, independent investigator is often appointed because they are less likely to be perceived as possibly biased, when you cover off on the following twelve key points, you will help to protect that independence. This will in turn ensure the smooth running and provision of a reliable and fair investigation for all.

12 point checklist for briefing an external investigator

It is imperative that your external investigator remains independent and is not pressured in their approach to the investigation, how they conduct it, or the findings they may make. Below is Worklogic’s 12 point checklist to ensure that everyone is clear about what their respective roles, tasks and responsibilities are across the course of the investigation:

  1. Confirm the scope of the role of the investigator and the scope of the role of the instructor: i.e. who is making findings of fact and what is within the remit of the investigator.
  2. Confirm to the investigator (in writing) the particular allegations which are to be investigated.
  3. Confirm (in writing) that the employer organisation will provide the respondent with the allegations.
  4. Define the level of detail expected in the analysis and report.
  5. Define the level of certainty to be expected in the findings, that is, the standard of proof: usually the balance of probabilities.
  6. Clarify that the investigator is responsible for the gathering and identification of the relevant evidence, usually by interview.
  7. Provide the investigator with all relevant documents or other information that the investigator requests as the investigation commences and proceeds.
  8. Provide the investigator with all relevant policies, procedures, union agreements.
  9. Confirm whether the investigator is required to make any comment in the investigation report on whether any alleged acts, that may be found proven, amount to an apparent breach of the organisations’ award, policy, process, standard or procedure.
  10. Clarify the time frame and the cost of the investigation.
  11. Clarify how often, and in what format, the instructor wishes to be provided with regular updates.
  12. Advise the investigator of any special needs of a participant for the investigator to make reasonable adjustment for during the investigation process.

These steps will also help minimise any potential for pressure, consciously or not, that an instructor might place on an investigator to, for example, make certain findings one way or another. It will also help manage the far-too-common situation where the instructor makes demands to an external investigator as to whom they think that the investigator should interview, how long to spend in interview with a participant, the credibility or past history of a participant, or, what evidence to consider generally.

We hope the key points above will help you to ensure that you set the investigation up for procedurally fair, best practice.  Good luck!

Worklogic’s Effective Workplace Investigations Training

If you think that your organisation might need further skills development to effectively conduct a workplace investigation into alleged misconduct, then enrol your team in our acclaimed one day course on “Conducting Effective Workplace Investigations”, in Sydney on Tuesday 13 March and Melbourne on Tuesday 20 March 2018. If these dates/locations don’t suit, we can also run in-house training to up-skill your team.

Join our team!

If you would like to join the Worklogic team, then check out these opportunities for experienced workplace investigators in Melbourne and Sydney!

About Melanie Roberts

Melanie Roberts is an experienced workplace investigator and a nationally accredited mediator, with a comprehensive understanding of the complex nature of workplace disputes. Based in Worklogic’s Sydney office,  Melanie has extensive experience conducting workplace investigations within the NSW public sector, undertaking a wide range of investigations including allegations of assault, sexual assault, workplace bullying and harassment, sexual harassment, racial and sexual discrimination. She has conducted numerous workplace reviews and is a trained conflict management coach.

Worklogic works with employers to resolve workplace complaints and create a positive culture at work.  Please contact Melanie for an obligation-free, confidential discussion on allegations of misconduct in your workplace.

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