Navigating Workplace Investigations: The Importance of Training and Legal Understanding for HR Professionals
Workplace investigations play a crucial role in ensuring fair and safe working environments, particularly in the light of new psychosocial legislation in all states of Australia.
But who should conduct workplace investigations?
When allegations of misconduct, discrimination, or harassment arise, it often falls upon Human Resources (HR) professionals to conduct thorough and unbiased investigations. Whilst this is not always appropriate, many workplace matters are able to be investigated in-house.
Workplace investigation training for HR is usually limited to informal instruction on how-to-do-it, usually from the organisation’s legal team or someone who’s done these types of investigations before. Some training companies offer brief workshops that give participants a general overview of the concepts, but don’t delve into too much on process, interviewing methods, evidence gathering and industrial law (including case law).
Stay tuned for an announcement in early 2024 about our specialist Certificate IV in Human Resource Management designed for HR investigations.
To effectively handle such sensitive matters, HR staff must possess a deeper than average understanding of the workplace investigation process and the relevant laws governing these investigations. There’s a real need these days for investigations training for HR professionals and how important it is to have a comprehensive knowledge of the law and process, in order to safeguard the integrity of workplace investigations. Additionally, knowledge of the rules and guidance of the Fair Work Commission and the Industrial Relations Commissions provide practical insights into the legal aspects of workplace investigations in Australia.
The Importance of Workplace Investigations
Workplace investigations are essential in fostering a culture of trust, respect, and fairness within organizations. Following procedural fairness and ensuring the rights of all participants are upheld is vital, and always good HR practice. Accurate and unbiased investigations can protect employees from discrimination, harassment, and other forms of workplace misconduct. By addressing these issues promptly and effectively, employers can maintain a positive work environment and reduce the risk of costly legal disputes. In many cases (not all, by the way) it’s entirely appropriate for a skilled HR professional to investigate matters in-house. It’s quicker, cheaper and has less impact on all parties.
The Role of HR Professionals
As the gatekeepers of company policies and procedures, HR professionals are at the forefront of workplace investigations. Quite often they’re the receiver of the complaint. It is their responsibility to impartially gather and assess initial evidence, make judgements on seriousness and impact, sometimes interview relevant parties, and make informed decisions based on the available facts. Effectively triaging a complaint can save a whole lot of heartache later.
The Need for Investigations Training
In-depth training is crucial for HR professionals involved in workplace investigations. Not only does it equip them with the necessary skills to conduct fair and thorough investigations, but it also ensures compliance with legal requirements. Training programs provide practical guidance on topics such as evidence gathering, interview techniques, report writing, and maintaining confidentiality.
A good example is interviewing. Effective trauma-informed, investigative interviewing skills are specialist knowledge that are essential for effective investigation. The ability to ask the right questions can make or break a successful investigative process.
It’s also important to know the legal landscape of workplace investigations in Australia.
Fair Work Commission (FWC)
The Fair Work Commission is Australia’s national workplace relations tribunal, responsible for resolving industrial disputes and setting workplace standards. It provides guidance on conducting workplace investigations, including procedural fairness, evidence requirements, and ensuring employees’ rights are protected.
Industrial Relations Commission (IRC)
The Industrial Relations Commission plays a role in workplace investigations by providing collective bargaining and dispute resolution services. Industrial relations legislation intersects with workplace investigations, particularly in cases involving unionized employees or disputes related to workplace agreements.
The Importance of Legal Knowledge
Comprehensive knowledge of the law related to workplace investigations is invaluable for HR professionals. Understanding relevant legislation, such as the Fair Work Act, anti-discrimination laws, and various employment statutes, ensures compliance while conducting investigations. HR professionals must navigate legal requirements to protect both employees’ rights and the organisation’s legal standing.
Workplace investigations are essential for maintaining a fair and safe work environment. HR professionals must possess the necessary skills and knowledge to conduct comprehensive investigations while adhering to legal requirements. Through training in investigations techniques and understanding the legal landscape, HR professionals can effectively safeguard employee rights, mitigate legal risks, and foster a culture of trust within organizations. By staying informed and continuously developing their expertise, HR professionals can contribute to a positive and inclusive workplace for all.
As a leading provider of investigations training, the Professional Investigators College of Australasia (PICA) is committed to empowering HR professionals with the knowledge and skills they need to conduct effective workplace investigations. Our comprehensive training programs cover the legal aspects of workplace investigations, ensuring HR professionals are well-equipped to handle complex situations with integrity and professionalism.
We have a number of specialist HR Investigation training courses ranging from one-day workshops to our comprehensive three-day HR Investigators Program. And, our trainers have decades of HR and workplace investigations experience.
Contact us today to learn more about our training opportunities and join our community of experts dedicated to enhancing investigative skills in the workplace.