Workplace Investigations

Posted in : HR Updates ROI on 21 May 2024
Caroline Reidy
The HR Suite
Issues covered: Investigations

Workplace investigations are essential tools for upholding integrity and trust within an organisation. They serve as the backbone for enforcing company policies and ensuring that all employees are treated with respect and fairness. By conducting thorough investigations, companies can address allegations of misconduct effectively, safeguarding both the complainant's and the accused's rights.

These investigations play a pivotal role in maintaining a positive and dignified work environment. They ensure that complaints are handled fairly, confidentially, and impartially, providing a structured process to resolve issues.

Handling complaints

It is essential that all employers and managers follow procedures for handling complaints. If an employee files a complaint against a colleague but wishes to remain anonymous, the HR department should acknowledge the issue and assure confidentiality. Depending on the severity of the complaint, they must clarify any limitations in maintaining anonymity due to the nature of the investigation.

In general, all complaints must be carefully evaluated to determine whether an informal resolution or a formal investigation is required. According to the Code of Practice on Grievance and Disciplinary Procedures, maintaining strict confidentiality is essential.

Where necessary, temporary alternative work arrangements should be organised to reduce workplace friction. Additionally, employers and managers should promote a supportive environment that encourages open communication and trust among team members, reinforcing the importance of a respectful workplace.

Roles in the Investigation Process

Under the Dignity at Work guidelines, the HR function typically bears the responsibility for conducting the preliminary screening of complaints. However, a Nominated Person, whether from within or outside the HR team, may also assist with this process, provided they have the training and expertise to handle the matter professionally and impartially. This collaborative approach ensures the investigation is thorough and balanced, leveraging diverse perspectives to maintain fairness. Such a system helps safeguard the interests of all parties involved, promoting a just resolution to workplace issues

The decision regarding who should lead the investigation hinges on the nature of the complaint. HR professionals are often considered neutral parties, making them well-suited to lead investigations, particularly if the issue involves individuals from specific departments or teams. However, in cases where a line manager possesses relevant expertise and context, they may be suited to lead the investigation. For instance, if the complaint pertains to technical issues or industry-specific practices, a knowledgeable line manager may be better equipped to understand and investigate the matter comprehensively.

In workplace investigations, it is vital to ensure the process is conducted with the utmost fairness and impartiality applying the rules of natural justice. The accused has the right to object to the investigator if concerns arise about potential bias or a conflict of interest. This is particularly important, as such biases can compromise the integrity of the investigation and the overall trust in the investigative procedures.

Objections and Conflicts of Interest

The accused has the right to object to the investigator if concerns arise about potential bias or a conflict of interest. In such cases, an alternative investigator should be considered to maintain the investigation's integrity and ensure that fairness and impartiality are upheld throughout the process. This step is crucial for preserving trust in the investigative procedures.

Under the Employment Equality Acts 1998-2015, maintaining impartiality in workplace investigations is crucial. It is necessary for employers to ensure that all employees are treated equally and fairly and without discrimination. Therefore, when an objection is raised regarding an investigator's potential conflict of interest or perceived bias, it is essential for the credibility of the investigation that an alternative investigator is considered. Bringing in a new investigator to handle the complaint ensures that the investigation remains transparent and impartial, adhering not only to company policies but also to legal standards. This change can help safeguard the rights of all parties involved and reinforces the commitment of the organisation to uphold ethical standards and legal requirements.

Investigation Process

  • Advance notice of allegation

The rules of natural justice requires that the accused be informed of the allegations against them before the first meeting. They should be given adequate information and time to prepare a defence.

  • Use of recording during Investigations

The organisation's Disciplinary Procedure should outline the rules for recording disciplinary hearings. If both parties agree, recording can proceed legally.

  • Support during hearings

According to the Code of Practice on Grievance and Disciplinary Procedures, employees are entitled to representation and may be accompanied by a work colleague or Trade Union representative. Allowing family members to attend is typically at the employer's discretion.

  • Training recommendations

To handle workplace issues promptly and effectively, managers should receive training in Dignity and Respect at Work, as well as Disciplinary and Investigation procedures. This ensures they have the skills and knowledge to manage situations appropriately and impartially.


Effective workplace investigations rely on confidentiality, fairness, and procedural adherence. By carefully managing the complaint process and ensuring impartial investigations, organisations can maintain a positive and dignified work environment for all involved. Proper training, transparent communication, and adherence to best practices can lead to resolutions that uphold the integrity of the workplace and reinforce a culture of respect.

Caroline's excellent recent webinar "Practicalities of Managing Investigations" can be viewed HERE.

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This article is correct at 21/05/2024

The information in this article is provided as part of Legal-Island's Employment Law Hub. We regret we are not able to respond to requests for specific legal or HR queries and recommend that professional advice is obtained before relying on information supplied anywhere within this article.

Caroline Reidy
The HR Suite

The main content of this article was provided by Caroline Reidy. Contact telephone number is +353 66 710 2887 / +353 86 775 2064 or email

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