Supporting stakeholder wellbeing during an investigation

Vince Scopelliti - Thursday, April 15, 2021

Participating in a formal workplace investigation can be a stressful and difficult experience, whether you are a complainant, respondent, witness, manager or HR professionals. Organisations need to consider how the health, safety and wellbeing of all participants can be supported during an investigation and how they can meet their duty of care. Some simple preventative practices can be of significant benefit - here’s how.

Employee Assistance Programs

One of the first tasks to action when an investigation needs to take place is to ensure that all parties involved have access to wellbeing and support services. Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) are an important source of impartial support and can assist stakeholders in improving their resilience and reducing the impact of stress during difficult times.

Make sure you provide information to stakeholders about the services available through your EAP provider, including details of how to access the service and important information about their rights and entitlements (such as the right to privacy). Don’t forget to document this step.

If the investigation is likely to be complex or involves sensitive or potentially traumatic elements, it is a good idea to check with your EAP provider that they have people with the right skills and training to support employees involved in a workplace investigation. That way, you can confidently refer your workers to a quality service with reliable support.

Clarity & Communication

Another way that the potential stress and strain of an investigation can be reduced is by providing clear and regular communication to stakeholders. For most employees, being a party to an investigation is a very foreign experience. When people feel uncertain and unsure about what to expect during an investigation, the risk of someone experiencing stress and anxiety can increase. This can also have the effect of increasing conflict, complications and parties seeking help from lawyers or other advocates.

Wherever it is possible and appropriate to do so, keep stakeholders informed about procedural matters such as timeframes, organisational policies and processes. Ensure that they have been provided with the information they need to understand how the principles of procedural fairness will be applied in relation to the investigation, their rights and entitlements. Make sure you also let them know who they can contact if they need additional information or want to query a particular process.

Confident & Skilled Investigators

So, your employees are being supported and they understand what to expect during the investigation as well as their rights. The next step is making sure that people leading the investigation are experienced, confident and expertly skilled in their practice.  When an investigation is of a highly sensitive nature, relates to a critical incident or involves a vulnerable person it is also essential to ensure that the interview and investigation process does not contribute to or cause further harm or distress.

It is also important to make sure that you consider how the wellbeing of your investigator could be impacted. Think about their experience, skills, and specialist expertise. An investigator who is experienced in insurance fraud or financial misconduct may not be the right person to lead an investigation into discrimination or sexual harassment. Some good questions to ask yourself are:

  • Does my investigator have the requisite qualifications and industry experience to perform the task I am asking of them?
  • Does my investigator have the confidence, tools and techniques necessary to tackle difficult topics and subject matters, and to inspire trust in the parties?
  • Does my investigator have the resilience and insight to effectively manage any personal feelings or impacts which arise as a result of the investigation?  

If you can confidently answer “yes” to these three questions then you are on the right track. If not, don’t panic.

WISE Workplace provides a range of investigation services nation-wide. If you need assistance with managing an investigation, developing or strengthening your HR team’s skills in this area or would like to discuss how WISE Workplace could support your business please do not hesitate to reach out on 1300 580 685 or email admin@wiseworkplace.com.au .

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