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If you are subjected to a workplace investigation, it can be one of the most challenging aspects of your job. Hang on a minute, your thinking I’m the production supervisor or forklift driver (really doesn’t matter the role), its nothing to do with me.
Well, it is! you have to participate in the process regardless if you like it or not. As either the person being investigated or part of a larger investigation, you may as you obtain a more senior role by the investigator.
What you have to ensure regardless of your role in the investigation is having to explore the scenario, determine who is telling the truth and how to handle the outcomes is not an easy task. Employees (usually you if you’re looking up this website) who are subject to an investigation need to know that the employer only has your best interests in mind and that you can see that the complaint is handled in a timely, impartial manner. You have to be careful, our experience is most employers start the process with a pre conceived view of the outcome of the investigation.
An example of this is there’s been an isolation breach, it’s against the company’s OH&S rules of zero tolerance of breaches, and the company is merely stepping through the process. Another is sexual harassment, allegations are made against the male, and the company is only concerned about the cost of any potential external claim, not the facts.
You have to get a fair go.
For any workplace investigation you have to get a fair go, when examining the various Fair Work Commission decisions, it’s not 3 strikes (warnings) and you’re out, but really a process that’s fair. Of course, what’s perceived as fair to one party, is not perceived that way by another, hence the conflicts, which give rise to the lodgement of general protection claims both F8 and F8C (read the general protections page for more details) and unfair dismissal applications
From the perspective of the employee, you have been wronged. Something wrong is going on here, is out of place, your suspended, no one wants to talk to you, no one wants to give you a witness statement, no one wants to be your witness in investigation meeting coming up, your almost seen as a leper in the workplace. There is a wide variety of reasons you are subjected to an investigation process.
Why might an employee be suspended?
- To highlight the seriousness of the matter.
- To stop the employee carrying on the gross misconduct that is being alleged.
- To stop the employee interacting with other employees or clients/customers of the employer, which may otherwise cause a detrimental effect to the business.
- To enable the employer to properly investigate a disciplinary matter without hindrance from the employee.
- Allot of these reasons, can be vague and just a reason to get you out of the workplace.
Can I be suspended without warning?
Obviously, your employer needs to let you know that they intend to suspend you. This may be done orally, in a meeting for example, and may be “out of the blue”. However, the suspension and its terms should always be confirmed in writing afterwards.
There is no set amount of notice that an employer must give an employee to warn them that they are being suspended, but they must always act in accordance with any relevant disciplinary policy.
However, it is rare for standard policies to require employees be given a warning before suspension. Any written notice confirming suspension should include the following information:
- the reason for the suspension and how long it is expected to last,
- acknowledgment that the suspension is not an assumption of guilt and is to enable the investigation to progress,
- your rights and obligations during the suspension. For example, you may be required to remain contactable during normal work hours,
- a point of contact (such as an HR manager) for any queries whilst suspended.
Reasons to be suspended or investigated.
- Violent or aggressive behaviour.
- Occupational health and safety breaches
- Sexual harassment or inappropriate behaviour
- Medical grounds (a risk to yourself or the workplace)
- Reckless or negligent behaviour
- Reputation damage to the company
- Performance issues that have manifested to effecting the companies viability and profits.
This list is not exhaustive but to give an idea of why you possibly suspended, particularly when you have not being give reasons or the reasons are vague.
Suspended, with or without pay
If your suspended, you should be paid, if your not you should challenge your employer as to why. Generally speaking the employer will not leave you suspended for too long, they see it as you sitting at home receiving free money. The concern is if your not paid, perhaps your a casual employee, or the employer is quite aggrieved as to reasons your suspended.
My concern here is the company just leaves you off for extended period of time, is in no hurry because they are not paying you. Sometimes they do this hoping you just go away, get fed up, and that then solves their investigation issue, in other words you sack yourself.
Look for another job, always have a plan “b” in life
Build your case, articulate your case, make a list of all the good things you have done for the company. The way I put it, you might have some debits on the scales of justice and your stuck with these, then put as much as you can on the credit side, even it up, give the employer reasons to keep you. .
A lot of employees go off on sick leave, so they cannot be fired or have to turn up for the interview. I do understand these times are very stressful, but you are just delaying the inevitable, somewhere along the process you have to turn up. In fact sometimes the more you stay away, dodge the employer, may be perceived you as being guilty.
Turn up, take a support person (we can provide one if this assist), resolve matters, get back to work, get a warning, if its dismissal, then call us.
Conclusion: Workplace Investigation, get a “fair go”.
I hope this brief article on workplace investigations has been helpful, it’s stressful being investigated. Do I have a job? don’t have a job? Another article we published on workplace investigations might be helpful, click here. We are A Whole New Approach, we are here to help you, 20 plus years of defending, and representing employees in workplace investigations and unfair dismissal claims. Want help? advice? give us a call, advice is free, confidential, and prompt. If you are not guilty and feel set up, and up against a biased employer we will defend you.
If you are in strife, disrespected by the workplace investigation process or just the fact, the appalling approach by the employer to even suspend you, to begin with, and you don’t want to go back to work or want to resign, let us package you got, including protecting your reputation.
Sometimes timing is everything in life, including the workplace, when to fight for your job, and when to move on, it’s not easy.
Call 1300 766 700