Workplace Investigations – Tips for the New Investigator

OCM Principal Stephen Osborne, former Deputy Director of Investigations at the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), recently presented ‘Workplace Investigations – Tips for the New Investigator’ at an Annual Practitioner Professional Development Day attended by about 40 members of the Industrial Relations Society of NSW (IRNSW) at international law firm K & L Gates.

The IRNSW is a professional association founded in 1958 and has over 150 members including academics, state and federal government HR and IR practitioners, union officials, students, lawyers, advocates, consultants and tribunal members; any of whom could be called upon to undertake an internal disciplinary investigation in their workplace.

During the presentation, Stephen spoke to the principles of the investigation planning; gathering and managing evidence; and procedural fairness. The guiding premise of each stage is outlined below:

The Investigation Plan

Pre-plan considerations:

  • What policy/procedural breaches may have occurred?
  • What facts need to be established?
  • What evidence am I looking for?
  • What powers/authority do I have to gather evidence?
  • What are the risks to the investigation?

The Plan:

  • Background
  • Scope and Purpose
  • What evidence is required to establish the truth?
  • How will the evidence be gathered?
  • How will risks to the investigation be managed?
  • What resources are required to complete the investigation?
  • Reporting progress during the investigation
  • Timeline

Gathering and Managing Evidence

  • Handling documentary evidence
  • Authenticating documents
  • Desktop computers/laptop computers/phones
  • Surveillance in the workplace
    • Covert video
    • Overt video
    • Covert email/internet
    • Overt email/internet
  • Continuity/chain of evidence and safe storage
  • Searching offices, cupboards, lockers, briefcases, etc.
  • Evidence from witnesses (statement or interview)
  • Secure storage of records created during investigation

 Procedural Fairness

  • Be and show you are truly objective (no bias, closed-mindedness)
  • Affected person/witnesses/staff will have more confidence in outcome
  • Strive to obtain the best information and evidence possible from more reliable sources
  • When should the affected person be notified and how?
  • How much information should the affected person be given?
  • Give equal consideration and treatment to information supplied by the affected person
  • Afford the affected person the opportunity to respond to allegations at interview
  • Minimum 24 hours notice of proposed interview
  • Provide details of allegations to be canvassed at interview
  • Allowed an observer at interview
  • Provide an interpreter if required
  • Complete the investigation within a reasonable time frame

For further information on this presentation or for a full scope of presentable ideas from OCM please contact us on 1300 882 633 or email