How to Decrease the Time for a Workplace Investigation without Compromising Fairness
As an expert in workplace investigations, one of the most common questions I hear is ‘how long should a workplace investigation take?’
My answer is (surprise!) always, ‘It depends.’ Most people aren’t very satisfied with that answer but let me explain why it is the only way to answer this question, shed some light on the factors that can affect the timeline, and provide one way that organizations may get a quicker conclusion without compromising fairness or thoroughness.
A workplace investigation is an important process that helps employers identify and address issues such as harassment, discrimination, and misconduct within their organization.
The duration of a workplace investigation will depend on a variety of factors, including the complexity of the issue, the number of individuals involved, the availability of those individuals, the number of allegations, and the availability of relevant information and evidence. In general, a workplace investigation should be conducted in a timely and efficient manner, while also ensuring that all parties involved are treated fairly.
The Impact on Real People in a Workplace Investigation
One thing investigators and employers want to keep top of mind is that the outcome of the workplace investigation report will likely have a significant impact on at least one person’s life. Even as we strive to do things in a timely and efficient manner, we can’t cut corners. We must always remember the gravity of the situation and find that sweet spot between taking too long and rushing to a conclusion. With that noted, let’s look at some of the factors of a workplace investigation that impact the time it takes to present a report.
Key Factors Affecting the Workplace Investigation Timeline
One of the key factors that can influence the length of a workplace investigation is the complexity of the issue. For example, an investigation into a single instance of misconduct may be relatively straightforward and take a shorter amount of time than an investigation into a pattern of misconduct or a systemic problem within the organization. Additionally, investigations involving multiple individuals or multiple departments may take longer to complete than those involving a single individual or department.
One of the challenges that we may run into is the availability of parties and witnesses. Sometimes people may be off on medical leave, maternity/paternity leave, vacation, and administrative leave. We need to be cognizant of the implications of these situations as we will need to approach them in different ways. But it doesn’t always mean we can’t continue with the investigation.
Another factor that can impact the duration of a workplace investigation is the availability of relevant information and evidence. In some cases, the information and evidence needed to conduct a thorough investigation may be easily accessible and quickly obtained. However, in other cases, it may take longer to gather the necessary information and evidence, particularly if it is located in multiple locations or if some parties are uncooperative.
It is also important to note that workplace investigations must be conducted in a fair and impartial manner. This means that all parties involved must be given an opportunity to provide their perspective and any relevant information or evidence. This can add time to the investigation process.
While the length of a workplace investigation can vary between weeks and months, it is important to keep in mind that the investigation should be conducted in a timely and efficient manner, while also ensuring that all parties involved are given a fair and thorough examination. Employers should also be aware that there may be legal requirements regarding the timing of workplace investigations under certain laws or collective agreements.
How Organizations Can Safely Speed Up the Workplace Investigation Process
Using an external workplace investigator may also help decrease the time needed to conduct an investigation. External investigators bring a level of impartiality and objectivity to the investigation process, as they are not directly involved in the organization and do not have any pre-existing relationships or biases. Additionally, external investigators often have specialized training and experience in conducting workplace investigations, which can help them to efficiently and effectively gather relevant information and evidence.
Furthermore, external investigators can also provide expertise in navigating the legal requirements and any industry-specific guidelines, which can help to ensure that the investigation is compliant. This can help to avoid any delays or complications that may arise from a lack of knowledge or understanding of these requirements.
Additionally, by using an external investigator, the investigation process can be separated from the day-to-day operations of the organization, which can help to minimize disruptions and allow the organization to continue to function as normal. This can also help to protect the privacy of the parties involved in the investigation, as the investigation is not being conducted by internal staff who may have pre-existing relationships with the parties involved.
Finding an external workplace investigator quickly following a complaint can sometimes be a challenge for organizations. This is why we, at the Workplace Investigator Network, created a roster of well-trained and trauma-informed workplace investigators that can be referred within 48 hours, anywhere in Canada. Click here to contact us if you are currently in need of a workplace investigator in Canada.
In conclusion, the duration of a workplace investigation will depend on a variety of factors such as the complexity of the issue, the number of individuals involved, the availability of the parties and witnesses, and the availability of relevant information and evidence. However, it is important for employers to conduct investigations in a timely and efficient manner, while also ensuring due process and natural justice are followed. Organizations should consider hiring an external workplace investigator to reduce the chances of unnecessary delays in the process. Employers should also be aware of legal requirements and industry-specific guidelines that may affect the length of the investigation process in Canada.