Ten Most Common Pitfalls when a Complaint is Made. A Managers Guide
1. Wishing it away – Doing nothing
Recent amendments to the Fair Work Act mean that an employee must act on complaints. It’s not good enough to pretend it is not happening, or to delay the process. If you get a complaint of bullying, harassment or malfeasance, you must, as an employer act on the information.
2. Not keeping notes
Write it down! Time, date and place, what was said, who was there…..and your actions. If the matter goes to court or a tribunal you are covered.
3. Not supporting the complainant
Often, the complainant is moved, transferred or offered leave. This is fine if that is what the complainant wants. If not, they will feel like they are being punished. Assess the situation. Is the complainant exposed to more harassment if they stay in their work area? If so, from whom?
4. Not being impartial.
As a manager, it is your role to be impartial. Just because you may know the respondent, doesn’t mean the complaint can be ignored.
5. Not assessing the situation
Is the matter serious? What are your legal obligations? Can the matter be dealt with in-house and do you have the skills to do so? Is it a reasonable managerial action?
6. Not assessing all options
Sometimes a workplace matter can be dealt with informally, via mediation or restorative justice, but beware! The more serious the matter, the more formal the action.
7. Using unqualified Investigators
Just because someone has done a course, doesn’t mean they can investigate appropriately. Ensure the investigator is qualified, experienced and unbiased.
8. Lack of procedural fairness
Procedural fairness allows an employee the right to a fair and unbiased hearing. This means they get to know what they have been alleged to have done (allegations) and they have the right of reply and to have the matter decided by an unbiased decision maker.
9. Not knowing your legal obligations
As a Manager, you have administrative legal obligations. New Fair Work laws in relation to adverse actions mean that you are legally and financially responsible for your actions in the workplace.
In a workplace dispute, knowing your obligations can save you and your organisation time and money.
10. Winging it
If you don’t know, ASK! Don’t fall into the CSI effect where you think you can solve a workplace problem. If you are concerned about what to do need, you need to get advice. Fast.
Jo Kamira is the Co-Principal of Capital Workplace Investigations.