I had a call recently for advice where a senior member of a team had punched another senior member. Has this ever happened at your work or almost happened? What would you do if it did? Nothing and hope it all goes away, right? Wrong! For a start, the incident could be deemed as assault and might involve the police. Also, as the business owner, you have a duty of care for all your employees. If you do nothing it could be seen that you condone the behaviour – or, as bad, you don’t care!
You might think the punch is a sackable offence – it might be, but you need to investigate first. So how do you do this? You need to get someone who is independent and experienced in conducting this type of investigation. Consider:
- you may choose to send both parties on paid leave while the investigation is conducted – check your Modern Award first though
- both parties (and any witnesses) need to be interviewed to get their account of the incident; both parties are entitled to have a support person in the meeting. It may be useful to have a scribe.
- the investigator needs to make a decision based on the ‘balance of probabilities’ around what actually occurred
The investigator forms a view of the likely events – then a decision needs to be made – what happens next?.
a) the incident did not occur – both parties are informed that there are no unresolved issues outstanding
b) both parties were equally to blame but the physicality was minor – both parties given a final warning and told should this behaviour occur again it could result in the termination of their employment
c) one party is deemed to be the aggressor and in a meeting (party is allowed a support person to attend) is advised of this outcome which may result in the termination of their employment – which could be given with or without notice. The other party involved should be advised formally of the outcome (with only necessary details). The witnesses are advised that the situation has been resolved
Sounds like a police investigation? Well, yes, it probably does – but this is best practice and should result with a fair and thorough process and outcome.