Workplace Investigations: Best practices for employers in handling employee misconduct and complaints in NZ

Published date26 January 2024
Subject MatterEmployment and HR, Employment Litigation/ Tribunals, Employee Rights/ Labour Relations
Law FirmLegalVision
AuthorMs Louise Miao

Maintaining a healthy and productive workplace requires a commitment to addressing misconduct and complaints effectively. Workplace investigations play a pivotal role in fostering a positive work environment, ensuring fair treatment of all employees, and mitigating legal risks for employers. In New Zealand, employers must navigate specific regulations and practices when conducting investigations. This article discusses best practices for employers handling misconduct and complaints, outlining key steps and considerations throughout the investigation process.


The Employment Relations Act 2000 and the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 are critical pieces of legislation influencing how employers should approach workplace investigations. Additionally, compliance with the Privacy Act 2020 and other relevant laws is essential to protect employees' rights during investigations. Ensuring your business complies with the law is crucial when conducting a workplace investigation.

Establish a Clear Investigation Policy

The foundation for effective workplace investigations lies in having a well-defined investigation policy. Employers should establish a comprehensive investigation policy that outlines the procedures for handling misconduct and complaints. Some employers provide details of this within a Contract of Employment.

You should communicate this policy to all employees to ensure transparency and set expectations regarding the process. This could include the step-by-step process and whether certain actions amount to misconduct or serious misconduct.

Prompt Action

Employers should take prompt action to initiate an investigation upon receiving a complaint or becoming aware of potential misconduct. Timeliness is crucial to prevent further harm, ensure a fair resolution, and demonstrate a commitment to addressing workplace issues and solving personal grievances. Conducting any investigations promptly is essential, as witnesses may forget certain crucial aspects of the alleged incident.

Impartiality and Independence

Maintaining impartiality is vital throughout the investigation process. Designate an investigator who is neutral, unbiased, and has no personal stake in the outcome. In some cases, external investigators may be preferable to enhance objectivity and credibility, although this will come at an additional cost but will present any allegations of bias.


Confidentiality is a cornerstone of successful workplace investigations...

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