An employer owes many obligations to an employee. An employer must treat an employee fairly and reasonably, and must maintain a relationship of trust and confidence.

These obligations continue throughout the employment relationship, including during a disciplinary investigation. The employer should, where possible, ensure the investigation is kept confidential, provide the employee with information about any allegations, and give the employee an opportunity to comment on the allegations and what course of action is to be taken.

But what obligations do employers owe complainants during a disciplinary investigation?

An employer’s obligations towards a complainant can often become blurred when they conflict with the obligations they owe to an employee under investigation, such as their right to privacy.

Generally, employers are not required to disclose information about an investigation or what disciplinary action is being taken, if any.  However, at a minimum, an employer should inform a complainant that they are fully investigating the matter, and that appropriate action will be taken. At the end of the investigation, employers should inform the complainant about the general outcome of an investigation, for example whether the allegation has been upheld, in full or in part.

These obligations to complainants are especially important where the complainant has a vested interest in the result. Where a complaint relates to allegations of sexual harassment, bullying, or racial discrimination, an employer has heightened obligations towards a complainant. The employer must keep the complainant fully informed about the investigation process and must advise them about the outcome of the investigation and what action has been taken.

It is important to remember the obligations you owe to employees, especially during an investigation process as any breach may result in an employee raising a personal grievance. 

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