Guide to Handling Workplace Harassment Investigations

In recent years, the Singapore Counselling Centre has seen a steady increase in workplace harassment cases. Yet, many business owners mistakenly feel that harassment occurrences are rare and isolated, or that the success of their company is unaffected by these cases. And some harassment may simply be regarded as an unpleasant cost of doing business. But the reality is that harassment in the workplace has a detrimental impact on all employees, including lower productivity, declining morale, increased attrition, and liabilities against the company if no corrective action is taken.

So, what is workplace harassment and how can companies effectively manage complaints and policies to minimize incidents from occurring and to mitigate the negative effect on its people and the business? HR needs to understand the different types of harassment to be able to assist victims in dealing with their experiences, accurately record and investigate a harassment complaint, and implement appropriate office training with clear code of conduct policies.

Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower defines workplace harassment as:

Where one party at the workplace demonstrates behaviour that causes or is likely to cause harassment, alarm, or distress to another party.

Harassment can include (but is not limited to) discrimination related to race, gender, age, religion, disability, and age. Other types of harassment can also be physical, psychological, sexual, cyberbullying, retaliatory, and verbal. With this knowledge comes the next vital step in going through the harassment investigation process.

Steps to Conducting an Investigation

Workplace harassment investigations must be kept confidential, acted on immediately, and handled delicately. Complaints can also become a potential minefield when establishing if false allegations were made in good faith versus false allegations made maliciously. Thus, meeting with the complainant and the alleged harasser requires caution, sensitivity, and attentiveness without passing judgement or picking sides.

Whether the employer believes the complaint is lacking substance or comes from a party who has previously filed several complaints, each complaint must be thoroughly evaluated in a fair, thorough, impartial, and timely way. Invest the necessary time, money, effort, and attention without making assumptions.

☐ Take prompt action after receiving the complaint

Employers are legally obligated to keep their employees safe at work. Take interim efforts to protect the complaint as well as the investigation’s secrecy. Provide counselling to the victim to aid in their recovery from the harassment. Make changes in the workplace to reduce interaction between the complainant and the alleged harasser until the investigate is completed. Be mindful of unlawfully changing any employment conditions without consent of either party.

☐ Select a competent and objective investigator

Choosing a skilled investigator is key to a successful harassment investigation. Internal investigators are inexpensive and provide you complete control over the investigation. An external investigator, on the other hand, are more likely to possess strong interviewing abilities, have specialized knowledge with regulations and practices and have genuine and apparent objectivity.

☐ Prepare and plan the investigation

An investigative strategy establishes the framework for a well-organized and timely investigation into workplace harassment. Set dates, decide who to interview and when to interview them, and make a list of papers to analyze. This guarantees that no crucial steps are missed and that all stakeholders and team members are on the same page. Workplace harassment has a high cost for individuals who are subjected to it, but it also impacts all employees.

☐ Evaluate each party’s credibility

After you’ve acquired evidence through document reviews and interviews, you’ll need to examine everything to see if a policy was broken. However, a smart investigator understands that not all evidence should be taken at face value. Assess credibility of each party and consider if their statements support or refute any evidence gathered. Determine if there are reasons why either party should lie and look into past allegations made by or against the interviewees.

☐ Document everything in a thorough investigation report

After establishing if a company policy has been breached, it’s time to properly inform the people who were affected. Because allegations frequently devolve into a he said/she said scenario, it is critical to keep track of every piece of evidence gathered including exact quotes from interviewers. If one party doesn’t like the conclusion, good documentation can shield you from reputational damage or legal claims.

Points to include in a report are:

  • a full and clear description of the allegation as described by the complainant
  • chronology of interviews and evidence gathering
  • full details of the parties interviewed and relevant personal information
  • associated documents and copies
  • comprehensive notes
  • investigation results and suggested actions

☐ Workplace review

HR can work to avoid harassment events by taking preventive action activities. Review and amend anti-harassment measures as needed and provide employees with refresher harassment and discrimination training. Finally, provide an anonymous hotline with a variety of reporting options. More employees may come forwards if there is an easy-to-use, private method for reporting workplace harassment. This allows the company to address internal concerns while also assuring employees that HR and senior managers are conncerned about their well-being.

Choosing a Valuable HR Tool

Employee complaints are one of the most useful types of feedback a business can receive. Complaints are the most common means of detecting fraud, as well as a predictor of dangers that need to be monitored. Employee harassment allegations, in particular, must be handled properly to avoid harm to both employees and the firm.

Using KRIS’s Document Management Software (DMS) for your workplace harassment investigations is an easy method to keep track of all your notes, evidence, and records. Our solution provides a secure platform with controlled access to highly sensitive records. Furthermore, company policies and feedback forms can be kept up to date for employees to always have the right information on hand.






Find out how a HR Document Management System can simplify your everyday HR processes.