During the process of conducting workplace investigations, it is generally necessary to prepare letters of notification, and later, letters of allegation.
We take a look at the difference between the two, and provide some tips on how to prepare these important documents.
notifying the parties involved
The letter of notification serves as confirmation that an investigation is going to be launched. These formal documents are sent to the respondent, the complainant and any witnesses involved in the investigation.
It communicates how the process of the investigation will occur, who will be conducting it, as well as detailing the involvement required from the individuals.
For the complainant, this will generally mean the formalisation of their complaint and participation in an interview. A respondent will also need to undergo a formal interview and be advised of their rights, such as having a support person attend.
A letter of notification should ideally be prepared and sent as soon as an investigation plan has been finalised.
the elements of a letter of notification
When writing a letter of notification, it is important that it contains specific details including:
- What exactly is being investigated.
- Who is conducting the investigation. It is important to identify which members of the organisation will be involved.
- A formal request for interview.
- The offer of a support person to all parties who will be interviewed.
- A reminder for all parties involved to maintain confidentiality around the process, and the potential consequences of a failure to do so.
Writing letters of allegation
Although similar to a letter of notification, a letter of allegation contains more detailed information. Instead of being addressed to all the parties involved, only the respondent will receive a letter of allegation.
The letter should clearly set out:
- Details and particulars of the allegations. This information should be as specific as possible, to give the respondent a genuine opportunity to respond to the allegations.
- A request for supporting documents. The respondent should be advised of the opportunity to provide any information or evidence supporting their position.
- A formal request for interview. Although this has already been identified in the letter of notification, the letter of allegation reiterates the requirement for participation in the interview process. The letter should also reiterate the right of the respondent to have a support person involved in the process.
- The letter is required to stipulate if there is a finding of misconduct, what disciplinary actions may be considered and imposed.
- A further reminder of the need to maintain confidentiality.
A letter of allegation should be sent after the complainant has been formally interviewed. This means that detailed allegations can be put to the respondent.
Do’s and do not’s when preparing letters of allegations
When preparing a letter of allegations, it is important that procedural fairness is maintained. The respondent should have only clear allegations put to them, supported with evidence where available of the conduct or behaviour alleged.
The letter of allegation should avoid making any conclusions about the investigation.
Importantly, it should also demonstrate that the investigators and decisions-makers involved are objective.
Communication with the parties to a workplace investigation is critical in ensuring a fair and considered approach is taken. Failing to comply with the steps of procedural fairness can impact on the soundness of investigation outcomes, findings and recommendations and leave employers open to decisions being overturned.
WISE Workplace provides training in investigating workplace misconduct. This training is aimed at providing practical skills that enable you to draft procedurally fair and legally compliant letters of notification and allegations.