BUSINESSES that do not follow fair process in investigating workplace disputes ranging from misconduct allegations to bullying face huge risks on many levels, including loss of reputation.
So says Emma Hale, managing director of Newcastle’s new independent, specialist investigation service, Fair Square Investigations.
She points to the recent case of dismissed Channel Seven cadet journalist Amy Taebeur as a warning to employers.
“There are big risks irrespective if [a case] is reportable to the Ombudsman; if you don’t conduct a proper investigation that is procedurally fair, any action you take as a result of that is deemed unlawful if someone decides to take legal action,” she says.
Lake Macquarie-raised Hale, 43, got the bug for data investigation when she worked on a collaboration between Hunter health authorities and NSW police that traced data linking crime to excess drinking at pubs.
She soon became a police intelligence analyst involved in key probes including that which led to the conviction of former Swansea MP Milton Orkopolous on child sex and drug supply charges.
Later working on investigations within the Catholic Church reporting to the NSW Obudsman, she saw the need for her services. “Many companies and social services hire internal investigators but a fresh set of external eyes is often more useful and appropriate,” she says.
Her mobile business offers specialist services in investigations, intelligence and support for companies facing abuse allegations relating to a child or person with a disability. She focuses on matters reportable to the NSW Ombudsman, in particular investigations that feed into the state’s working with children screening checks, and does general workplace investigations.
Reward for her comes in supporting businesses and their staff: “To know you have helped an organisation, so they feel confident if something goes to a tribunal that you have their back and applied the right processes, but also looking after employees, because some managers do not know how to run a fair investigation.”