If a complainant has a workplace investigation held against them what support can they call upon?

Continuing our series of short videos on the subject of workplace investigations. It’s a subject that’s often misunderstood and even mishandled by leaders, managers and HR personnel. Today’s question...

If a complainant has a workplace investigation held against them what support can they call upon?


​A complainant can be supported during a workplace investigation with a support person. In fact, anyone who is involved in a formal investigation, i.e. a complainant, respondent or even a witness, should be offered the right to have a support person present, throughout the process.

However, a support person is purely there to help show support. They are usually silent but can ask questions to help clarify the process. A support person cannot answer any questions, influence anyone on behalf of the person their supporting or dictate how the process might unfold moving forward.

The support person can have a private conversation or a conversation in front of the investigator with the person they’re supporting. The investigator needs to ensure they don’t give any weight or pay any attention to what the support person is saying during such conversations though, as the investigator is there only to talk to the complainant, respondent or witness, not the support person.

The role of the support person is often misunderstood as an advocate, which is not what their roles is. An advocate does all the talking and puts the information forward to the investigator. Essentially, the person using an advocate loses all their rights to speak and put their own case forward. The support person plays a vital role if the complainant feels they need some emotional support or a witness, but they are certainly not an advocate in this process.

We’ve compiled a resource of Frequently Asked Questions About Workplace Investigations for managers and human resource personnel. The resource includes a video and pdf transcript of Catherine Gillespie, Managing Director of Workplace Conflict Resolution, answering 29 commonly asked questions. To access your copy of the video and transcript click here.

About the Author

Catherine Gillespie brings a wealth of skill to her clients. With particular expertise in teaching communication and workplace conflict resolution skills, Catherine has made a marked difference to the organisations she has worked with. She empowers teams and managers to adopt constructive styles that support harmony, productivity and progress in the workplace.