When Should a Matter be Handed to Police for Investigation?
Police involvement in a workplace incident is an unwelcome prospect for any organisation. It is often difficult for employers to know what matters should be reported to the police, at what stage of the process to contact the police, and how to proceed once the police are involved.
What matters should be reported to the police?
Some workplace incidents are so serious that they should always be reported to the police, for example the death of a worker or a critical injury. Other examples of matters which should be reported to police include:
- A worker suspected of significant fraud or theft.
- Sexual assault.
- Threats to harm another person.
- Activity that affects the safety of a child, for example abuse.
This is important, because such a report may help the employer meet the requirements of the Small Business Fair Dismissal Code, which can be used to defend a claim for unfair dismissal if the employment of either or both employees is terminated. An employer may also wish to report less serious incidents such as small thefts, for example, even if any police investigation is likely to be slow.
At what stage should police be contacted?
In the case of serious workplace incidents, such as a death or large-scale fraud, police should be notified immediately. In less serious cases, when to involve the police is not as clear cut. Suspected criminal activity often arises out of an allegation of serious and wilful misconduct, and usually an investigation will need to be conducted. The employee suspected of misconduct may need to be suspended even before the investigation has properly commenced. Time is of the essence and reporting a matter to the police may not necessarily be the most important thing. Whether an initial investigation should be deferred to the police is also a difficult decision, particularly if there is much confusion about how the incident occurred.
Why it is important to defer to police in serious cases
How to proceed once the police are involved
Making the decision to involve police
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