LAWS90086 Conducting Workplace Investigations

Credit Points: 12.5
Level: 9 (Graduate/Postgraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject has the following teaching availabilities in 2017:

October, Parkville - Taught on campus.Show/hide details
Pre-teaching Period Start 13-Sep-2017
Teaching Period 11-Oct-2017 to 17-Oct-2017
Assessment Period End 11-Dec-2017
Last date to Self-Enrol 09-Dec-2016
Census Date 11-Oct-2017
Last date to Withdraw without fail 10-Nov-2017

This subject has a quota of 30 students. Please refer to the Melbourne Law Masters website for further information about the management of subject quotas and waitlists.

Timetable can be viewed here.
For information about these dates, click here.
Time Commitment: Contact Hours: 29-33 hours
Total Time Commitment:

136-150 hours

The pre-teaching period commences four weeks before the subject commencement date. From this time, students are expected to access and review the Reading Guide that will be available from the LMS subject page and the subject materials provided by the subject coordinator, which will be available from Melbourne Law School. Refer to the Reading Guide for confirmation of which resources need to be read and what other preparation is required before the teaching period commences.


Melbourne Law Masters Students: None

JD Students: None

Corequisites: None
Recommended Background Knowledge:

Applicants without legal qualifications should note that subjects are offered in the discipline of law at an advanced graduate level. While every effort will be made to meet the needs of students trained in other fields, concessions will not be made in the general level of instruction or assessment. Most subjects assume the knowledge usually acquired in a degree in law (LLB, JD or equivalent). Applicants should note that admission to some subjects in the Melbourne Law Masters will be dependent upon the individual applicant’s educational background and professional experience.

Non Allowed Subjects: None
Core Participation Requirements:

The Melbourne Law Masters welcomes applications from students with disabilities. The inherent academic requirements for study in the Melbourne Law Masters are:

  • The ability to attend a minimum of 75% of classes and actively engage in the analysis and critique of complex materials and debate;
  • The ability to read, analyse and comprehend complex written legal materials and complex interdisciplinary materials;
  • The ability to clearly and independently communicate in writing a knowledge and application of legal principles and interdisciplinary materials and to critically evaluate these;
  • The ability to clearly and independently communicate orally a knowledge and application of legal principles and interdisciplinary materials and critically evaluate these;
  • The ability to work independently and as a part of a group;
  • The ability to present orally and in writing legal analysis to a professional standard.

Students who feel their disability will inhibit them from meeting these inherent academic requirements are encouraged to contact Student Equity and Disability Support.



Ms Jane Seymour, Coordinator

Email: law-masters@unimelb.edu.au
Phone: +61 3 8344 6190
Website: law.unimelb.edu.au

Subject Overview:

Complaints of bullying, harassment, discrimination and other interpersonal grievances have become commonplace. Employers’ disciplinary decisions in relation to misconduct are also subject to increased scrutiny by courts and tribunals. A fair and thorough workplace investigation provides the foundation for taking, and if necessary defending, disciplinary and other action by an employer in response to any workplace issue. This subject explores the current legal framework applying to workplace investigations in Australia and proposes a structure for conducting investigations to minimise risk.

The lecturer in this subject has over two decades of experience conducting independent workplace investigations, coaching and advising clients on managing in-house investigations and appearing as an advocate in contested matters.

This subject analyses the current law in Australia governing the investigation of complaints and conduct concerns in the workplace. It also explores various structures for undertaking effective and fair workplace investigations in this rapidly developing area of practice.

Principal topics include:

  • Analysing the legal framework (federal and state) impacting upon workplace investigations in Australia
  • Understanding what a workplace investigation is, and distinguishing investigations from other workplace processes
  • The basic structure of an investigation
  • Identifying the relevant scope of an investigation
  • Establishing the appropriate foundation for conducting an investigation, including considerations in the selection of the investigator and work arrangements during the investigation
  • Addressing other threshold issues prior to commencing an investigation, including appropriate roles of stakeholders
  • Gathering information relevant to the scope of the investigation from people and from documents/things
  • An examination of relevant principles of procedural fairness/natural justice – the bias rule and the hearing rule
  • Making findings – evaluating the information gathered; applying the relevant legal tests, burden of proof and standard of proof and assessing credibility
  • Applying the findings of an investigation in a disciplinary context, the role of the decision maker and implementing and communicating outcomes
  • Learnings from overseas jurisdictions and potential for future developments in the field.
Learning Outcomes:

A student who has successfully completed this subject will:

  • Be able to demonstrate judgment and technical skills as a practitioner in the field of workplace investigations, in the capacity of:
    • external or internal investigator
    • advisor to employers or participants (complainant, respondent, witness)
    • decision maker on investigation findings and outcomes
  • Have an advanced understanding of the legal principles applying to workplace investigations in Australia, focusing on recent developments in this field of law
  • Be able to critically assess how those legal principles inform and guide the conduct of workplace investigations in practice
  • Be able to determine the circumstances in which a workplace investigation is appropriate, compared with other processes
  • Have the demonstrated capacity to:
  • prepare the scope or terms of reference of an investigation and an investigation plan
  • identify the issues in managing participants, conducting interviews and gathering other information
  • Have an advanced understanding of how the principles of natural justice impact the conduct of workplace investigations at each stage
  • Have the cognitive and technical skills to assess the information gathered as part of an investigation and make sound and defensible findings
  • Have the communication skills to clearly articulate and convey the allegations and findings in an investigation to participants and other stakeholders
  • Be an engaged participant in debate regarding the relative merits of different structures and strategies for conducting a workplace investigation.
  • Class participation (10%)
  • Individual in class exercise – presentation on allocated case, due on day allocated during teaching period (10 minutes) (10%)
  • Take-home examination (5,000 - 6,000 words) (80%) (8 - 11 December 2017)

A minimum of 75% attendance is a hurdle requirement.

Prescribed Texts:

Specialist printed materials will be made available free of charge from the Melbourne Law School prior to the pre-teaching period.

Breadth Options:

This subject is not available as a breadth subject.

Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
Links to further information: law.unimelb.edu.au
Related Course(s): Graduate Diploma in Employment and Labour Relations Law
Graduate Diploma in Legal Studies
Juris Doctor
Master of Commercial Law
Master of Employment and Labour Relations Law
Master of Laws

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