How Long Does HR Have To Investigate A Complaint? - All You Need to Know

Complaints that are made to HR can be in relation to a huge array of things. In some cases, the complaints are minor and will not require much follow up. However, in certain cases, complaints made to HR may require interviews, data collection and a full investigation involving a legal team. 

The length of time this takes to complete will completely depend on the HR department, the company and the nature of the complaint. 

On average, it will take between 3 days and a week for HR to investigate a complaint, however, this could be longer or shorter depending on these factors. 

This article will explore how long HR has to investigate a complaint as well as what the process of investigating a complaint looks like. Read on to find out!

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How Long Does HR Have To Investigate A Complaint?

When a complaint is received it is very important that HR begin investigating this complaint immediately. This is important as it needs to be solved as quickly as possible to prevent any further problems.

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How Long Does It Take HR To Investigate A Complaint?

Usually, a HR department will take between three days and a week to investigate a complaint.

This is not set in stone, though. Many things may impact the length of time it takes HR to investigate these complaints. These include: 

  • The company and the specific HR department 

  • What the complaint is in relation to

  • Number of witnesses that need to be spoken to

If the complaint does not involve many other people, then the complaint may be investigated in one day. 

When a complaint is reported to someone in HR, the steps that come next will vary between companies. There are a number of steps that will then be taken in order to solve the issue. 

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How Is A HR Investigation Carried Out?

If someone has made a complaint about you or vice versa it is always nice to know what you should expect to happen next. 

HR investigations are often very sensitive, and so it is very important that you carry this investigation out properly. Let’s look at the steps that will be taken by HR during this complaint: 

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  1. Any Immediate Action Necessary Will Be Taken 

The first stage in any investigation is to take any action that is needed immediately. It is against advice to discipline an employee before you have carried out an investigation, as this can backfire. However, if HR feels that they need to protect the person who made the complaint, or carry out any other actions, then they should do so immediately.

In some cases it may be necessary for HR to send someone home for the day or adjust schedules to ensure that employees are kept separated while the investigation goes ahead. 

At this stage, it is important that HR don’t take any actions that could seem like a final decision.


  1. The Investigation Will Be Planned Out

HR will then need to decide how they are going to carry out their investigation. HR will gather information surrounding the complaint at this stage. This may be any witness statements, emails or other information. 

HR will consider who they will need to talk to in order to investigate their complaint and what they will need to ask. 


  1. Information Will Be Collected

The next stage of this process is for HR to gather any of the necessary information for them to investigate the complaint in detail. They will need to gather their interviews or any other evidence.

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  1. The Decision Will Be Made

Next, HR will make a decision on the complaint. They will decide, based on the evidence acquired, what the result of the complaint will be. 

This is where it can get complicated. If the complaint is of a certain nature, then HR will need to be very careful that there are no legal risks that could come into play. 

If possible, this is where HR will consult their legal team to ensure that everything is in order before they go ahead with their decision. 


  1. Write Up The Decision

The next stage in the process is to create a report. If HR have made a decision that requires an action then this will have to be written up. 

This will happen if there is going to be:

This will then go to the legal team or another team of people who will review the decision. Sometimes, this will be someone who is not aware of what is going on in the investigation as it has to be someone who is impartial.

This is where you will be notified of the decision made. Sometimes, this will take a lot longer than other times.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


Does HR Have To Investigate A Complaint?

Organizations are legally obligated to investigate most of the complaints that they receive. They are legally obliged to investigate any complaints that relate to discrimination, harassment, retaliation and safety. In most organizations, they will choose to investigate all complaints that are made and not just complaints of this nature. 

Most organizations will choose to discuss every complaint that they receive with the legal team to make sure that they are taking all of the steps necessary for everyone involved. 


How Do You File A Complaint With HR?

This will vary depending on your company. If you are looking to file a complaint you should discuss this with your HR department and they will point you in the right direction.

A woman talking to a group

Final Thoughts

The length of time that HR takes to investigate complaints will depend on a few factors. These include the nature of the complaint, the company and the HR department. In most cases, complaints will be investigated within 3 days to a week. In some cases, it will take longer for HR to conclude their investigation. 

Investigations should begin as soon as the complaint is received to ensure that no further problems arise and that the problem is solved as soon as possible.

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