This document should be interpreted in line with the standard policy context and definitions. The editor of this document is the CEO. It comes into effect from the 1st June 2016
2 Circumstances for raising a complaint or grievance; or for whistleblowing
A concern is a worry about a matter when reassurance is being sort. A complaint is a concern raised by a parent or member of the community, but with an additional seeking of redress in regard to the matter raised. A grievance is essentially a complaint which is raised by a member of staff about their working conditions, the conduct of other staff or about other matters which directly impinge on them as an individual within the organisation.
Whistleblowing consists of an employee making a ‘protected disclosure’ (also called a ‘qualifying disclosure’ or ‘Public Interest Disclosure’). Whistleblowing is protected in law and those making a disclosure cannot be victimised for making the disclosure. In order to count as whistleblowing the person making the disclosure must have a sincere belief that the organisation is, has, or will be acting inappropriately with respect to one or more of the following matters, and that it is in the public interest to raise it:
- a criminal offence
- a failure of legal obligation
- a miscarriage of justice
- someone’s health and safety is at risk
- there is a risk of damage to the environment
- ‘covering up’ matters relating to the above
A member of staff seeking redress about matters on behalf of other staff should report the matter to their line manager, or the manager of their line manager, unless it meets the criteria for a whistleblowing claim.
3 Raising a complaint or grievance
A complaint or grievance can be raised ‘informally’ (ie orally) or it may be raised formally (ie in writing). A complaint or grievance need not state that it is a ‘complaint’ or ‘grievance’ for it to count as such. However a matter will only be interpreted and taken forward as a ‘complaint’ or ‘grievance’ with the consent of the person raising it.
A complaint or grievance should be sent to ‘firstname.lastname@example.org where it will be directed to the appropriate person to deal with it. If it relates to the head of the organisation, then it should be sent to email@example.com
When raising a complaint, grievance or whistleblowing matter the following information should be included: your contact details (phone and email) a description of the problem, details of any other people who may have relevant information about the matter and a description of what outcome you are seeking.
4 Dealing with a complaint, grievance or whistleblowing
If a person seeking redress does not want the matter taken forward as a complaint, grievance or whistleblowing (or if the claim is withdrawn) then their wishes will be respected and no further communication will take place on the matter. However, if serious matters were raised, then the organisation will still investigate and do the best to ensure a just outcome.
Upon receiving a complaint, grievance or whistleblowing claim the organisation will acknowledge receipt within 5 working days. The matter will be reported to HR to be logged and given a case reference number so that it can be tracked to ensure resolution and to facilitate equality monitoring.
The organisation will endeavour to treat all matters with as much confidentiality as it can, but matters may need to be referred to others, in order to ensure a just outcome. Any criticism of other individuals, whether raised orally or in writing, must ensure a ‘right of reply’ in order to ensure fairness and that the fullest possible information about the matter is obtained.
There will be an initial meeting with the person raising the matter and (unless exceptional circumstances obtain) it will take place not more than 15 working days after the matter was communicated to the organisation.
Those raising a formal complaint have the right to be accompanied by a friend. Those raising a formal grievance or whistleblowing claim have the right to be accompanied by a work place colleague or union representative. If the accompanying person is not available for when the meeting is first scheduled, then the meeting can be re-arranged for up to 5 working days later.
The initial meeting should confirm the nature of the problem, the desired outcomes and take witness information from the person raising the matter. If the information presented in a whistleblowing meeting does not support the claim that it is a whistleblowing matter, then the matter will be converted into a complaint, grievance or other appropriate format. Unless the matter is an informal complaint or grievance, then the meeting will be followed up by a written communication confirming what was discussed and agreed.
After the initial meeting any further reviewing of evidence or meetings with witnesses should take place as quickly as possible. An overall judgement or outcome about the matter will normally be reached within 15 working days of the initial meeting and communicated in writing.
If the matter being considered is subject to a police investigation, it will still be progressed in parallel. However, if there is a risk of prejudicing a police investigation or court case, or key evidence is not available, then there may be an adjournment for a reasonable period.
An outcome could consist of an agreed need to improve circumstances, an apology, counselling, training, mediation or another appropriate resolution. If the matter has highlighted concerns with someone else’s conduct, then that will be taken forward under the disciplinary policy. Personnel outcomes are not reported back to individuals raising grievances, complaints or whistleblowing matters. The outcome communication will also include details of how to appeal the outcome or take matters further.
In order to reduce the risk of an outcome being based upon avoidable mistakes in evidence or procedures, the draft outcome letter should be shared with the person raising the grievance, complaint or whistleblowing matter, for fact checking. There should be a maximum of 5 working days for fact checking and if no responses are received in that time then it should be assumed that there are no issues or concerns with the draft letter. Any comments returned will be taken into account before the final version of the outcome communication is sent.
5 Appealing a complaint, grievance or whistleblowing outcome
The grounds for appealing a decision are that it was either wrong (eg due to a failure to follow the law or policy procedures, etc) or that it is unjust (eg due to a failure to consider relevant evidence, factual inaccuracies, overly harsh, etc).
Only the person submitting the original complaint, grievance or whistleblowing matter may appeal the decision. This must be done within 5 working days of receiving the decision. (A communication is deemed to be received within 24 hours of being sent by email). Unless exceptional circumstances obtain, an appeal meeting will take place within 15 working days of the appeal being submitted.
The circumstances outlined in 4.1 to 4.7 will also apply to an Appeal process. An appeal is a reconsideration of the aspect of the original matter which is cited as the grounds for appeal. It may involve reviewing evidence, considering new evidence or re-interviewing people, but an appeal should not normally be treated as a complete re-hearing of the original matters raised, unless the nature of the appeal makes it clear that this is necessary in order to reach a just outcome.
The outcome of an appeal will be an upholding, overturning or partially upholding of the original decision, as well as any additional matters necessary in order to ensure a fair outcome to the matter. This will be communicated as per paragraph 4.9
6 Grievances and whistleblowing by ex-employees and complaints by former parents
Normally, unless exceptional circumstances obtain, matters will only be considered up to 3 months after an employee has left post, or a parent’s child has left the school. The processes outlined in this policy should be followed, however phone calls or correspondence may be substituted for meetings, with the agreement of the person raising the grievance or complaint.
7 Collective Grievances
If several staff wish to submit the same grievance, then the Grievance can be heard as a single collective grievance. A collective grievance should follow the processes outlined above for a Formal Grievance and must include the names of all the staff who wish to be part of the collective grievance, as well as details of anyone representing the group.
8 Matters following an appeal
A grievance may progress from an informal stage to a formal stage (including an appeal). The appeal judgement is final and closes the matter. There will be no further communication on the matter, unless there are grounds to challenge the Appeal processes under the whistleblowing policy. In the case of a collective grievance, with the agreement of all parties, the matter can also be considered further, post-appeal, by a panel, using educational consultants or other professional organisations to provide expertise, as necessary and appropriate.
A complaint may progress from an informal stage to a formal stage (including an appeal). In addition, there is a statutory right to ask for the matter to be considered by a panel. If this option is requested then the panel will consist of at least 3 people, 1 of which is independent of the management and running of the school. The conduct of the process will follow the procedures for a formal complaint, as outlined in paragraphs 4.1 to 4.9.
A whistleblowing claim can be taken directly to a prescribed person, independently from following the process in this policy. Alternatively, having followed the processes outlined in this policy, the claim can still be taken to a prescribed person. Section 11 constitutes a list of prescribed persons. Contacting the media is rarely an appropriate immediate response to a whistleblowing matter, except in exceptional circumstances. Further independent advice on how to take forward whistleblowing matters can be obtained from Public Concern at Work (PCAW).
9 Persistent complaints, grievances or whistleblowing
If someone persistently submits grievances, complaints or whistleblowing claims about a matter which has been investigated and closed, then there will be a written communication to the individual stating that there will be no further consideration of the matter.
Where persistent raising of a matter concerning other individuals takes place, the circumstances may begin to involve defamation, bullying or harassment of those other individuals. This will be taken into account in how the matter is dealt with.
10 The person who will hear complaints, grievances and whistleblowing matters.
At the informal stage the matter will be dealt with by a line manager. At the formal stage the matter will be dealt with by a senior member of staff (not the Site leader). Appeals are heard by the Site Leader, who will not have been involved in matters earlier and so can review and reconsider matters in a fair way. Grievances, complaints or whistleblowing matters that involve the head of the organisation will be heard by the Trustees.
Operational circumstances, or the needs of justice, may require occasionally that someone else within, or from outside the organisation, deals with a specific matter. It is for the organisation to decide who hears and deals with each complaint, grievance or whistleblowing matter.
11 Taking matters further in the UK
This downloadable list
contains organisations which are able to respond to complaints or whistleblowing matters.
There will be no be ‘off-policy,’ ‘casual’ or other alternative approaches to the resolution of complaints and grievances, as this infringes the right of individuals to be treated in a consistent and fair way across the organisation as a whole.
This Policy has been Impact Assessed for Environment and Equality considerations. Policy review follows the Review cycle.