Structure of the Complaints Handling Procedure
The CHP consists of:
- Part 1: Introduction and overview –
- Part 2: When to use this procedure – guidance on identifying what is and what is not a complaint, handling complex or unusual complaint circumstances, the interaction of complaints and other processes, and what to do if the CHP does not apply
- Part 3: The complaints handling process – guidance on handling a complaint through stages 1 and 2, and dealing with post-closure contact
- Part 4: Governance – staff roles and responsibilities and guidance on recording, reporting, publicising and learning from complaints
- Part 5: Guide for students – information for students and members of the public on how we handle complaints
Guidance for staff
A Complaints Guidance for Staff note has been produced to assist staff when dealing with a complaint at stage 1 of the CHP.
Any member of staff may deal with complaints at this stage (including the staff member complained about, for example with an explanation or apology). The main principle is to respond to complaints at the earliest opportunity and as close to the point of service delivery as possible.
The Guidance for Staff document also includes examples of what can/cannot be dealt with under the CHP, a checklist for dealing with a complaint and template letters for issuing a decision about a complaint. If the CHP is not the correct route for a complaint please read the guidance document on CHP complaints and other types of complaints.
Staff should note that no complainant shall suffer a detriment through making a complaint and it will be a disciplinary offence if members of staff apply undue influence in the prevention of a complaint.
Reporting a stage 1 complaint
Once you have dealt with a complaint at stage 1, it is important to record this outcome so that the University can produce required statistics and, where necessary, learn from complaints. To record your complaint please use our online complaints reporting form.
Questions about a stage 1 complaint
If you have any questions about dealing with a stage 1 complaint, please do not hesitate to contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Time limit at stage 1
Stage 1 complaints must be completed within 5 working days. Please remember that day 1 is the date of receipt of the complaint (or next working day if it arrives over the weekend or after 4pm).
Supporting Staff Being Complained About
Two documents have been produced to assist and support staff when a complaint has been received regarding a member of staff.
- Guidance on How to Support Staff Being Complained About
- Short Guide to Assist Staff Being Complained About
Both documents will be useful to both the person handling the complaint and the member of staff whom the complaint (or part of the complaint) relates to.
Contacts in Schools and Directorates
The University has a number of people within each School and Directorate who can assist with a stage 1 complaint. If you believe you are not the correct person to deal a stage 1 complaint, please refer the complaint immediately to the appropriate Complaints Handlers.
We expect all staff to behave in a professional manner and treat complainants with courtesy, respect and dignity. We also ask those bringing a complaint to treat our staff with respect. We ask complainants to engage actively with the complaint handling process by:
- telling us their key issues of concern and organising any supporting information they want to give us (we understand that some people will require support to do this)
- working with us to agree the key points of complaint when an investigation is required; and
- responding to reasonable requests for information.
We have guidance in place for when these standards are not met which is our Unacceptable and Vexatious Behaviour Guidance.
We recognise that people may act out of character in times of trouble or distress. Sometimes a health condition or a disability can affect how a person expresses themselves. The circumstances leading to a complaint may also result in the complainant acting in an unacceptable way.
People who have a history of challenging or inappropriate actions, or have difficulty expressing themselves, may still have a legitimate grievance, and we will treat all complaints seriously. However, we also recognise that the actions of some complainants may result in unreasonable demands on time and resources or unacceptable behaviour towards our staff. We will, therefore, apply our policies and procedures to protect staff from unacceptable actions such as unreasonable persistence, threats or offensive behaviour from complainants. Where we decide to restrict access to a complainant under the terms of our guidance, we have a procedure in place to communicate that decision, notify the complainant of their right of appeal, and review any decision to restrict contact with us.
If we decide to restrict a complainant’s contact, we will be careful to follow the process set out in our guidance and to minimise any restrictions on the complainant’s access to the complaints process. We will normally continue investigating a complaint even where contact restrictions are in place (for example, limiting communication to letter or to a named staff member). In some cases, it may be possible to continue investigating the complaint without contact from the complainant. Our guidance allows us in limited circumstances to restrict access to the complaint process entirely. This would be as a last resort, should be as limited as possible (for a limited time, or about a limited set of subjects) and requires manager approval. Where access to the complaint process is restricted, we must signpost the complainant to the SPSO.