Manual of Policies and Procedures

B/10.1 Staff Complaints

Contact Officer

Associate Director, Human Resources (Workplace Relations)

Approval Date

29/08/2017

Approval Authority

Vice-Chancellor and President

Date of Next Review

01/09/2020

10.1.1 Purpose
10.1.2 Application
10.1.3 Roles and responsibilities
10.1.4 Resolution framework
10.1.5 Management of formal complaints
10.1.6 First Level - Formal resolution of the complaint
10.1.7 Second Level - Review and Final Determination
10.1.8 External Referral
10.1.9 Definitions
Related Documents
Modification History

10.1.1 Purpose

QUT is committed to managing and resolving staff complaints in an unbiased and fair manner. The University has established a complaint handling framework that encourages resolution of the matter at the most appropriate level and at the earliest opportunity.

The process is underpinned by the principles of natural justice and procedural fairness, and supports continuous improvement by identifying systemic issues arising from a complaint.

Complaints will be addressed under the resolution framework outlined in section B/10.1.4 of this policy.

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10.1.2 Application

This policy applies to complaint/s made by current ongoing, fixed-term and casual/sessional staff of the University. A complaint may include a type of problem, concern or grievance about work or the work-related environment and may include, for example, the conduct of another staff member (including interpersonal conflict), and the application of employment-related University policies and procedures.

As determined by the Executive Director, Human Resources, a staff complaint will not be accepted where it is made more than 6 months after the matter occurred, which gives rise to the complaint.

This policy does not apply if the subject matter of the complaint relates to the following:

  • University actions required by legislation (including workplace health and safety, industrial legislation and regulations), awards or agreements which require the University to handle a matter in a particular way
  • decisions of University Council
  • the content of approved University policy or procedures
  • matters which are being or will be handled in accordance with an alternative process set out in an enterprise agreement (for example, managing unsatisfactory performance, academic promotion, probation and redundancy processes)
  • matters which are being or will be handled under another University policy (for example research misconduct, discrimination, or a public interest disclosure), unless a determination is made by the Executive Director, Human Resources that this policy applies
  • disciplinary matters, i.e. misconduct and serious misconduct.

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10.1.3 Roles and responsibilities

Position
Responsibility

Executive Director, Human Resources

In accordance with the provisions of this policy:

  • determines the application of this policy to a complaint made by a current staff member (may be delegated)
  • receives Second Level formal complaints in writing
  • determines and responds in writing to Second Level formal complaints (may be delegated)

Supervisor

In accordance with the provisions of this policy:

  • receives First Level formal complaint in writing from a complainant
  • notifies the Executive Director, Human Resources that a First Level complaint has been initiated
  • responds in writing to the complainant within 20 working days (or as otherwise agreed by the parties)
  • notifies the Executive Director, Human Resources that the written response has been provided to the complainant
Complainant

In accordance with the provisions of this policy:

  • considers informal resolution of a complaint through discussion and, if necessary, mediation at the local organisational level
  • in the event that the First Level is initiated, notifies the relevant responsible officer in writing within the required timeframe (outlined in 10.1.2), that a complaint exists, the nature of the complaint, parties to the complaint, and the resolution sought
  • in the event that the Second Level is initiated, notifies the Executive Director, Human Resources in writing within 10 working days that a review of the outcome from the First Level is sought
  • notifies the Executive Director, Human Resources in writing as soon as possible where the complainant involves an external agency

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10.1.4 Resolution framework

The University's framework for resolving complaints focuses on seeking resolution at the earliest possible stage. Before commencing a formal complaint process, a staff member is encouraged to consider informal resolution through discussion and, if necessary, mediation.

Where the complaint has not been resolved through the recommended informal avenue at the local level, the staff member may initiate the formal University policy framework for the resolution of complaints under this policy. This formal framework involves:

  • First level – Formal resolution of the complaint (B/10.1.6)
  • Second level – Review and final determination (B/10.1.7).

The complainant or supervisor may seek assistance and advice from relevant officers within the Human Resources Department on an appropriate way to resolve the matter.

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10.1.5 Management of formal complaints

The following principles apply to formal complaints under this policy:

(a) The University recognises that staff members involved in these procedures may require support. Information on support available through the University’s Employee Assistance Program is available on the QUT Digital Workplace.

(b) A representative may assist or speak on behalf of each of the parties at any level of these procedures.

(c) Time limits are identified at each level to encourage timely resolution of issues. Processes must be completed within these time limits unless the parties agree otherwise.

(d) Confidentiality will be respected and maintained by all persons involved in the complaint at all times, except where it is necessary to afford natural justice or to ensure matters are adequately investigated. Where it is necessary to disclose confidential information, relevant parties will be advised.

(e) Where a complaint arises under this policy the University shall, where possible, suspend activities relating to the complaint during the operation of the related processes. The status quo of the complainant shall where possible remain unchanged in all other respects.

(f) Nothing in this policy prevents a staff member from referring matters of concern to a relevant external authority at any stage of the process (B/10.1.8).

(g) The complainant may withdraw the complaint with advice in writing to the Executive Director, Human Resources. This will not prevent the University from continuing to pursue matters relevant to the complaint where the University considers it necessary or appropriate having regard to all circumstances.

(h) The Executive Director, Human Resources (or delegate) may, following appropriate consultation with the Vice-President (Administration) and Registrar or Provost, make an assessment at any time that the complaint is, on the evidence available, vexatious, frivolous, misconceived or without substance, or that this policy has no application, in which case, therefore, the matter will not be progressed through this process. This will be communicated in writing to the complainant.

(i) Where it is determined by the Executive Director, Human Resources (or delegate) that this policy is not applicable to the subject of the complaint, the University has the right to determine under which of its University policies, if any, the complaint will be handled. The Executive Director, Human Resources will advise the complainant in writing accordingly.

(j) Whether the matters giving rise to the complaint constitute reasonable management action is a factor that will be assessed at all stages of the process in leading to a resolution.

(k) The parties involved in the complaint must participate in good faith. The University may take reasonable action if any party does not act in good faith. Such action may include:

  • a decision by the Executive Director, Human Resources that the complaint will not be further progressed where the complainant is not actively participating in the process; or
  • procedures for misconduct or serious misconduct (refer to the relevant Enterprise Agreement (QUT staff access only) for professional or academic staff, or B/8.5 for senior staff), where applicable.

(l) Records must be kept at all stages of the formal complaints process outlined in this policy, consistent with QUT’s records management policy (F/6.1).

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10.1.6 First Level - Formal resolution of the complaint

The focus at the First Level is on discussion and resolution undertaken in a formal way.

The complainant will advise the immediate supervisor, in writing, that a complaint exists, and the nature of the complaint, the resolution sought, and parties to the complaint. In the event that a complainant claims that the immediate supervisor is a party to the complaint, the complainant shall instead report the matter to an appropriate supervisor or person responsible for the area in which the complaint arose. The supervisor or person responsible is required to notify the Executive Director, Human Resources that a First Level complaint has been initiated.

In seeking to resolve the complaint, the supervisor or person responsible is required to:

  • discuss the situation with the complainant and other parties to the complaint (either together or separately); and
  • discuss with the parties options for resolution, which may include conciliation or mediation by an internal or external professional.

The supervisor or person responsible shall provide a written response to the complainant on the resolution of the complaint and the reasons for the determination, normally no later than 20 working days from the date the matter is formally raised or as otherwise agreed by the parties.  The Executive Director, Human Resources will be advised by the supervisor or responsible person that a response has been provided.

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10.1.7 Second Level - Review and Final Determination

Where the complainant or a party to the complaint do not believe the matter has been resolved satisfactorily they can seek a review by the Executive Director, Human Resources (or delegate).

The application for review must be made in writing to the Executive Director, Human Resources within ten (10) working days of the finalisation of the First Level and must include:

  • a copy of the outcome from the First Level (i.e. the written response)
  • full and concise details of the complaint, including the parties to the complaint, steps taken to resolve the complaint, and possible outcomes sought
  • new information that may have had a material effect on the result at the First Level, had it been known at the time; and/or
  • reasons why the outcome from the First Level does not comply with QUT policy, rules or procedure.

The Executive Director, Human Resources (or delegate) will, normally within 20 working days of receipt of the written request, review the complaint and response at the First Level and either:

  • make a final determination on the resolution of the complaint based on the evidence provided and/or enquiries made; or
  • appoint a suitable person to conduct an investigation, who may be internal or external to the University.

Investigation

  • The person conducting the investigation shall act expeditiously and shall have access to all persons and information they consider relevant to fully investigate the matter consistent with the principles of natural justice.
  • The outcome of the investigation shall be reported in the first instance to the Executive Director, Human Resources (or delegate) who will make a final determination on the resolution of the complaint.

Final Determination

  • The Final Determination of the Executive Director, Human Resources (or delegate), on the resolution of the complaint and the reasons for the determination will be provided in writing to the complainant and the parties to the complaint. This will include the report from any formal investigation initiated.
  • The Executive Director, Human Resources (or delegate) may provide advice to the Vice-Chancellor and President on any remedial action which should be taken to resolve the complaint, any systemic issues identified and recommendations for addressing these, and whether or not disciplinary action should be commenced against any person.

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10.1.8 External referral

Where a complainant is already involved with the University’s internal processes and chooses to involve an external agency (B/10.1.4(k)), they must notify the Executive Director, Human Resources as soon as possible (B/10.1.3). The Executive Director, Human Resources may determine that the application of this policy will cease, pending the outcome of any external process concerning the complaint.

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10.1.9 Definitions

A complainant is a current ongoing, fixed-term or casual/sessional staff member who initiates a complaints process, including through informal processes as set out in B/10.1.4.

A complaint is a type of problem, concern or grievance about work or the work-related environment affecting the complainant. The type of complaint may include:

  • the conduct of another staff member (including interpersonal conflict)
  • workplace bullying, which occurs when an individual or group of individuals repeatedly behave unreasonably towards a staff member or a group of staff at work, and the behaviour creates a risk to health and safety. Unreasonable behaviour means behaviour that a reasonable person, having considered the circumstances, would see as unreasonable, including behaviour that is victimising, humiliating, intimidating or threatening; or
  • the application of employment-related University policies and procedures.

A representative means:

  • in relation to a staff member, a person chosen by the staff member to assist or speak on their behalf. At the choice of the staff member, this person may be an officer of the staff member's union
  • in relation to the University, a person who assists or speaks on behalf of the University.

A representative will not be a person who is currently practising as a solicitor or barrister.

Reasonable management action is action taken in a reasonable way by a person in the conduct of business or undertaking to direct and control the way work is carried out. Actions are not considered to be workplace bullying if they are carried out lawfully and in a reasonable manner, taking the particular circumstances into account.

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Related Documents

MOPP B/8.1 QUT Staff Code of Conduct

MOPP A/8.5 Grievance resolution procedures for discrimination related grievances

MOPP B/8.5 Disciplinary Action for Misconduct and Serious Misconduct - Senior Staff

MOPP E/9.2 Grievance resolution procedures for student related grievances

MOPP F/6.1 Records management

QUT Enterprise Agreement (Professional Staff) (QUT staff access only)

QUT Enterprise Agreement (Academic Staff) (QUT staff access only)

QUT Digital Workplace - Anti-bullying and fair treatment (QUT staff access only)

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Modification History

Date

Sections

Source

Details

29.08.17

All

Vice-Chancellor

Policy renamed, revised and simplified (formerly Grievance resolution procedures for workplace related grievances and bullying)

27.07.07

All

Human Resources Director

Policy renumbered to B/10.1 (formerly B/13.1)

17.11.05

All

Vice-Chancellor

Revised policy to comply with Higher Education Workplace Relations Requirements (HEWRR)

14.06.02

All

Vice-Chancellor

Approved new procedures

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