Staff complaints procedure

Intent and objectives

The intent of this procedure is to

  • provide staff members with a complaint resolution process that is flexible and aims to resolve complaints in the best interest of all parties involved in the areas of equal opportunity, sexual harassment, racial or religious discrimination, bullying and occupational violence and breach of University policies
  • encourage all staff members to raise issues that are of concern as soon as possible
  • provide structured, multiple levels of resolution that aim to resolve complaints as informally as possible whilst still enabling the ability to advance to more formal resolution processes that include investigation or for matters to be referred to external agencies where necessary.
  • ensure that complaints made by staff members will be dealt with ethically, in a sensitive, impartial, timely and confidential manner which ensures all parties involved in the complaint are accorded the principles of natural justice
  • ensure that no staff member is penalised or disadvantaged as a result of raising a complaint

Scope

University-wide

Exclusions

This procedure excludes matters for which specific procedures or appeals processes exists including all of the following issues:

  • redeployment
  • academic promotion
  • position classification
  • matters dealt with under the relevant disciplinary processes
  • dispute settling in relation to the implementation of RMIT’s Workplace Agreements

Procedure steps and actions

It is essential that all parties to the complaint act in good faith to obtain a resolution. Good faith includes acting sincerely without malice, maintaining confidentiality and being truthful.

All parties need to maintain confidentiality. They should not speak of the complaint with anyone not directly involved in the resolution process.

At all stages the complainant and the respondent may be supported through the processes by a support person.

Procedure

Responsibility

Timeline

1.Choosing to resolve the matter personally, without assistance and support

In the first instance and if appropriate, the matter should be resolved between the parties affected. The complainant may approach the respondent with the details of their concerns and the outcomes they request in the first instance.

If the two parties resolve the matter then no further action should be required.

If the matter is not satisfactorily resolved or if the behaviour, action, inaction or decision leading to the complaint continues then the complainant may proceed to step 2.

Staff member

As soon as practicable

2. Informal resolution at the local level

If the staff member feels they cannot resolve the matter on their own, they should discuss it with their manager. The manager and staff member should attempt to resolve the complaint at the local level.

If it is inappropriate for the complaint to be addressed by the direct manager, the staff member may refer the complaint to a manager at the level above.

If the staff member feels unable to discuss the complaint with their manager or their manager’s manager, they can contact Human Resources to discuss their concerns and obtain initial advice and options for resolution, including details of the informal and formal resolution processes. The purpose of the discussion is to obtain information and advice.

Managers will discuss the complaint resolution options available with the staff member and assist the staff member to assess which option is most appropriate considering the circumstances.

Managers should not impose their opinion and the decision regarding the complaint resolution process to be pursued must be left to the staff member raising the complaint. However, serious matters that indicate a clear breach of policies related to this procedure and that may pose a risk to the University must be pursued by the manager.

Managers can refer the staff member to Human Resources if they consider that their involvement will compromise the complaint resolution process or if there is a conflict of interest.

There are numerous ways in which a complaint can be addressed at the local level.

a) Informal discussions and inquiries into the complaint may identify facts and information that the staff member was not aware of prior to the complaint being raised. Once the staff member obtains relevant information they may feel that an informal negotiated outcome can be achieved. It may also be determined that the complaint arose through miscommunication and misunderstanding.

b) A staff member may also request the assistance of an impartial third party to facilitate or mediate discussions and assist with negotiations in a less formal manner without being required to submit a formal written complaint.

c) Positive negotiated outcomes come from effective collaborative discussions with both parties being truthful and committed to reaching resolution. Through open and positive communication parties are more likely to reach early resolution.

d) Managers can facilitate discussions provided they are impartial and/or not a party to the complaint.

e) A staff member may request that a manager with appropriate authority and delegation (as agreed to by the Executive Director Human Resources) determines the most appropriate outcome following informal discussions with their manager and/or other parties involved in the complaint.

Where an informal outcome is agreed, it should be documented by the manager and provided to the relevant parties via email or letter.

f) If discussion with the other party and support from the manager or Human Resources resolved the matter then no further action is required.

g) If the actions taken by the manager do not resolve the complaint, the staff member can refer the complaint directly to Human Resources in order to explore other options for resolution.

Note: At any time the Executive Director Human Resources can decide whether a complaint has sufficient weight and justification to go through the formal resolution process.

Staff member/
Manager

Within 20 days from when the complaint was first raised

3. Formal resolution processes

If the actions taken under the informal resolution process

a) do not resolve the complaint, or

b) they do not occur in a timely manner, or

c) the staff member is dissatisfied with the outcome or

d) the matter is of such a serious nature that it is not appropriate for the staff member to try and address it at the local level the staff member can refer a formal complaint directly to the Executive Director Human Resources.

Formal complaints are handled as follows:

Staff member/
Human Resources

As soon as practicable.
If the incident occurred more than twelve months prior to a complaint being made, the matter will be referred to the Executive Director, Human Resources to determine whether the complaint can be progressed while still affording natural justice to all parties.

Step 1: Conciliation

Conciliation: Is a process in which the staff members involved in the complaint, with the assistance of Human Resources or a conciliator identify the issues in dispute, develop options, consider alternatives and endeavor to reach an agreement. Human Resources or a conciliator will provide advice on the matters in dispute and options for resolution, but will not make a determination on the matter. A conciliator may have professional expertise in the subject matter in dispute. Human Resources or the conciliator are responsible for managing the conciliation process.

Within five working days

RMIT Conciliation Process

The Executive Director Human Resources, or nominee, will advise the respondent of the complaint in sufficient detail for the respondent to respond to the matter. The respondent will be advised that the complaint is confidential and that neither of the parties should engage in retribution or unfair treatment as a result of the complaint and subsequent conciliation process.

The Executive Director, Human Resources, or nominee, will consult with the complainant and the respondent to identify whether conciliation is appropriate in the circumstances and that they agree to conciliate the complaint.

Where the complaint is of a serious nature the University may elect to move straight to the investigation stage.

Where conciliation is agreed the Executive Director, Human Resources, or nominee, will identify a conciliator acceptable to both parties.

Executive Director Human Resources

Within 5 working days of contacting the respondent

The conciliator will discuss possible solutions with both the complainant and the respondent, may consult third parties (if appropriate) and will seek to achieve a resolution.

Where a resolution is agreed the complainant and respondent will sign a statement to indicate complete and final settlement of the complaint.

An agreed resolution may involve:

a) compulsory counselling or coaching to be attended by the respondent or complainant; and/or

b) an acknowledgment by the respondent that their behaviour caused offence even if it was unintentional and an undertaking to modify their behaviour; and/or

c) any other outcome agreed to by the parties to the complaint

The respondent should be advised that victimisation or some other form of reprisal by them that affects the complainant is unacceptable and may be a potential cause for separate disciplinary action and the subject of separate legal proceedings against the University.

Conciliator

Where a resolution to the complaint cannot be conciliated between the complainant and the respondent, either party may apply to the Executive Director, Human Resources, to have the matter proceed to the investigation stage.

Complainant and/or respondent

Within 5 working days

Step 2: Investigation

Investigation: will be used in cases where

a) a formal complaint is lodged; or

b) a satisfactory resolution cannot be reached through the conciliation process; or

c) where the complainant and/or respondent decide against participation in the conciliation process; or

d) where conciliation is not appropriate due to the circumstances of the case.

An investigation is conducted to determine findings of fact. These facts are used to recommend actions to be taken by the University to resolve the complaint.

The details of the complaint are confidential and are to be fully documented and dated. The staff members (both complainant and respondent) will be kept informed of actions undertaken through the investigation process.

RMIT Investigation Process

Should a formal complaint be submitted to Human Resources an investigation will be undertaken into those matters. Should the University otherwise becomes aware of circumstances that might be in breach of one of the relevant policies, an investigation may be undertaken into those matters. The aim of an investigation is to test the allegations and to make findings of the facts that will be submitted to the Executive Director, Human Resources for determination of whether a breach of policies relevant to this procedure has occurred.

The investigation will:

  • be conducted by an impartial investigator (internal or external to the University) appointed by the Executive Director Human Resources
  • apply the principles of natural justice
  • be undertaken in a timely manner
  • test the allegations made
  • result in a finding as to whether, on the balance of probabilities, actions taken by the respondent have breached relevant policies
  • result in a report being made to the Executive Director, Human Resources which outlines the investigation and the evidence, provides the findings of the investigation and may provide recommendations for resolution

The staff member submitting the complaint will:

  • provide details of the complaint in writing in a timely manner
  • act in good faith with commitment to seeking resolution
  • actively involve themselves in the investigation process

The Executive Director, Human Resources will:

  • review the findings of the investigation and determine an outcome
  • direct what action will be undertaken to resolve the complaint

The Executive Director, Human Resources may:

a) suspend or terminate the complaint investigation process if the person making a complaint is unable or unwilling to be directly involved in the investigation process; or

b) decide to investigate the allegations irrespective of whether the complainant chooses to be involved in the investigation if the complaint initially raised is of a serious nature.

Executive Director Human Resources

Within 5 working days of notification

4. Witnesses

Any person who considers that they have witnessed unreasonable or unacceptable workplace behaviour, even if they have not been subjected to that behaviour, should obtain confidential advice and support from their manager or from Human Resources.

Witness statements may be gathered through the investigation process. Witnesses must also maintain confidentiality regarding the complaint and matters raised through the investigation process.

Witness

5. Outcome

A decision will be made on the basis of the investigation report, to take appropriate action in order to bring closure to the complaint.

In cases where the complaint has been substantiated, appropriate disciplinary procedures may apply. In cases where serious misconduct has been substantiated a staff member may be dismissed in accordance with relevant disciplinary procedures.

In cases where the complaint is identified as being vexatious, malicious, mischievous or frivolous, action may be taken by the University including relevant disciplinary procedures against the complainant who made the false allegations.

Where disciplinary action is appropriate the relevant University discipline procedures for staff will be invoked.

It is the responsibility of the Executive Director, Human Resources, in collaboration with the appropriate manager, to ensure that the determined actions for resolution are implemented.

Executive Director Human Resources

6. RMIT Ombuds

If there is not a satisfactory resolution after exhausting the RMIT complaints procedure then staff may lodge a complaint with the RMIT Ombuds.

The role of the Ombuds is to investigate whether RMIT policies and procedures were followed and applied appropriately in the decision making process.

7. Referral to external agency

If a staff member is not satisfied with the RMIT Ombuds decision regarding any administrative decision of RMIT, they can complain further to the Victorian Government Ombudsman.

At any time during the complaint process the staff member has the right to take their complaint to the relevant external agency, for example the Victorian Equal Opportunity & Human Rights Commission, the Australian Human Rights Commission, Fair Work Australia or the Victorian Work Cover Authority. The referral to an external agency may immediately terminate any internal staff complaint resolution process. However, concurrent internal processes such as relevant disciplinary procedures and/or action may continue.

A person who is found, by an external agency, to have been responsible for unacceptable workplace behaviour may also be subject to the consequences of a breach of any of RMIT’s fairness policies.

Staff member

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