Complaints Procedure (1415R1)

Status: Lapsed | Zone: The Constitution

Passed: 30/04/2015 | Lapsed: 30/04/2015

This policy was discussed at the following meetings:

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  • As part of the duties placed upon the University by Part II of the Education Act 1994, the University review, on an annual basis, the various requirements made by that Act. One of those requirements relates to the Union’s complaints procedure. Over a period of several years, the University have requested that we update the procedure.
  • Following a long piece of work, including a discussion at Union Council in February, we now propose the following replacement for Rule 8. This replacement represents a significantly improved process, with clear duties and responsibilities and timescales, and will make the complaints procedure more accountable and transparent at every step. This will be supplemented by an easy to understand handbook, a flowchart, and a function on the Union website for the making of complaints. 
  • Although the number of formal complaints we receive are very few (we believe the last complaint to be referred to the University was in 2001, about a disputed petition), it is nonetheless vitally important that we have a strong and robust procedure in place so that should issues arise, we can be confident – as can our members – that they will be dealt with in an appropriate manner.
  • This new approach will be beneficial to SUSU as it will enable us to:

    ensure we are compliant with the 1994 Education Act
     enhance the relationship with the University as we have acted on their recommendations
     build an improved reputation with our membership by showing we have responded to their feedback and recommendations
    build a solid foundation to enable the customer experience at SUSU to continue to be built on

    ·        enable improved reporting on issues & trends to be able to be resolved at a Senior Leader level
  • The Complaints Procedure is separate to the Member Disciplinary Procedure, which is for cases of misconduct by members (although recourse to the Disciplinary Procedure may, in some cases, be an outcome of a complaint), and is separate from the existing core and support staff disciplinary procedures and policies, which will remain unaffected by this Rule (though recourse to these may also, in some cases, be an outcome of a complaint). Complaints about elections will continue to be dealt with separately under the provisions of Rule 7.
  • This proposed Rule amendment will replace Rule 8 with the below text.
    Rule 8 – Complaints Procedure
    This rule outlines the Union’s informal and formal Complaints Procedure, and is designed to satisfy the requirements in section 22(m) and (n) of the Education Act 1994 relating to complaints by students. The procedures and decisions in this process shall at all times be bound by the approach of prompt resolution and good customer service principles. It is the intention of the Union to resolve all complaints appropriately and adequately to the satisfaction of its members, whether through the informal or formal procedure.
    1.      Scope
    1.1   The Union Complaints Procedure is intended to address any complaint made in relation to the Union’s activities, facilities and conduct of its members and other users of its facilities.
    1.2   The Union will consider the availability of the Member Disciplinary Procedure (Rule 9) and the University of Southampton’s own complaints and disciplinary procedures as alternative methods of dealing with a complaint made under this Procedure.
    1.3   A complaint that relates to the conduct of an election shall be dealt with under Rule 7 (Elections) and not under this Rule.
    1.4   A complaint that relates to the conduct of staff may be made under this Procedure, though it will be dealt with in accordance with the Union’s policies and procedures relating to allegations of misconduct by staff.
    2.      Informal Complaints
    2.1   In the first instance, if an individual wishes to complain, they should discuss their complaint with the relevant Student Leader or Sabbatical Officer.
    2.2   If for any reason, this is difficult or inappropriate, the individual should discuss their complaint with an alternative Student Leader, Sabbatical Officer or a member of Union staff that they feel comfortable talking to.
    2.3   The person who received the complaint will:
    2.3.1        take the appropriate steps to resolve the issue informally, in line with the Union’s organisational values and behaviours, or
    2.3.2        escalate the issue to an appropriate sabbatical officer or a more senior member of staff to resolve, where necessary;
    and record the complaint and outcome on the Union’s central complaints system.
    2.4   At this point, if an individual feels their complaint has not been appropriately or adequately addressed, they have the option to proceed to the formal complaints procedure.
    3.      Formal Complaints
    3.1   The Union requests all formal complaints be submitted in writing, either via letter, email or through online submission to the Union’s central complaints system.
    3.2   The Chief Executive shall nominate a member of staff to oversee the resolution of each formal complaint.
    3.3   Once a formal complaint has been received, the Union will:
    3.3.1        acknowledge receipt of the formal complaint in writing within two clear working days,
    3.3.2        inform the individual of the next steps and timeline of any further investigation, and
    3.3.3        complete any further investigation within ten clear working days.
    3.4   To ensure a consistent, fair and appropriate response to all formal complaints, the Union will:
    3.4.1        interview the person(s) involved and investigate the circumstances surrounding the complaint,
    3.4.2        establish whether the complaint has substance,
    3.4.3        report on the process, evidence obtained and findings,
    3.4.4        recommend a clear outcome,
    3.4.5        implement the outcome, and
    3.4.6        maintain records of all the above centrally.
    3.5   Where the formal complaint requires an individual to attend investigation meetings, they have the right to be accompanied by a friend or representative.
    3.6   A written response will be sent to an individual via their preferred method of communication (i.e. email or post).
    3.7   If an individual is not satisfied with the outcome of the formal complaints procedure, they have the option to appeal.
    3.8   The Union shall publish, on an annual basis, a report in a format to be decided by Democracy Zone Committee, to include:
    3.8.1 the number of informal and formal complaints, and appeals (broken down by category),
    3.8.2 the outcomes of such complaints and appeals (broken down by category), and
    3.8.3 such other information as the Committee may determine
    4.      Appeal
    4.1   To instigate an appeal of a formal complaints outcome, an individual should write to the Union President (or in the case of a complaint about the Union President, to the person nominated by them to be the Deputy President), outlining the reasons why they are not satisfied with the investigation or outcome.
    4.2   The Union President (or Deputy President) will confirm receipt of the appeal within five clear working days.
    4.3   At this stage, the Union President (or Deputy President) will approach an independent person, appointed by the University of Southampton, to investigate and report on the complaint.
    4.4   The independent person will investigate the issue by consulting with those individuals leading and involved in the informal and formal complaints procedures.
    4.5   The independent person shall make a report that includes:
    4.5.1        the information they have considered in their investigation of the complaint, and
    4.5.2        their recommendation as to the outcome of the complaint.
    4.6   The independent person will send that report to the individual making the complaint, and to the Union, within ten clear working days. The independent person may make such redactions as they consider necessary.
    4.7   The report will be made to Trustee Board, who will determine the outcome of the complaint, which shall be final and binding on the parties. This will be communicated to the parties as soon as is reasonably practicable.
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