Union raises concerns over handling complaints

Joan Lemaire
Senior Vice President

The Department has agreed to review parts of the “Toolkit” associated with the implementation of the “School Community and Complaints Procedure” and the “Staff Complaints Procedure” in response to concerns raised by Federation at two meetings.

At meetings with the Department, Federation raised issues about some aspects of the information provided in various leaflets contained in the toolkit that could have a negative impact on teachers, executives and principals.

Matters raised by Federation included the need to address issues around the role of, and support available to complaint managers and staff undertaking internal reviews.

The clarification sought was in relation to suggestions in the toolkit about gathering information and keeping records and the potential impact on procedural fairness and the privacy of staff responding to complaints.

The Federation also pointed to workload implications for all staff involved in managing and responding to complaints and whether appropriate support and review mechanisms were available to staff responding to complaints.

While the Department has responded positively to many suggestions made regarding the toolkit it has confirmed that it would not amend the “Complaints Handling Policy”, the “School Community and Consumer Complaints Procedure” and the “Staff Complaints Procedure”.

Federation was consulted about the policy and procedures but the Department failed to adopt many of Federation’s proposals.

Federation has not endorsed the policy or procedures because of concerns regarding workload and timeframes, problems around procedural fairness and lack of appropriate support for staff complainants and respondents as well as complaint managers and staff conducting internal reviews.

Despite these concerns the policy and procedures are being implemented.

Federation Council has determined that if the implementation of the procedures breach members’ rights to procedural fairness and/or the procedures impinge on legal, industrial or health and safety rights, Federation will take appropriate action to protect these rights.

Federation will prepare advice for members on both procedures when the issues raised with the Department concerning the toolkit are clarified.

In the interim, Federation’s current advice concerning responding to complaints is relevant in that members responding to complaints (respondents) should be provided with the issues raised by the complainant in writing.

The respondent should seek clarification and further details if there is any lack of clarity or insufficient information.

The respondent must be provided with a reasonable time to respond in writing.

Any meeting relating to the complaint must allow the respondent to have a support person.

Federation notes that aspects of the toolkit and information regarding the role of the complaints manager (who could be a teacher, executive and/or principal) are unclear and may require the complaints manager to have a range of skills and understandings.

If members believe they do not have the appropriate skills, knowledge or training in relation to the particular issues relating to the complaint they should request training and/or relevant support. This training should be completed before undertaking the role.

Members should contact their Organiser if they are concerned about the implementation of the procedures.