QLHF Complaints Policy

QLHF Complaints Policy

 

This policy has been developed to provide a safe and fair procedure for handling complaints about the QLHF Management Committee or about one to more QLHF Management Committee members.

Source documents:

What constitutes an official complaint?

If a complaint is to be official, it should be communicated in writing to the Secretary. (If the complaint is about the Secretary, then it should be lodged with the President).

If a QLHF Management Committee member other than the Secretary should receive a complaint written or otherwise, that Management Committee member:

  • should not entertain a complaint that is not directed to the Secretary or to the Management Committee formally
  • should advise the complainant to either make a formal complaint, or to withdraw their informal complaint
  • should not pursue their own enquiries outside of a formal process, as that would prejudice their own position and rule them out of participating in a formal process.

 

Upon receipt of an official complaint, the Secretary should draw the complaint to the attention of the Management Committee. The person who is the subject of the complaint should be advised at least of the nature of the complaint so that they are afforded natural justice.

What is ‘natural justice’? A useful summary can be found here:

 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_justice

The two main elements are:

  • The rule against bias and
  • The right to a fair hearing

Bias: It’s important to avoid bias and also any appearance of bias in the eyes of the membership. In addition, the Management Committee needs to continue to function while the complaint is resolved, and then keep functioning afterwards.  In the case of a complaint against a Management Committee member it is important that the Management Committee appoint either a person or a panel of people who are well-respected in the QLHF membership and who are independent from:

  • the Management Committee;
  • from the person making the complaint; and
  • the person the subject of the complaint.

The person the subject of the complaint also needs to recuse themselves from the Management Committee’s consideration of the complaint.

Right to a fair hearing: However, the person who is the subject of the complaint is entitled to have been given notice of the complaint, a fair opportunity to answer it, and the opportunity to present their own case to rebut the allegation.

Does the complaint relate to duties?

A preliminary matter to consider is whether the complaint relates to a Management Committee member’s performance of their official duties. The Management Committee can make these preliminary enquiries itself or use the mechanism of an independent person/s acting on their behalf. 

The Constitution sets out the functions of the Management Committee, and provides a mechanism for removing a member of the Management Committee and also for the membership to require the Secretary to call an EGM for that purpose.

Even if the complaint does not relate to official duties, the Management Committee should still generally exercise discretion in favour of following the process outlined in this policy.  Standards of behaviour for members are governed by the Code of Conduct and the By-laws. Management Committee members are not exempt from those.

Appointment of an Independent Panel on the occasion that a complaint is made:

  • Against the QLHF Management Committee as a whole
  • Against a member(s) of the QLHF Management Committee

In order to provide natural justice to both the Complainant and to the Management Committee member(s) involved in such a situation, an Independent Panel is to be appointed.

This Panel should be made up of senior and well-respected members of the QLHF membership who are not current members of the QLHF Management Committee.

Appointment of a secretariat to the Independent Panel

The Management Committee considers it appropriate to provide a formal link of communication between the Management Committee and the Independent Panel.

The QLHF Secretary, (or where the QLHF Secretary is the subject of the complaint, another member of the Management Committee) will be appointed as the Secretary of the Independent Panel to fulfil this role.

In the event that the complaint is made against all members of the Committee including the Secretary, the Committee may (in consultation with the Independent Panel) nominate another member of the QLHF as the Secretary of the Independent Panel.

 

Role of Secretary to the Independent Panel:

The Secretary will have no advisory or decision-making role in the process; the Secretary will have no vote in the deliberations of the Independent Panel.  The Secretary’s role will be purely administrative and supportive to the panel.

The Secretary will:

  • Approach suitable QLHF members to accept the role as Independent Panel;
  • If the chosen members are unable to participate, the Secretary will consult with the Management Committee on the selection of alternative members of the Panel;
  • Once the panel is confirmed, the Secretary will inform the complainant/s of the review process;
  • Obtain and collate copies of all documents relevant to the issues from the complainant/s and from Management Committee member/s;
  • Invite the complainant/s and Management Committee member/s to make statements or submissions; statements or submissions will be in writing unless the Independent Panel directs otherwise;
  • Provide those documents to the Independent Panel for its consideration;
  • Arrange for the Independent Panel to interview the complainant/s and / or member/s of the Management Committee if requested by the Independent Panel;
  • Assist and support the Independent Panel as requested; and
  • Liaise between the Independent Panel and the Management Committee as necessary.

Scope of enquiry of the Independent Panel

The Independent Panel is requested to conduct an investigation in to the matters identified in the complaint together with any relevant issues identified in the course of the investigation and provide a report and recommendations to the QLHF Management Committee.

  1. Report and Recommendations

The independent Panel is requested to provide a report to the QLHF Management Committee which outlines the review process and findings.

The report will address as a minimum:

  1. regarding the initial materials:
    1. have any of the complaints made been evidenced?
    2. have Management Committee members breached the QLHF’s Constitution, Code of Conduct or Code of Practice, either as:
      1. members of the Management Committee or
      2. members of the QLHF?
  • has any other member (individual or group) breached the QLHF’s Constitution, Code of Conduct or Code of Practice?
  1. regarding any further relevant complaints or issues identified in the course of the Panel’s investigation:
    1. have any of those complaints or issues been supported by evidence?
    2. has any person or group breached the QLHF’s Constitution, Code of Conduct or Code of Practice?

In establishing this policy, the Management Committee takes note of the fact that conducting such an enquiry can be an onerous and time-consuming task that can impact on the functioning of the QLHF.

In the event that the Independent Panel concludes that a complaint is frivolous or vexatious, the Independent Panel may recommend sanctions against the complainant.

In the report, the Independent Panel will provide recommendations to the Management Committee for any action/s to be taken following the investigation.

  1. Timing

The Independent Panel is requested to complete its report as soon as practicable, but otherwise within 5 weeks.  The Management Committee may extend the time for the completion of the report in consultation with the Panel through the Secretary.

  1. Report Distribution

The Independent Panel’s final report will be provided to the Secretary for distribution to:

  • the QLHF Management Committee;
  • the complainant/s; and
  • the office bearers of QLHF groups identified in the Report.

The Independent Panel may provide interim reports and preliminary recommendations, or seek clarification or guidance from the Management Committee in writing regarding the application of this policy through the Secretary. If the Management Committee provides that clarification or guidance, a copy will be provided to the complainants by the Secretary.

  1. Privacy and Confidentiality

The Independent Panel is asked to respect the potentially sensitive material of the complaints and the process of investigative review by maintaining appropriate levels of privacy and confidentiality through all forms of communication.

The Independent Panel’s report and its contents will remain confidential as between:

  • the members of the Independent Panel;
  • the Secretary;
  • the QLHF Management Committee;
  • the complainants/; and
  • the office bearers of QLHF groups identified in the Report,

except in circumstances where one or more of those parties initiates a formal action under the provisions of the QLHF Constitution, in which case the report may be attached to that formal action.