1.1 This policy is designed to assist Council to record, respond to and manage complaints so that
2.1 This policy applies to all complaints received by Council from members of the public and includes complaints relating to Councillors, employees of Council, contractors to Council and volunteers with Council services. The policy conforms with the Model Code of Conduct adopted by Council on 1 February 2005.
2.2 Notwithstanding 2.1 above, this policy does not generally apply to complaints made by one employee of Council about another. The Award, the Protected Disclosures Act, Council's Grievance Procedures or relevant anti-discrimination legislation generally cover these complaints.
2.3 Because of specific legislative requirements and requirements of some funding bodies, some sections within Council have additional responsibilities in terms of reporting complaints. The managers of these sections are responsible for ensuring their employees are aware of, and comply with, such requirements.
2.4 This policy is not intended to conflict in any way with Award provisions including grievance and dispute procedures and disciplinary procedures.
3.1 The objectives of this policy are to:
4.1 Council will manage complaints within the requirements of:
4.2 Council will take all reasonable steps to protect the identity of complainants. However, Council recognises that in some cases it will be necessary to disclose the identity of the complainant in order to fully investigate the complaint. In that regard Council recognises the right of the Union to request access to information for investigative purposes.
This document is directly related to the following legislation and Council policies:
For the purpose of this policy, the following definitions apply:
Action Officer is the person to whom a complaint is assigned in the first instance.
Employee means employee of Council, contractor or agent to Council and volunteer with Council services.
CARS is the Customer Action Request System. CARS is a module of the Authority program widely used throughout Council.
A Conduct Review Committee is formed to investigate complaints against a Councillor and/or general manager.
A Complaint is an expression of dissatisfaction with the Council's policies processes, procedures, charges, Councillors or employees.
A serious complaint is one which:
Corrupt activity could involve, but is not limited to:
Protected disclosures are disclosures made in accordance with the specific requirements of the Protected Disclosures Act.
The Protected Disclosures Act (NSW) 1994 provides certain protection for public officials, including Councillors and Council employees, who make protected disclosures. For more information on the Act and the procedures for reporting disclosures, refer to Council's Reporting Policy for Disclosures made under the Protected Disclosures Act 1994 or Council's Public Officer.
The Public Officer is a senior Council manager appointed under the provisions of the Local Government Act 1993. The Public Officer is the officer responsible for the managing and monitoring of complaints against Council staff in accordance with the Model Code of Conduct. The name and contact details of the Public Officer can be obtained from Council's switchboard.
Responsible Officer is the supervisor or manager of the person to whom a complaint is assigned in the first instance.
Complaints may be lodged with Council in the following ways:
7.1 Where complaints are verbal, the receiving officer will record details of the complaint, including the name of the complainant, in an appropriate manner to enable Council to effectively act on the complaint.
Complaints received by email will be printed and treated as written complaints.
7.3 In accordance with relevant legislation, and as appropriate, the General Manager will:
7.4 Where a complaint is received anonymously the complaint will be dealt with in accordance with the procedures outlined in this policy except where there is a statutory requirement for identification of the complainant.
7.5 Complaints are categorised into general complaints and serious complaints.
Where a complainant is requesting a service and there is no prior indication of a failure to provide that service to the complainant the request will be recorded as a "customer action request" rather than a formal complaint. However, if Council's records indicate the complainant has made contact with Council previously regarding a failure to provide that service, the second contact will be recorded as a general complaint.
All customer action requests and general complaints whether verbal or in writing will be recorded in Council's electronic customer action request system.
The receiving officer shall record the information into the electronic customer action request system. The complaint shall then be forwarded to the appropriate action officer as defined under the customer action request system.
The complaint shall be received by or forwarded to Council's Records Section for recording in the Customer Action Request System and for written acknowledgment of receipt of the complaint. It will then be forwarded to the appropriate action officer.
The method of investigating a general complaint by the action officer will be dependent upon the nature and severity of the complaint. Communication is an essential part of the process and as a result the person making the complaint should be informed of the outcome of the investigation or progress of the matter if it will take some time to resolve. Where the outcome may involve disciplinary action the only details that should be given to the complainant is advice that Council will initiate appropriate action following investigation.
The action officer must investigate all the facts surrounding the matter as soon as practicable.
Depending upon the nature of the complaint, the investigation may involve taking detailed notes of an employee's account and/or interviewing all persons involved that have knowledge of the situation.
If the complaint relates to an employee, the employee's manager must ensure the wellbeing of the employee against whom the complaint is alleged. Where appropriate, the employee should be offered advice and counselling, including access to Council's Employee Assistance Program. Managers may seek the advice of the Human Resources Manager in such cases.
Where a formal investigation is carried out, all persons involved are to be made aware of the allegations, advised of their right to representation and given the opportunity to respond fully to allegations made against them. Council must make every reasonable effort to ensure that the privacy of the complainant is maintained where the complainant wishes to remain anonymous. This may include providing an employee with a photocopy of the letter of complaint having removed details that may identify the complainant.
Where complaints relate to employees, resolution of complaints must be in accordance with this Policy, relevant legislation and Award requirements.
Where a complaint about an employee was found to warrant investigation, the resolution process must also include written notification of the outcome, to the employee and his/her representatives, if applicable.
A response should be provided to the complainant within a timely manner. All responses will be provided in such a way that they are considered to be polite and professional in accordance with Council's communication and customer service standards.
If a resolution to a complaint is delayed for whatever reason, the complainant must be kept informed every fourteen days of the ongoing situation.
Employees are responsible for checking with their managers/supervisors to ensure their responses to complaints are accurate, timely and appropriate.
Where an employee believes that he/she is unable to resolve a complaint within a reasonable timeframe, they must discuss the concerns with the supervisor or manager.
When a complaint has not been resolved to the satisfaction of the complainant, the complainant should be advised of their rights to escalate the complaint or lodge their complaint with an appropriate external body. To escalate the matter the complainant may wish to speak to the Public Officer or the General Manager and it may be appropriate for the complainant to be given contact details of the relevant external body such as the Department of Local Government and NSW Ombudsman.
Where a complaint relates to an employee and that employee is not satisfied with the outcome of the complaints management process, the employee has the right of appeal in accordance with Award Grievance and Dispute Procedures.
7.6 Serious Complaints
Where a complaint is defined as serious under clause 6.1 of this policy, the matter must be immediately referred to the Public Officer.
The only exception to this is where the complaint is about the Public Officer in which case it must be immediately referred to the General Manager.
If the complaint is about the General Manager, the Public Officer will refer it to the Mayor, and the Conduct Review Committee will investigate and report to Council.
If the complaint is verbal, it should be recorded in an appropriate manner, including the name of the complainant, to enable Council to effectively act on the complaint.
8.1 This policy was formally adopted by Council on 14th December 2004 and will be implemented on 14th December 2004.
8.2 The Public Officer will initially review this policy 12 months after Council adoption and every two years thereafter.
8.3 Council reserves the right to review or vary this policy in consultation with the Union representatives of employees affected by this policy. Once the consultative process has been finalised, the policy will be referred to the Consultative Committee for endorsement.
Complaints handling process - non-serious complaints
Last updated: Tuesday 5 February, 2013