Grievance

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Settle District u3a Grievance Procedure

In any organisation, problems and grievances will occur from time to time.  It is important that members know where to turn for help, advice and support, so that whatever the issue, it can be dealt with quickly, objectively and appropriately. This procedure sets out how Settle District u3a will approach problems and grievances, to ensure they are dealt with in this way. All parties are encouraged to take a problem-solving approach to achieve resolution. 

In dealing with grievances Settle District u3a will ensure the following:

  • All action taken will be documented.
  • Grievances (including the appeals procedure) will be dealt with quickly and fairly.
  • Settle District u3a will try to de-escalate the situation and try to settle the issue without having to resort to formal action.
  • Confidentiality will be maintained at all times. For serious issues Settle District u3a may contact the Third Age Trust for advice. This may include liaising with the Regional Trustee and/or Trust volunteers to deal with the issue. Sharing information with the Trust will not constitute a breach of confidentiality due to Settle District u3a’s affiliation to the Trust. Members involved in grievance procedures will be informed of the involvement of the Trust. 
  • All communication will be based on fact and evidence provided.

Confidentiality

All procedures and documents relating to a grievance will be kept confidential at all times. Information will be shared only with those who have a genuine need to receive it. This may include Third Age Trust staff, Trust volunteer/s and the Regional Trustee. All situations will be dealt with discreetly and by showing respect to the parties and views involved. 

Problems for a group leader within an interest group

Problems can arise within a group, for example:   

  • disruptive and/or unsocial behaviour;
  • poor attendance/timekeeping;
  • unsuitability;
  • failure to pay fees;
  • disagreement between members.

In most cases the group leader will resolve the situation informally and amicably by just having a quiet word with the member or members in question. If it requires more, or this approach fails and the problem persists, the group leader should refer the matter to the Groups’ Co-ordinator on the committee or, if that role does not exist, the Trustee on the committee designated to deal with complaints/grievances. 

Problems with the Group Leader

Where a group member or members feel unable to resolve a problem by discussing it with the group leader the matter should be referred to the Group’s Co-ordinator or the designated Trustee. 

Problems within the u3a as a whole

  • Member to member.
  • Member to the Committee.
  • Member to an individual trustee.
  • Committee member to Committee member
  • A member who brings the u3a into disrepute or acts in a way which is prejudicial to the u3a.
  • A member who causes damage to property and/or equipment, for example, through misuse or negligence 

The above will all be referred to the designated Trustee in the first instance unless that person is personally involved, in which case, it will be referred directly to the Chair. Responsibility for dealing with grievances (other than those raised by or against the Chair) rests with the Chair and the Committee.  Grievances raised against the Chair will be dealt with by the Committee.

Informal procedure

When a problem or grievance is referred to the Groups’ Coordinator or designated Trustee they will:

  • gain clarity as to what the nature of the problem or grievance is by asking all parties involved to provide – preferably in writing – details and supporting evidence such as specific examples of behaviour, with dates.
  • attempt informal resolution.
  • have an informal discussion with each party concerned to understand the problem and hear each party’s views. 
  • seek to summarise the situation with both parties, be clear about any required changes to ensure it does not happen again, and to clear the air.
  • If the Groups’ Coordinator or designated Trustee feels that there is a case to answer but that nevertheless it is a minor issue, make it clear to all present that there must be no repeat of the sort of actions/behaviour which led to the problem. In this case no further action is necessary. 
  • If, however, the Groups’ Coordinator or designated Trustee feels that the situation warrants a more formal approach or a particular course of action e.g. exclusion from an interest group, or if the person raising the grievance wishes to lodge a formal grievance the matter will be referred, in writing, to the Chair of the Committee stating that this is a formal grievance. This should include a summary of the grievance and any action that the parties involved consider necessary to resolve it. 

Committee procedure (formal)

The formal grievance procedure will only be activated after every effort has been made to resolve the issue informally. 

The designated Trustee will inform the Chair that there is a grievance that needs to be investigated. The Chair will appoint a subcommittee of 2/3 committee members (where possible) to hear the grievance. The designated Trustee will ask the aggrieved party to provide specific details of the grievance in writing with dates and times if relevant. The designated Trustee should advise the aggrieved party that a meeting to hear the grievance by a subcommittee will be convened. The timetable for the date of the meeting will be short, preferably within 7 to 14 days.

A letter will be sent to the person against whom the grievance has been made:

  • advising them of the grievance
  • asking for their response to the grievance in writing
  • advising them of the date of the grievance hearing 
  • advising that they can also attend the subcommittee meeting to state their response in addition to their written response
  • advising them they may choose to bring a companion who will also be bound by confidentiality, if they wish.

A letter will be sent to the person lodging the grievance:

  • advising them of clear and specific details of the grievance including dates and times if relevant
  • advising them of the date of the grievance hearing 
  • advising that they can also attend the subcommittee meeting to state their grievance in addition to their written response
  • advising them they may choose to bring a companion who will also be bound by confidentiality, if they wish.

If either person advises that there are witnesses to the grievance incident(s) who are willing to give representations, they should ask those witnesses to contact the subcommittee to agree to giving a statement relating to the specific grievance incident(s) that they have witnessed.

The subcommittee meeting

The meeting will be minuted. The minutes will be confidential and these minutes will not be published on the website or distributed to anyone outside of the subcommittee.

This subcommittee will then consider the matter, taking into account any mitigating circumstances, and agree what action to take. The sub-committee will record its decision and give reasons for the decision based on the factual information provided in the statements and the written and oral  reports provided.

Possible forms of action

  • Level 1- no case to answer. No further action necessary
  • Level 2- a verbal warning about future conduct by an elected officer with another officer present, details of which should be confirmed in writing. 
  • Level 3 – a written warning which clearly states what will happen if the situation is repeated.
  • Level 4 – a final written warning, which if breached will result in automatic escalation to level 4 or 5
  • Level 5a – exclusion from an interest group.
  • Level 5b – termination of u3a membership. 

Gross misconduct

If there is a case to answer, most problems will start at Level 1. However the committee has the right to move immediately to Levels 3,4 or 5, including asking the member to leave the interest group or to leave the u3a in the case of an extremely serious proven misdemeanour, for example:

  • Sexual/racial abuse, discrimination, harassment, bullying.
  • Dangerous or violent behaviour.
  • Falsification of expense claims.
  • Theft.
  • Malicious damage.
  • Conduct which brings the u3a into disrepute or is prejudicial to the u3a or the running of the u3a.

Grievance against the Chair

If the grievance is against the Chair of the Committee, then the Vice Chair will replace the Chair in the procedure. In this case and in the event of an appeal, the Vice Chair may choose to ask committee members from a neighbouring u3a or seek advice/request attendance from Third Age Trust staff or trustees. 

Decision

The decision will be communicated in writing to all parties involved advising them if the grievance has been upheld or not upheld. 

If the grievance has been upheld, they will be informed:

  • of the action that will be taken as a result;
  • that they have the right of appeal;
  • that the right of appeal can only relate to the original grievance;
  • that the appeal request must be lodged within 7 days with the designated Trustee.

Right of appeal

An appeal, providing it is lodged within the 7 day period, can take the form of written representation for the committee to consider or a request for a right of reply. In either case the Chair should be informed of the intention to appeal. The Chair will then convene a further sub-panel of committee members who did not hear the original grievance, to hear the appeal. This sub-panel should consider any written response and make their decision on whether to uphold the appeal. This should be independent of the initial hearing and committee members should not discuss this outside of the appeal sub-panel. If the person concerned requests a right of reply the sub-panel should arrange an appeal meeting with the aggrieved party, who, again, may be accompanied by a companion who may also speak in a personal capacity. The whole issue should be summarised and then the aggrieved party given the opportunity to speak, along with their companion, if they wish to. The sub-panel will review its decision, taking into account any mitigating circumstances, and then make a final decision, which will be communicated in writing within 7 days of the appeal meeting. 

The decision will be minuted and the minutes will be kept confidential. The Committee’s decision following any appeal is final and confidentiality will be maintained except in the case of gross misconduct issues where the appropriate authorities have been informed and legal advice has been  sought from the Third Age Trust.