Sample internal complaints policy

Note: This sample policy has been provided by Imagine Canada.

Purpose

Imagine Canada recognises that conflict situations may arise within or among individual stakeholders. All such conflicts brought to the attention of Imagine Canada management will be investigated with due regard to maintaining the privacy of information and the dignity of all individuals involved, and every attempt made to resolve the conflict without resorting to disciplinary action.

Notwithstanding this hope, conflicts that relate to allegations of Discrimination, Harassment or acts of Violence may result in discipline, up to the point of termination for cause, of one or more parties.

The purpose of this policy is to provide a process to resolve internal complaints with respect to any policy or actions at Imagine Canada. This policy also provides a process for supervisors reviewing the actions of employees.

Policy

Imagine Canada is committed to the values of Care, Courage and Teamwork, and the following principles guide its Internal Complaints Policy.

Responsive: Imagine Canada will respond to a complaint in a timely manner to ensure issues are resolved. This is particularly important for a complaint which may affect employee safety and well-being. In the event there is an immediate safety threat, Imagine Canada will take steps to remove employees from harm, which may include requiring employees to leave the workplace.

Fair: Both the complainant and the responder have the opportunity to present their version of the story. The investigator will be impartial.

Confidential: Complaints are confidential and only shared with employees who need to be aware or are required to participate in an investigation. Employees are expected to keep details of an investigation confidential and not provide details to others during or after an investigation is active.

No reprisal: There is no reprisal to a complainant making a complaint.

Complaint Process

  1. Step 1: Any employee who wishes to submit a complaint on the action of another employee, a communication from Imagine Canada, a safety hazard, or any other issue at work, whether covered in the HR Employee Handbook or not, should speak with their supervisor if they feel comfortable doing so. In lieu of their supervisor, employees can speak with the VP, Finance and Operations or the CEO. If any of these offices are not available, or are the cause for the complaint, the employee can contact our external reporting service provider. This party will be designated as the Investigator (defined below).

    If the complaint is related to workplace health safety, the employee should include the Chair of the Joint Health & Safety Committee (JHSC) or its members.

    Depending on the severity of the complaint, the employee should use the most expedient method to inform management. Email, phone, text or direct contact can all be used.

    If the employee is unsure whether the issue should be escalated to the complaint stage, the employee is encouraged to contact their supervisor or the VP, Finance and Operations to informally discuss the matter and next steps.

  2. Step 2: The Investigator reviews the complaint and determines immediate next steps. If there is an imminent safety issue, the Investigator works with the JHSC, building management, security, or police as needed. This may include closing parts of the office, removing people from the workplace, or other actions.

    The Investigator follows these steps:

    1. For all physical workplace safety issues, the JHSC takes the lead in the investigation and follow up.
    2. For issues not related to workplace health and safety, including discrimination, harassment, and violence, the VP, Finance and Operations records the employee’s complaint and identify the person to whom the complaint is directed (the Respondent).
    3. The Investigator meets with the Complainant to:
      1. Get a clear account as to what happened,
      2. Identify the harm caused, and
      3. Determine what outcomes are being sought.
    4. The Investigator determines if further information is required after the initial complaint is discussed. If the Investigator determines a resolution can be found through mediation between the Complainant and the Respondent, they facilitate this meeting.
    5. If the Investigator decides further investigation is required given the seriousness of the complaint, or mediation is not successful, they inform the Complainant and the Respondent that an investigation has been launched. At this point, the Complainant and the Respondent are asked to keep the process confidential. The Investigator informs the CEO of any pending investigation.

    All parties involved in a complaint; the Complainant, the Responder, Witnesses, and the Investigator, follow these guidelines:

    • Confidentiality and privacy concerns will be respected.
    • The Respondent is prohibited from further contact with the Complainant except as specifically agreed at the time.
    • Attempted interference with the process (described below) will be cause for disciplinary action up to and including termination of employment.
    • The content of all conversations and interviews are confidential.
    • During any discussions, employees will be reminded of their commitment to the Imagine Canada Code of Conduct and HR Policies.
    • An interim change to certain office procedures may be instituted at this stage if the Investigator deems this will mitigate the situation or if the Complainant reasonably requests such.
  3. Step 3: The Investigator launches the investigation.

    The investigator reviews the complaint to determine if other witnesses need to be interviewed, or material gathered.

    The Investigator meets individually with each party involved with the following objectives:

    • The Investigator interviews all people involved to determine facts or order of events. The interviews usually include the Respondent as a last interview. The Respondent may be asked to respond to credible incidents relating to the complaint.
    • The Investigator creates a summary of the findings and recommendation on next steps, including discipline, changes to policy, or termination.
  4. Step 4: The CEO, the Investigator and, if required, Legal Counsel, review the final summary and determine next steps.
    1. If it appears the alleged infraction may be criminal (e.g., sexual assault, threats, acts of violence), the police will be contacted. If police are brought in, Imagine Canada will subordinate its investigation to the police investigation.
    2. If it is determined the alleged infraction constitutes grounds for dismissal or disciplinary, Imagine Canada will work with Legal Counsel to provide the appropriate disciplinary action, up to and including termination.
    3. A possible outcome is determination of no fault on either side. In which case, the Complainant and the Responder will be informed.
  5. Step 5: If it is determined a further mediation between the Complainant and the Respondent would resolve the issue, the Investigator facilitates this meeting.
    • All conversations at this point will be formally documented and will be required to be signed off by all participants.
    • At Imagine Canada’s sole discretion, an outside professional mediator may be brought in at this time.
    • New, in-depth fact-finding conversations will be conducted with each party involved, as well as with any witnesses. Each conversation will be witnessed by an uninvolved third party.
    • The Investigator or professional mediator determines if other materials (e.g., emails, voice mails, notes) are required.
    • Documentation created at this step will be retained for a period of five years as back-up to the decision reached in Step 6.

Management advises the parties involved of the decision reached and what actions will be undertaken.

The issue ends here subject to an aggrieved party pursuing the matter in a court of law.

Definitions

Complaint
An issue or disagreement with a policy or management direction, or a perceived breach of any HR policy.
Complainant
The person(s) who originates the complaint.
Respondent
The person(s) being complained about.
Investigator
The person assigned to review the complainant’s information, gather information from other employees and the respondent, and present a final report.

Responsibilities

CEO

  • The CEO is ultimately responsible for the conduct and safety of employees at Imagine Canada.
  • They will provide support for any complaint or investigation as needed.
  • They should be informed of the number of incidents and the resolution rate.

Joint Health and Safety Committee

  • The Joint Health and Safety Committee (JHSC) participates, as appropriate, in investigations related to physical safety and building issues, as well as any other matter impacting employee health or safety (including employee mental health).
  • The JHSC keeps the Leadership Council and the CEO informed on any pending issues, mitigation plans, visits from the Ministry of Labour, or other health and safety issues.

Supervisors

  • Supervisors are responsible for ensuring a safe and collaborative workplace.
  • Where conflicts arise, supervisors should provide guidance and discipline to mitigate future issues.
  • Supervisors should express their support for the HR Employment policies and participate in investigations as required.

Employees

  • Employees have an obligation to the Code of Conduct, and policies on IT Acceptable Use and Workplace Discrimination, Harassment, and Violence.
  • They are expected to collaborate with colleagues and, while there may be disagreement, they will do all they can to avoid escalation leading to harassment or violence in the workplace.

Questions

If an employee is unsure how to handle a situation, they should speak to their supervisor or the VP, Finance and Operations for guidance.

References

Reference any other policies, documents, or legislation that support the interpretation of this policy.

Effective Date

Indicate the date the policy came into effect and the date of any revisions.

Review Date

Indicate the date the policy is due to be reviewed. This will vary based upon the policy.

Approval

Indicate who approved the policy and the date of approval (for example, the board, the human resources policy committee, the executive director).

Recommendation

Visit our article on Drafting an HR Policy to learn more about developing HR policies.

Disclaimer

Important: This document is an example of a policy for a small to medium-size nonprofit organization operating in Canada. While certain assumptions have been made in the creation of this policy, it is your responsibility to adapt, modify, and customize the document to suit the particular needs of your organization.

The content of this sample policy is provided for information purposes only. No legal liability or other responsibility is accepted by or on behalf of HR Intervals, Imagine Canada, or its partners for any errors, omissions, or statements made within this document. HR Intervals, Imagine Canada, and its partners accept no responsibility for any loss, damage or inconvenience caused as a result of reliance on such information.

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