Purpose and scope of the complaints procedure
- Complaints must be handled in a manner which is fair, transparent, timely, and confidential.
- The purpose of the complaints procedure is to encourage members to interact positively with each other and with Metropolitan Walkers as a whole, and to provide a means of addressing issues or behaviours which could otherwise adversely affect other members or their enjoyment of Metropolitan Walkers activities, or the Metropolitan Walkers as a whole. The complaints procedure applies in respect of complaints made by or in relation to all members (including committee members, walk leaders and other activity organisers).
- Careful consideration will be given at a preliminary stage as to whether or not any particular complaint is appropriate for the Metropolitan Walkers chair or committee to deal with. It is not possible to provide an exhaustive list of complaint situations that may be considered, however, the primary purpose is to cover issues or behaviour on Metropolitan Walkers activities such as walks, socials or week-ends away, behaviour towards other members (including by e-mail, phone or similar communication) at, following, or on the way to and from activities of Metropolitan Walkers or other Ramblers groups or meetings and related communications, or behaviour that could bring Metropolitan Walkers or the Ramblers into disrepute or is contrary to the charitable aims of the Ramblers. The committee's general policy is not to get involved in private disputes arising between members outside of Metropolitan Walkers events.
- This complaints procedure should be read in conjunction with the Guiding Principles for Metropolitan Walkers.
- It is recognised that undue delay in addressing complaints is undesirable for all concerned. It is the committee's wish to ensure that such matters are dealt with in a timely manner whilst adhering to the procedures.
- No member will be expelled for a first offence unless it is considered to be sufficiently serious as to constitute gross misconduct.
- In the case of a formal complaint, a written record will be kept and held on file by Metropolitan Walkers.
How to make a complaint
- Complaints may be raised to the chair in confidence either orally, via email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or in writing.
- Similarly any member who is aware of a concern or behaviour which, even though it does not involve that member personally, could affect the enjoyment of other members, may bring it to the attention of the chair in confidence.
How will complaints be handled?
Minor matters may be dealt with by the chair who will seek to resolve matters informally in the first instance.
If a complaint is potentially more significant, or cannot be resolved informally then the chair shall refer the matter to the committee. The committee shall investigate the matter and gather information from all parties in confidence, and in particular shall ensure that any member who is the subject of a formal complaint is given the opportunity to give their side of the story. Those providing input to the complaint shall be given 30 days to submit any information, testimony or evidence they deem relevant. Failure to do so shall be taken to indicate they do not wish to submit anything to the formal record. It is at the committee's discretion to decide if a lack of participation or information warrants early closure of the complaints procedure.
The committee may appoint a panel of two or more committee members (which would generally include the chair) to investigate such matters and recommend a conclusion to the committee for final approval. Alternatively, the committee may refer a complaint to The Ramblers, if it concludes that would be a more appropriate way of dealing with that particular complaint.
Where a complaint is dealt with by the committee or a panel, it may decide any of the following outcomes:
- Complaint not upheld:
That a complaint is not upheld - for example if the complaint does not appear to be justified - in which case the complaint will be dismissed.
Matter noted for future reference but no action taken.
- Oral warning:
A member may be asked orally to make appropriate adjustments to their behaviour to prevent the issue arising in the future.
- Formal written warning:
A formal warning may be issued by e-mail or in writing that a member's behaviour must be adjusted if they wish to remain a member of Metropolitan Walkers. A formal written warning may be issued either if the behaviour in question has persisted despite a previous oral warning, or if the issue is sufficiently serious to merit a formal written warning at the first instance.
In the case of a failure to heed a formal written warning, or gross misconduct, a member may be expelled from the Metropolitan Walkers if their expulsion is approved by a majority of at least two-thirds of the committee who vote in relation to the proposed expulsion. Any member who is expelled will no longer be permitted to participate in Metropolitan Walkers. Expulsion is permanent and not subject to any time limit or conditions. The individual will be informed by e-mail or in writing that his or her membership of Metropolitan Walkers has been withdrawn and that he or she is no longer permitted to attend any further Metropolitan events. Expulsions will be notified to the Inner London Area and the Ramblers.
Examples of gross misconduct may include physical violence, threatening behaviour, intimidation, bullying, victimisation, serious or repeated verbal abuse, serious or repeated discrimination, sexual harassment, theft, fraud, deliberate falsification of records, malicious damage to Metropolitan Walkers property, serious breach of the Guiding Principles, serious negligence which causes unacceptable injury, loss or damage, or causing a serious risk to the safety of other members. (This list is not exhaustive.)
The chair shall be responsible for general oversight of the complaints procedure, for ensuring it operates fairly, and for communicating the outcome of a formal complaint to the parties involved. The chair shall be kept up to date by other committee members on all developments relating to a formal complaint.
Acknowledgement and outcome
Communication of the committee or panel's outcome must be acknowledged by the recipient of the complaint within 30 days of transmission (or immediately in the case of an oral warning). Failure to do so shall be assumed as full acceptance of and agreement with that conclusion. Acknowledgement and acceptance of the conclusion signals the conclusion of the complaints procedure.
An oral or formal warning remains in effect for no more than one calendar year from when issued. It will be retained on record, but any recurrence or related complaint after the warning has expired shall constitute a new complaint.
If a member who has been the subject of a complaint has a serious concern as to the fairness or proper conduct of the handling of that complaint under the complaints procedure, they may inform the chair that they wish to appeal. Any appeal raised must provide specific details and evidence highlighting which parts of the complaints procedure and/or guiding principles have not been applied correctly. Notice of an appeal must be given within 30 days of the committee's decision being published. The chair shall arrange for the case to receive a suitable independent review by one or more suitable persons within The Ramblers who are not part of the Metropolitan Walkers committee and not involved in the matters in question (for example the chair of the Inner London Area).
The outcome of an appeal may be one of the following:
- Complaint upheld, no further action:
- The committee or panel carried out their duties fairly and correctly according to this published complaints procedure and in line with the metropolitan walkers' guiding principles. The original complaint and conclusion stand unaltered.
- Complaint upheld with recommendations:
- The committee or panel carried out their duties fairly and correctly but there were minor areas of concern. However these areas of concern would not have altered the overall outcome or the validity of the complaint or response to it. The original complaint and conclusion stand unaltered but the chair and wider committee will review the recommendations with respect to future cases.
- Complaint overturned:
- The committee or panel demonstrated significant shortcomings or failure to apply the published complaints procedure and/or did not adhere to the published guiding principles. These concerns are enough to cast doubt on the validity or correctness of the complaint and it's conclusion. The complaint is overturned, any restrictions imposed are revoked and the committee or panel must acknowledge this via email or in writing to all concerned within 30 days.
In all cases, acknowledgement of the appeal must be made within 30 days and failure to do so is deemed acceptance and agreement of its conclusion. The outcome signals the conclusion of the complaints procedure. No further appeal is possible.
Conflict of interest
Committee members must declare if there is any conflict of interest (for example if they are personally involved in the matters to which the complaint relates, or in a relationship with someone who is) and should not be involved in hearing complaints where a conflict of interest exists.
The recipient of a complaint is entitled to identify members on the committee (or related to persons on the committee) they feel may represent a conflict of interest. Notification of any perceived conflict of interest must be stated upon acknowledgement of the complaint.
At any stage if the behaviour in question involves a potential criminal offence, the matter may be referred to the police.
- Published February 2009
- Edited October 2013 (change Ramblers' Association to Ramblers)
- Edited December 2014 (clarifications of: timescales; appeal outcomes; conflicts of interest)