Parish of St. Paul’s with St. Agatha’s Woldingham
Complaints and Grievances Procedure
What counts as a complaint and a grievance?
A complaint is a written or verbal expression of dissatisfaction or disquiet about an action, or lack of action, by a person acting on behalf of the church, or about the policies and procedures of the church.
When the complaint is made by someone who is deployed within the parish, whether paid (for instance, paid youth workers and administrators) or holding unremunerated office (for instance, Sunday School leaders or servers), it is usually referred to as a grievance.
A complaint or grievance may include an allegation that a person has behaved in an unacceptable way. Complaints and grievances against licensed or commissioned ministers (Readers, Southwark Pastoral Auxiliaries, Church Army Officers) are handled through a separate Diocesan procedure. These complaints or grievances should be addressed to the Incumbent of the parish.
The aim always, when responding to complaints and grievances, is to enable them to be resolved informally, speedily and fairly by discussion, problem-solving, mediation and negotiation. Problems should therefore be brought direct to the person(s) deemed responsible for the area of dissatisfaction or disquiet, and will hopefully be resolved in this way.
If, however, a complaint or grievance relates to or includes an allegation that a child or adult who may be vulnerable has been harmed or is at risk of harm, or that an adult or another child may have caused harm to a child or adult who may be vulnerable, it must be responded to through the Diocesan procedures for handling allegations of abuse.
If the complaint or grievance does not concern a child or adult who may be vulnerable, and the person bringing it is not satisfied with the outcome at the problem-solving stage, he/she may then invoke this formal procedure.
Formal procedure for complaints and grievances — stage 1
A complaint should be submitted in writing to a Churchwarden of the parish (who is not him- or herself the subject of the complaint).
A grievance should be submitted in writing to the person to whom the person bringing the grievance is accountable; this will be the direct line manager of a paid employee, or the person responsible for co-ordinating the work of a volunteer. If, however, the person who is accountable is the subject of the grievance, the grievance should be taken to a Churchwarden.
The person bringing the complaint has the opportunity to state his or her case; and to be represented, if they wish, at any meeting by a friend or other supporter.
The Churchwarden (if a complaint) or line manager (if a grievance) will meet with the complainant to listen to and note the facts of the complaint or grievance. He/she will then give to the subject of the complaint or grievance the facts relating to it. The Churchwarden/line manager will then interview the subject of the complaint or grievance, who may also be represented by a friend or other supporter if they wish, to listen to their response to the complaint or grievance brought against them. The Churchwarden/line manager may then interview any other relevant parties.
The Churchwarden/line manager then draws conclusions and informs the complainant and the subject of the complaint or grievance of the outcome, ideally within a week of the complaint or grievance being made.
Formal procedure for complaints and grievances — stage 2
If the reply given at stage 1 does not satisfactorily resolve the complaint or grievance, the complaint or grievance should be put in writing to a Churchwarden, who will take it to the PCC. The PCC will form a panel of three of its members who have not been involved in the process before.
The panel will establish why the complainant continues to feel aggrieved, and receive all the documentation from the previous investigation at stage 1. The panel will then meet with the complainant and his/her supporter, the subject of the complaint or grievance and his/her supporter, and the Churchwarden or line manager who investigated the complaint at the first stage. Witnesses may be called.
The panel members will then sit alone to form a judgement and make a decision about the complaint or grievance. They will inform the complainant and the subject of the complaint or grievance of the outcome within a month of the complaint being made.
The decision of the panel representing the PCC will be final.
As a result of an investigation into a complaint or grievance, it may be necessary to address the matter through the disciplinary procedure.
Parish of St. Paul’s with St. Agatha’s Woldingham
Purpose and scope
The parish aim is to encourage improvement in individual conduct of paid employees and office holders working on behalf of the parish. This procedure sets out the action which will be taken when disciplinary rules are breached. The disciplinary procedure may follow the investigation of a complaint or a grievance, or the investigation of an allegation of abuse, but must be operated as a separate procedure.
The procedure is designed to establish the facts quickly and to deal consistently with disciplinary issues. No disciplinary action will be taken until the matter has been fully investigated.
At every stage the employee or office-holder who is the subject of the disciplinary procedure will have the opportunity to state his or her case; and to be represented, if they wish, at the hearings by a friend, or by a fellow employee.
The subject of the procedure has the right to appeal against any disciplinary penalty.
1. Informal action
Cases of minor misconduct or unsatisfactory performance will be dealt with informally. The employee or office-holder will be encouraged to make the necessary improvement and offered additional guidance, support, training and supervision as appropriate. He or she will be informed that, should the required improvement be achieved, that will be the end of the matter.
There will, however, be situations where matters are more serious or where an informal approach has been tried but is not working. If informal action does not bring about an improvement, or the misconduct or unsatisfactory performance is considered to be too serious to be classed as minor, the matter will be dealt with under the following formal procedure.
2. Stage 1 — written warning
If there is no improvement in standards, or if a further offence occurs, or the offence is such as to warrant it at the outset, the employee or office-holder will be given a WRITTEN WARNING by their line manager or the person responsible for co-ordinating their work, which will include the reason for the warning and a note that, if there is insufficient improvement within the designated timescale (usually no more than six months) a final written warning will be given.
3. Stage 2 — final written warning
If conduct or performance is still unsatisfactory, or the offence is sufficiently serious to warrant it at the outset, a FINAL WRITTEN WARNING will be given by the line manager or person co-ordinating the work, making it clear that any recurrence of the offence or other serious misconduct within a period of 12 months will result in dismissal.
4. Stage 3 — dismissal
If there is no satisfactory improvement, or if further serious misconduct occurs, or if the offence is one of Gross Misconduct, the employee or office-holder will normally be DISMISSED from the office they hold. Any decision to dismiss will be taken by a panel of three members appointed by the PCC, who should all be members of the PCC and include either the Incumbent or a Churchwarden.
The panel will receive in advance from the line manager all the documentation relating to the offence under consideration. The documentation will also be made available in advance to the subject of the disciplinary procedure. At the hearing, the panel will hear evidence from the line manager and subsequently from the subject of the hearing; witnesses may be called by both parties.
The panel will then form a judgement as to whether the offence is proven on the balance
of probability. If so, the panel will then receive evidence as to any previous warning given which has not yet expired. They will then make a decision regarding the dismissal or otherwise of the employee or office-holder.
5. Gross misconduct
Gross misconduct is misconduct so serious that it could justify dismissal without previous warnings and without notice or pay in lieu thereof. If, after investigation, it is confirmed that an employee or office-holder has committed an act of gross misconduct, he/she will normally be dismissed, following the procedure in (4) above. The following is a list of examples of gross misconduct. It is for guidance only and is not exhaustive:
theft or unauthorised possession of any property or facilities belonging to the parish
serious damage deliberately sustained to parish property
deliberate falsification of parish reports, accounts, expense claims or self-certification forms
bribery or corruption
refusal to carry out duties or reasonable instructions or to comply with parish policies and procedures
conduct unbecoming or inappropriate to the office and work
conduct amounting to deliberate loss of business
misconduct in relation to the safety of children or adults who may be vulnerable
serious misconduct as a result of being intoxicated by reason of alcohol or illegal drugs
violent, dangerous or intimidatory conduct
sexual, racial or other harassment of a colleague or parishioner
a criminal offence, which may (whether it is committed in the context of or outside the person’s work for the parish) adversely affect the reputation of the parish, the person’s suitability for the type of work he/she does, or his/her acceptability to colleagues or parishioners.
While alleged gross misconduct is being investigated, the employee or office-holder may be suspended, during which time he/she will be paid at his/her normal rate of pay. He/she will be entitled to written reasons for the suspension within three working days of being suspended.
If the employee or office-holder wishes to appeal against any disciplinary decision, he/she must do so within one week of the decision being conveyed to him/her. The appeal will be heard by a panel of three members nominated by the PCC, not including anyone who has been involved in the process thus far. At least two members of the panel should be PCC members, and one should be either a Churchwarden or the Incumbent.
The second panel will decide the case as impartially as possible. The panel will receive all the documentation from the previous stage of the disciplinary procedure; the documentation will also be made available in advance to both the subject of the disciplinary procedure and the line manager.