Unreasonable complainant conduct – model policy

1. INTRODUCTION

1.1 Statement of support

The Australian Financial Security Authority is committed to being accessible and responsive to all complainants who approach our office for assistance and/or with a complaint. At the same time the success of our office depends on:

  • Our ability to do our work and perform our functions in the most effective and efficient ways possible.
  • The health, safety and security of our staff.
  • Our ability to allocate our resources fairly across all the complaints we receive.

When complainants behave unreasonably in their dealings with us, their conduct can significantly affect our success. As a result, AFSA will take proactive and decisive action to manage any complainant conduct that negatively and unreasonably affects us and will support our staff to do the same in accordance with this policy.

I authorise and expect all AFSA staff to implement the strategies provided in this policy.

Hamish McCormick Chief Executive and Inspector-General in Bankruptcy  

2. OBJECTIVES

2.1 Policy aims

This policy has been developed to ensure AFSA clients understand the behavioural expectations we have of them and the way in which we will deal with instances of unreasonable complainant conduct (‘UCC’). The policy will further assist all staff members to better manage UCC and aims to ensure that all staff:

  • Feel confident and supported in taking action to manage UCC.
  • Act fairly, consistently, honestly and appropriately when responding to UCC.
  • Are aware of their roles and responsibilities in relation to the management of UCC and how this policy will be used.
  • Have a clear understanding of the criteria that will be considered before we decide to change or restrict a complainant’s access to our services.
  • Are aware of the processes that will be followed to record and report UCC incidents as well as the procedures for consulting and notifying complainants about any proposed actions or decisions to change or restrict their access to our services.
  • Understand the types of circumstances when it may be appropriate to manage UCC using one or more of the following mechanisms:

The strategies provided in the Managing Unreasonable Complainant Conduct Practice Manual (2nd edition) (‘practice manual’) published by the NSW Ombudsman include the strategies to change or restrict a complainant’s access to our services. Alternative dispute resolution strategies to deal with conflicts involving complainants and members of our organisation. Legal instruments such as trespass laws/legislation to prevent a complainant from coming onto our premises and orders to protect specific staff members from any actual or apprehended personal violence, intimidation or stalking.

3. DEFINING UNREASONABLE COMPLAINANT CONDUCT

3.1 Unreasonable complainant conduct

Most complainants who interact with us act reasonably and responsibly, even when they are experiencing high levels of distress, frustration and anger about their complaint. However, in a very small number of cases some complainants behave in ways that are inappropriate and unacceptable – despite our best efforts to help them. They may be aggressive and verbally abusive towards our staff. They may threaten harm and violence, continually contact our offices with unnecessary and excessive phone calls and emails, make inappropriate demands on our time and our resources and/or refuse to accept our decisions and recommendations in relation to their complaints. When complainants behave in these types of ways we consider their conduct to be ‘unreasonable’.

Unreasonable complainant conduct (‘UCC’) is any behaviour by a current or former complainant which, because of its nature or frequency raises substantial health, safety, resource or equity issues for our organisation, our staff, other service users and complainants or the complainant himself/herself.

UCC can be divided into five categories of conduct and can be across one or more of these categories:

  • unreasonable persistence
  • unreasonable demands
  • unreasonable lack of cooperation
  • unreasonable arguments
  • unreasonable behaviours.

3.2 Unreasonable persistence

Unreasonable persistence is continued, incessant and unrelenting conduct by a complainant that has a disproportionate and unreasonable impact on our organisation, staff, services, time and/or resources. Some examples of unreasonably persistent behaviour include:

  • An unwillingness or inability to accept reasonable and logical explanations including final decisions that have been comprehensively considered and dealt with.
  • Persistently demanding a review simply because it is available and without arguing or presenting a case for one.
  • Pursuing and exhausting all available review options when it is not warranted and refusing to accept further action cannot or will not be taken on their complaints.
  • Reframing a complaint in an effort to get it taken up again.
  • Continually contacting our staff/organisation through phone calls, visits, letters, emails (including cc’d correspondence) after repeatedly being asked not to do so.
  • Contacting different people within our organisation and/or externally to get a different outcome or more sympathetic response to their complaint – internal and external forum shopping.

3.3 Unreasonable demands

Unreasonable demands are any demands (express or implied) that are made by a complainant that have a disproportionate and unreasonable impact on our organisation, staff, services, time and/or resources. Some examples of unreasonable demands include:

  • Issuing instructions and making demands about how we have/should handle their complaint, the priority it was/should be given, the outcome that was/should be achieved, or imposing self-executing timeframes.
  • Insisting on talking to the CEO or National Managers personally when it is not appropriate or warranted.
  • Emotional blackmail and manipulation with the intention to instil guilt, intimidate, harass, shame, seduce or portray themselves as being victimised – when this is not the case.
  • Insisting on outcomes that are not possible or appropriate in the circumstances – e.g. for someone to be sacked or prosecuted, an apology and/or compensation when no reasonable basis for expecting this.

Demanding services that are of a nature or scale that we cannot provide when this has been explained to them repeatedly.

3.4 Unreasonable lack of cooperation

Unreasonable lack of cooperation is an unwillingness and/or inability by a complainant to cooperate with our organisation, staff, or complaints system and processes that results in a disproportionate and unreasonable use of our services, time and/or resources. Some examples of unreasonable lack of cooperation include:

  • Sending a constant stream of comprehensive and/or disorganised or voluminous information without clearly defining any issues of complaint or explaining how they relate to the core issues being complained about – only where the complainant is clearly capable of doing this.
  • Providing little or no detail with a complaint or presenting information in ‘dribs and drabs’.
  • Refusing to follow or accept our instructions, suggestions, or advice without a clear or justifiable reason for doing so.
  • Arguing frequently and/or with extreme intensity that a particular solution is the correct one in the face of valid contrary arguments and explanations.
  • Displaying unhelpful behaviour – such as withholding information, acting dishonestly, misquoting others, and so forth.

3.5 Unreasonable arguments

Unreasonable arguments include any arguments that are not based on reason or logic, that are incomprehensible, false or inflammatory, trivial or delirious and that disproportionately and unreasonably impact upon our organisation, staff, services, time, and/or resources. Arguments are unreasonable when they:

  • Fail to follow a logical sequence.
  • Are not supported by any evidence and/or are based on conspiracy theories.
  • Lead a complainant to reject all other valid and contrary arguments.
  • Are trivial when compared to the amount of time, resources and attention that the complainant demands.
  • Are false, inflammatory or defamatory.

3.6 Unreasonable behaviour

Unreasonable behaviour is conduct that is unreasonable in all circumstances – regardless of how stressed, angry or frustrated that a complainant is – because it unreasonably compromises the health, safety and security of our staff, other service users or the complainant himself/herself. Some examples of unreasonable behaviours include:

  • Acts of aggression, verbal abuse, derogatory, racist, or grossly defamatory remarks.
  • Harassment, intimidation or physical violence.
  • Rude, confronting and threatening correspondence.
  • Threats of harm to self or third parties, threats with a weapon or threats to damage property including bomb threats.
  • Stalking (in person or online).
  • Emotional manipulation.

All staff should note that AFSA has a zero tolerance policy towards any harm, abuse or threats directed towards them. Any conduct of this kind will be dealt with under this policy, the Complex Client Interactions policy and in accordance with our duty of care and work health and safety responsibilities.

4. ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES

4.1 All staff

All staff are responsible for familiarising themselves with this policy as well as the Individual Rights and Mutual Responsibilities of the Parties to a Complaint in Appendix A. Staff are also encouraged to explain the contents of this document to all complainants particularly those who engage in UCC or exhibit the early warning signs for UCC.

Staff are also encouraged and authorised to use the strategies and scripts provided in Part 5 of the Ombudsman’s practice manual to manage UCC, in particular:

  • Strategies and script ideas for managing unreasonable persistence
  • Strategies and script ideas for managing unreasonable demands
  • Strategies and script ideas for managing unreasonable lack of cooperation
  • Strategies and script ideas for managing unreasonable arguments
  • Strategies and script ideas for managing unreasonable behaviours.

However, it must be emphasised that any strategies that effectively change or restrict a complainant’s access to our services must be considered at the SES level as provided in this policy. 

Staff are also responsible for recording and reporting all UCC incidents they experience or witness (as appropriate) to their Director within 24 hours of the incident occurring, as outlined in the AFSA work instruction on UCC. 

Record keeping is imperative. Good quality file notes regarding client contact should be kept. Brief notes about the nature of the conversation, any undertakings given to the client and any attempted phone contacts should all be noted. Email exchanges and formal letters issued to the client should all be maintained as often an historical picture is required for Ombudsman investigations, but will also need to be referenced in order to implement restrictions.

Records should be maintained in relevant systems (eComplaints, CRM and/or eSolve) to ensure a full picture of relevant client behaviour is available if needed later, and to protect the privacy of the individual.

4.2 Directors (EL2)

Directors are responsible for reviewing UCC reports submitted to them by staff and where appropriate, completing the necessary documentation to request a change or restriction to a complainants access to our services.

All Directors are responsible for supporting staff to apply the strategies in this policy, as well as those in the Ombudsman practice manual. They are also responsible for ensuring compliance with the procedures identified in this policy and ensuring that all staff members are trained to deal with UCC – including on induction.

Following a UCC and/or stressful interaction with a complainant, Directors are responsible for providing affected staff members with the opportunity to debrief. Directors will also ensure that staff are provided with proper support and assistance including medical and/or police assistance and support through programs such as Employee Assistance Program (EAP), if necessary. 

Directors are responsible for recording all cases where the UCC policy has been applied. A UCC register will be maintained for this purpose and Directors will be responsible for monitoring and reviewing cases in the register. 

4.3 National Managers (Authorised delegates) 

National Managers, have the responsibility to review requests by Directors seeking the imposition of changes/restrictions on client behaviour. They have the authority to issue warning letters to complainants about their behaviour and to change or restrict a complainant’s access to our services in the circumstances identified in this policy. Namely the imposition of general contact restrictions such as point of contact, subject matter and time restrictions, write only or other discretionary access restrictions such as representative-only contact. 

When making changes/restrictions they will take into account all information provided to them regarding the complainant and will aim to impose any service changes/restrictions in the least restrictive ways possible. Their aim, when taking such actions will not be to punish the complainant, but rather to manage the impacts of their conduct consistent with this policy. 

When applying this policy the National Managers will, where possible, aim to keep at least one open line of communication with a complainant (e.g. hard copy mail). However, we do recognise that in extreme situations all forms of contact may need to be restricted for some time to ensure the health and safety and security of our staff and/or third parties. 

Where current contact changes or restrictions have not been successful or when more serious restrictions are required, National Managers have the responsibility and authority to request ‘a termination of access to services’ be placed on a complainant. 

National Managers will ensure consistency, transparency and accountability for the application of this policy. They will communicate access restrictions to complainants and ensure appropriate record keeping to enable the update and maintenance of the UCC register (a record of all cases where this policy is applied). 

4.4 The Deputy Chief Executive and General Counsel (Authorised delegates – termination of access to services) 

The Deputy Chief Executive and General Counsel, have the responsibility as the Authorised delegates for completely terminating a complainants access to our services. When doing so they will take into account all of the information provided to them about the complainant and the information in Part 5.6 below. 

The Deputy Chief Executive and General Counsel, may also, in extreme circumstances, review the restrictions placed on a complainant’s access to our services.

4.6 Policy Owner

The Policy Owner, is responsible for ensuring organisational awareness of the policy and compliance with the procedures identified within. They will also ensure the regular review, update and publishing of the policy (or relevant subsets) for staff and complainants. 

The National Manager, Client Services is the owner of this policy.

5. RESPONDING TO AND MANAGING UCC

5.1 Changing or restricting a complainant’s access to our services  

UCC incidents will generally be managed by limiting or adapting the ways that we interact with and/or deliver services to complainants by restricting:

  • Who they have contact with – e.g. limiting a complainant to a sole contact person/staff member in our organisation.
  • What they can raise with us – e.g. restricting the subject matter of communications that we will consider and respond to.
  • When they can have contact – e.g. limiting a complainant’s contact with our organisation to a particular time, day, or length of time, or curbing the frequency of their contact with us.
  • How they can make contact – g. limiting or modifying the forms of contact that the complainant can have with us. This can include modifying or limiting telephone and written communications, prohibiting access to our premises, contact through a representative only, taking no further action or terminating our services altogether.

As a client-centric agency, steps to limit or restrict client contact should be made with the greatest reluctance and only in extreme circumstances. When using the restrictions provided in this section we recognise that discretion will need to be used to adapt them to suit a complainant’s personal circumstances, level of competency, literacy skills, etc. In this regard, we also recognise that a combination of strategies may need to be used in individual cases to ensure their appropriateness and efficacy. 

5.2 Who – limiting the complainant to a sole contact point  

Where a complainant tries to forum shop internally within our organisation, changes their issues of complaint repeatedly, reframes their complaint, or raises an excessive number of complaints it may be appropriate to restrict their access to a single staff member (a sole contact point) who will exclusively manage their complaint(s) and interactions with our office. This may ensure they are dealt with consistently and may minimise the chances for misunderstandings, contradictions and manipulation. 

To avoid staff ‘burn out’ the sole contact officer’s supervisor will provide them with regular support and guidance – as needed. Also, the Director will review the arrangement every twelve months to ensure that the officer is managing/coping with the arrangement. 

Complainants who are restricted to a sole contact person will be provided the contact details of an alternative staff member who they can contact if their primary contact is unavailable – e.g. they go on leave or are otherwise unavailable for an extended period of time.

5.3 What – restricting the subject matter of communications that we will consider  

Where complainants repeatedly send written communications, letters, emails, or online forms that raise trivial or insignificant issues, contain inappropriate or abusive content or relate to a complaint/issue that has already been comprehensively considered and/or reviewed (at least once) by our office, we may restrict the issues/subject matter the complainant can raise with us/we will respond to. For example, we may:

  • Refuse to respond to correspondence that raises an issue that has already been dealt with comprehensively, that raises a trivial issue, or is not supported by clear/any evidence. The complainant will be advised that future correspondence of this kind will be read and filed without acknowledgement unless we decide that we need to pursue it further in which case, we may do so on our ‘own motion’.
  • Return correspondence to the complainant and require them to remove any inappropriate content before we will agree to consider its contents.

A copy of the inappropriate correspondence should also be made and kept for our records to identify repeat/further UCC incidents. 

5.4 When – limiting when a complainant can contact us  

If a complainant’s telephone, written or face-to-face contact with our organisation places an unreasonable demand on our time or resources because it is overly lengthy (e.g. disorganised and voluminous correspondence) or affects the health safety and security of our staff because it involves behaviour that is persistently rude, threatening, abusive or aggressive, we may limit when and/or how the complainant can interact with us. This may include:

  • Limiting the length or duration of telephone calls or written correspondence. For example:
  • Telephone calls may be limited to [10] minutes at a time and will be politely terminated at the end of that time period.
  • Lengthy written communications may be restricted to a maximum of [15] typed or written pages, single sided, font size 12 or it will be sent back to the complainant to be organised and summarised – This option is only appropriate in cases where the complainant is capable of summarising the information and refuses to do so.
  • Limiting the frequency of their telephone calls or written correspondence.

Depending on the natures of the service(s) provided we may limit:

  • Telephone calls to [1] every two weeks/ month.
  • Written communications to [1] every two weeks/month.

For irrelevant, overly lengthy, disorganised or frequent written correspondence we may also:

  • Require the complainant to resubmit the information in a focussed manner, clearly identifying how the information or supporting materials relate to their complaint.
  • Restrict the frequency with which complainants can send emails or other written communications to our office.
  • Restrict a complainant to sending emails to a particular email account (e.g. the organisation’s main email account) or block their email access altogether and require that any further correspondence be sent through Australia Post only.

5.5 How – limiting how a complainant can contact us 

Write only restrictions  

When a complainant is restricted to ‘write only’ they may be restricted to written communications through:

  • Australia Post only
  • Email only to a specific staff email or our general office email account
  • Some other relevant form of written contact, where applicable.

If a complainant’s contact is restricted to ‘write only’, the Authorised delegate will clearly identify the specific means that the complainant can use to contact our office. 

Any communications that are received by our office in a manner that contravenes a ‘write only’ restriction will either be returned to the complainant or read and filed without acknowledgement.

Contact through a representative only  

In cases where we cannot completely restrict our contact with a complainant and their conduct is particularly difficult to manage, we may restrict their contact to ‘contact through a support person or representative only’. This support person may be nominated by the complainant but must be approved by the National Manager. 

When assessing a representative/support person’s suitability, the National Manager should consider factors like: the nominated representative/support person’s competency and literacy skills, demeanour/behaviour and relationship with the complainant. If determined that the representative/support person may exacerbate the situation with the complainant the complainant will be asked to nominate another person or we may assist them in this regard. 

5.6 Completely terminating a complainant’s access to our services

In rare cases, and as a last resort when all other strategies have been considered and/or attempted, the Deputy Chief Executive or General Counsel may decide that it is necessary for our organisation to completely restrict a complainant’s contact/access to our services. 

A decision to have no further contact with a complainant can be implemented in circumstances such as the complainant is unwilling or unlikely to modify their conduct and/or their conduct poses a significant risk for our staff or other parties because it involves one or more of the following types of conduct:

  • Acts of aggression, verbal and/or physical abuse, threats of harm, harassment, intimidation, stalking, assault.
  • Damage to property while on our premises.
  • Threats with a weapon or common office items that can be used to harm another person or themselves.
  • Conduct that is otherwise unlawful.

In these cases the complainant will be sent a letter notifying them that their access has been terminated, and consideration will be given to referring illegal conduct to the relevant law enforcement agency

A complainant’s access to our services and our premises may also be restricted (directly or indirectly) using the legal mechanisms such as trespass laws/legislation or legal orders to protect members of our staff from personal violence, intimidation or stalking by a complainant.

 For more information, about the types of circumstances where legal mechanisms may be used to deal with UCC, please see:

  • Unauthorised entry onto agency premises – applying the provisions of the Inclosed Lands Protection Act 1901 (NSW)
  • Orders to address violence, threats, intimidation and / or stalking by complainants.

6. ALTERNATIVE DISPUTE RESOLUTION

6.1 Using alternative dispute resolution strategies to manage conflicts with complainants

If the Deputy Chief Executive or General Counsel determines that we cannot terminate our services to a complainant in a particular case or that we/our staff bear some responsibility for causing or exacerbating their conduct, they may consider using alternative dispute resolution strategies (‘ADR’) such as mediation and conciliation to resolve the conflict with the complainant and attempt to rebuild our relationship with them. If ADR is considered to be an appropriate option in a particular case, the ADR will be conducted by an independent third party to ensure transparency and impartiality.

 However, we recognise that in UCC situations, ADR may not be an appropriate or effective strategy particularly if the complainant is uncooperative or resistant to compromise. Therefore, each case will be assessed on its own facts to determine the appropriateness of this approach.

[Insert reference to relevant policy(ies) concerning the use of ADR, mediation, and/or conciliation, if applicable.] 

7. APPEALING A DECISION TO CHANGE OR RESTRICT ACCESS TO OUR SERVICES

7.1 Right of appeal

 Complainants are entitled to one appeal of a decision to change/restrict their access to our services. This review will be undertaken by a senior staff member who was not involved in the original decision to change or restrict the complainant’s access. For general contact restrictions, the review officer will be another National Manager who did not make the original change/restriction decision. For termination of access reviews, the reviewing officer will be either the Deputy Chief Executive or General Counsel, whoever, did not make the original decision.

 The reviewing officer will consider the complainant’s arguments along with all relevant records regarding the complainant’s past conduct. They will advise the complainant of the outcome of their appeal by letter. Details of the appeal outcome and any changes to the restriction register will be made at the conclusion of the process.  

 If a complainant continues to be dissatisfied after the appeal process, they may seek an external review from an oversight agency such as the Ombudsman. The Ombudsman may accept the review (in accordance with its administrative jurisdiction) to ensure that we have acted fairly, reasonably and consistently and have observed the principles of good administrative practice including, procedural fairness.

8. NON-COMPLIANCE WITH A CHANGE OR RESTRICTION ON ACCESS TO OUR SERVICES

8.1 Recording and reporting incidents of non-compliance

 All staff members are responsible for recording and reporting incidents of non-compliance by complainants. This should be recorded in a file note in the relevant system (eComplaints, CRM, eSolve) and a copy forwarded to the National Manager who imposed the restriction. The National Manager will decide whether any action needs to be taken to modify or further restrict the complainant’s access to our services.

9. MANAGING STAFF STRESS

9.1 Staff reactions to stressful situations

 Dealing with complainants who are demanding, abusive, aggressive or violent can be extremely stressful and at times distressing or even frightening for our staff – both experienced and inexperienced. It is perfectly normal to get upset or experience stress when dealing with difficult situations.

 As an organisation, we have a responsibility to support staff members who experience stress as a result of situations arising at work and we will do our best to provide staff with debriefing and counselling opportunities, when needed. However, to do this we also need the help of all staff to identify stressful incidents and situations. As a result, all staff have a responsibility to notify relevant supervisors/Directors of UCC incidents and any stressful incidents that they believe require management involvement.

 In addition, staff are able to access the free, confidential professional counselling services through our Employee Assistance Program (EAP). 

10. TRAINING AND AWARENESS

 AFSA is committed to ensuring that all staff are aware of and know how to use this policy. All staff who deal with complainants in the course of their work will receive appropriate training and information on using this policy and on managing UCC on a regular basis in particular, on induction. 

11. OMBUDSMAN MAY REQUEST COPIES OF OUR RECORDS

 AFSA will keep records of all cases where this policy is applied, including a record of the total number of cases where it is used every year. This data may be requested by the Ombudsman to conduct an overall audit and review in accordance with its administrative functions and/or to inform its work on UCC.

12. POLICY REVIEW

 Updates to the UCC policy should occur as necessary to maintain its accuracy and currency. All staff are responsible for forwarding any suggestions they have in relation to this policy to the owner National Manager, Client Services, who along with the National Management Board will consider these requests. In addition, the policy will be formally reviewed every 2 years as part of our internal governance program. 

13. SUPPORTING DOCUMENTS AND POLICIES

13.1 Statement of compliance  

This policy is compliant with and supported by the following documents:

  • AFSA Work Health and Safety Policy
  • AFSA Complaint Handling Policy and Procedures
  • AFSA Alternative Dispute Resolution Policy and Procedure
  • AFSA Complex Client Interactions Policy
  • Managing unreasonable complainant conduct practice manual (2nd edition)
  • Unauthorised entry onto agency premises – applying the provisions of the Inclosed Lands Protection Act 1901 (NSW) [and/or equivalent organisation policy]
  • Orders to address violence, threats, intimidation and / or stalking by complainants[and/or equivalent organisation policy]

Appendix A - Individual Rights and Mutual Responsibilities of the Parties to a Complaint  

In order for AFSA to ensure that all complaints are dealt with fairly, efficiently and effectively and that work health and safety standards and duty of care obligations are adhered to, the following rights and responsibilities must be observed and respected by all of the parties to the complaint process. 

Individual rights

Complainants have the right:

  • to make a complaint and to express their opinions in ways that are reasonable, lawful and appropriate
  • to a reasonable explanation of the organisation’s complaints procedure, including details of the confidentiality, secrecy and/or privacy rights or obligations that may apply
  • to a fair and impartial assessment and, where appropriate, investigation of their complaint based on the merits of the case
  • to a fair hearing
  • to a timely response

Staff have the right:

  • to expect honesty, cooperation and reasonable assistance from complainants
  • to be treated with courtesy and respect
  • to a safe and healthy working environment9
  • to modify, curtail or decline service (if appropriate) in response to unacceptable behaviour by a complainant.

Mutual responsibilities

Complainants are responsible for:

  • treating staff of AFSA with courtesy and respect
  • clearly identifying to the best of their ability the issues of complaint, or asking for help from the staff of AFSA to assist them in doing so
  • providing AFSA, to the best of their ability all the relevant information available to them at the time of making the complaint
  • being honest in all communications with AFSA
  • informing AFSA of any other action they have taken in relation to their complaint
  • cooperating with the staff who are assigned to assess/ investigate/resolve/determine or otherwise deal with their complaint.

If complainants do not meet their responsibilities, AFSA may consider placing limitations or conditions on their ability to communicate with staff or access certain services.

AFSA has a zero tolerance policy in relation to any harm, abuse or threats directed towards its staff. Any conduct of this kind may result in a refusal to take any further action on a complaint or to have further dealings with the complainant. Any such conduct of a criminal nature will be reported to police and in certain cases legal action may also be considered. 

Staff are responsible for:

  • providing reasonable assistance to complainants who need help to make a complaint and, where appropriate, during the complaint process
  • dealing with all complaints, complainants and people or organisations the subject of complaint professionally, fairly and impartially
  • giving complainants or their advocates a reasonable opportunity to explain their complaint, subject to the circumstances of the case and the conduct of the complainant
  • giving people or organisations the subject of complaint a reasonable opportunity to put their case during the course of any investigation and before any final decision is made
  • keeping complainants informed of the actions taken and the outcome of their complaints
  • giving complainants reasons that are clear and appropriate to their circumstances and adequately explaining the basis of any decisions that affect them
  • treating complainants and any people the subject of complaint with courtesy and respect at all times and in all circumstances
  • taking all reasonable and practical steps to ensure that complainants are not subjected to any detrimental action in reprisal for making their complaint
  • giving adequate warning of the consequences of unacceptable behaviour.

If AFSA or its staff fail to comply with these responsibilities, complainants may complain to the Policy Owner—National Manager, Client Services or a nominated representative. 

Subjects of a complaint are responsible for:

  • cooperating with the staff of AFSA who are assigned to handle the complaint, particularly where they are exercising a lawful power in relation to a person or body within their jurisdiction
  • providing all relevant information in their possession to AFSA or its authorised staff when required to do so by a properly authorised direction or notice
  • being honest in all communications with AFSA and its staff
  • treating the staff of AFSA with courtesy and respect at all times and in all circumstances
  • refraining from taking any detrimental action against the complainant22 in reprisal for them making the complaint.

If subjects of a complaint fail to comply with these responsibilities, action may be taken under relevant laws and/or codes of conduct.

AFSA is responsible for:

  • having an appropriate and effective complaint handling system in place for receiving, assessing, handling, recording and reviewing complaints
  • decisions about how all complaints will be dealt with
  • ensuring that all complaints are dealt with professionally, fairly and impartially
  • ensuring that staff treat all parties to a complaint with courtesy and respect
  • finalising complaints on the basis of outcomes that the organisation, or its responsible staff, consider to be satisfactory in the circumstances
  • giving adequate consideration to any confidentiality, secrecy and/or privacy obligations or responsibilities that may arise in the handling of complaints and the conduct of investigations.

If AFSA fails to comply with these responsibilities, complainants may complain to the Policy Owner—National Manager Client Services or a nominated representative.