Guidance to IVC Clubs on handling Disputes, Grievances and Complaints

  1. Clubs need to be able to deal effectively with Disputes, Complaints and Grievances in
    ways that take only a reasonable amount of effort and which do not cause harm. This
    guidance has three aims.
  2. To give clubs enough confidence so that they can act to handle such issues
  3. To provide guidance so that clubs don’t make more problems for themselves
  4. To reassure members that they will be treated fairly
  5. Feelings can run high and matters should be dealt with in an utterly confidential way.
    It’s always ‘good gossip’ when problems happen but it does not help resolve issues and it
    can easily amount to bullying or harassment. It is quite possible that people on all sides
    will feel angry, threatened or vulnerable. It is quite normal for people caught up in an issue
    to behave less rationally than they otherwise would do. So that people are not unduly
    stressed it is important to deal with matters with care and sensitivity. Matters should be
    dealt with as speedily as possible with aim of limiting damage and achieving closure so
    that everyone can ‘move on’.
  6. There are four ways that disputes or problems can be handled. The more informal the
    methods are better as they take less effort and are more likely to produce a good result.
  7. If a member’s conduct is causing concern you could send them a copy of the Club’s
    Code of Conduct. You must only do this in a non-judgemental way and only once or very
    infrequently.
  8. Get another member, who has the respect of the member whose conduct is causing
    concern, to have a ‘Quiet Word’.
  9. Invite the persons concerned to take part in Informal Mediation.
  10. Instigate Formal Proceedings which may result in a penalty or sanction being imposed
    on a member. This should start with Formal Mediation for a period of one or two weeks in
    the hope of settling the issue with a minimum of effort or damage. If that fails then a
    Disciplinary Proceeding should automatically start.
  11. Mediation must be completely confidential and nothing revealed in it should be used
    elsewhere. This needs to be done by someone who has the respect of all parties to the
    Dispute.
  12. Formal Proceedings can only be based on a written complaint. Complaints should be
    accepted about any current member of the Club providing that there is an IVC dimension.
  13. Deciding to impose a penalty on a member is a judicial process and must be taken
    seriously. Clubs must not impose any sort of sanction or penalty on a member without
    sticking to the rules of Natural Justice. In other words you must be fair. If you do not do
    this then you leave the club, and possibly committee members, wide open to legal
    challenge. Aristotle once said “The law is reason, free from passion”.
  14. The rules of Natural Justice are simple and straightforward and there are only two.
  15. Fair Hearing – All parties should be given a fair opportunity to present their case,
    should know what the other evidence is so they can challenge it and what they say must
    be fairly considered.
  16. Judicial Impartiality – The body hearing the matter must act in a genuinely fair way, its
    members must not have any pre-conceived ideas, they must not have any particular
    animosity or friendship with any of the parties to the case and they should not have any
    personal interest in the case. They should ideally have the confidence of all concerned
    (and others). They should not have had any prior dealings with the case. Decisions must
    be made solely on the evidence presented.
  17. Members should not normally be suspended prior to a case being heard as this
    deprives them of their right to enjoy their membership of the club and attaches a
    presumption of guilt. You cannot suspend a member unless the club’s rules allow it.
  18. There are four bodies that can hear cases or Appeals.
  19. The Club’s Committee
  20. An Internal Tribunal made up of senior/experienced Club Members
  21. An External Tribunal drawn from nearby IVCs
  22. An External Adjudicator (a Professional such as a Solicitor or Accountant)
  23. It is not recommended that Club Committees get involved in Formal Proceedings
    unless the case is simple, the likely penalties light and the club is small. Committees are
    not the best body to hear cases for the following reasons.
  24. It is too distracting for the Committee which needs to concentrate on running a
    successful club.
  25. If the Committee deal with these matters then all the members of the Committee have
    to get involved and fully consider all the evidence. This is too much effort and the number
    of people may be intimidating for the people subject to the process.
  26. Committees can be political and these issues need looking at in an utterly rational way
    to ensure justice.
  27. The Committee cannot fairly deal with Complaints about itself or any of its members.
  28. There should be an Appeal process. Appeals should ideally be held by an external
    body (Tribunal or Adjudicator). They should be lodged within a short time, say two weeks
    (except on grounds of new evidence) and should be allowed for any of the following
    reasons.
  29. That the decision reached was one that no reasonable body could have come to. This
    is not the same as simply disagreeing with the decision.
  30. That errors in procedure or of understanding the rules or facts were made and these
    were serious enough to have possibly affected the outcome
  31. That new evidence has come to light which was not available at the time of the
    original hearing and which may have affected the outcome if it had been known.
  32. Decisions should be in writing, should normally give reasons and should be delivered
    to all parties and the Committee at the same time. The decision should take effect
    immediately it is issued.
  33. At the body’s entire discretion the matter may be dealt with without a hearing, ie
    entirely on paper. If there is a hearing then all parties should be invited. Each party is
    entitled to be accompanied by a friend who has a right to be heard. The standard to use is
    “Balance of Probabilities” rather than “Beyond Reasonable Doubt”.
  34. Any Penalties should be appropriate to the case. The case being found may be
    penalty enough. Bodies hearing cases should use their ingenuity and imagination to come
    up with appropriate penalties suited to the case in question. Modest fines or
    compensation may be appropriate.
  35. Suspensions from membership should be limited to a maximum of 6 months as
    otherwise it would effectively amount to an expulsion. Being barred from certain types of
    activity or event may be appropriate but should always carry a time limit of, say, a
    maximum of 2 years. Expulsion should only ever be a last resort and should be time
    bounded for a minimum of one year (to prevent a sympathetic Committee from readmitting the person) and a maximum of five years. For misconduct by a Committee
    member in their official capacity a penalty of being barred from office should be
    considered (for a specified time which should not be more than five years).
  36. The body may make whatever recommendations they feel appropriate or helpful to
    the Club’s Committee. Such recommendations are not binding.
  37. If the body hearing the Complaint (or an Appeal) thinks that the Complaint (or
    Appeal) may be malicious, mischievous, frivolous, is otherwise an abuse of the process or
    possibly should have been resolved at an earlier stage then they should say so. If they are
    sure that this is the case then that decision should form part of their findings and they may
    award an appropriate penalty.
  38. It is recommended that clubs have the following question on their application forms.
    “Have you ever been refused admission or expelled from any IVC Club? If so please give
    details.” An answer of Yes to this question should not automatically cause an application
    to be refused but it should prompt further consideration.
    Note: The information in this document is offered in good faith but no liability can be
    accepted for any errors or omissions.