Complaints and Grievances Policy

Scope of this Policy

This policy covers the process of dealing with a complaint or grievance. It is the process that should be followed if you want to report a breach of the Trustee Code of Conduct, The Events Code of Conduct or for any other grievance or complaint involving the society trustees, its members or participants in our events. 

If you wish to lodge a formal complaint or if you believe that someone is violating one of our Codes of Conduct, then please report this in a timely manner. In particular, Code of Conduct violations reduce the value of the community for everyone. The committee takes reports of misconduct very seriously and is committed to preserving and maintaining the welcoming nature of our community.

Dealing with Complaints and Grievances Informally

If you have a grievance or complaint then you should, wherever possible, start by making contact with the society president ([email protected]), the event host, organiser or the designated incident person/people by email. Depending on the nature of your complaint an informal discussion may be suggested with the anticipation that you may be able to agree a solution informally. It is within your right to proceed directly to a formal complaint or grievance if you would prefer.

If your grievance or complaint relates to the Society President then you should contact a trustee in a position of responsibility, such as

  1. Vice President
  2. Treasurer
  3. Vice Treasurer
  4. Chair of EDI Committee

If you would like an EDI representative to attend any in person discussion then you can request this.

Following informal discussion if you are unhappy with the suggested outcome you should proceed to a formal grievance. Informal grievances will not be logged or recorded. It is expected that informal grievances and complaints will be addressed within 2 weeks.

Raising a formal Formal Grievance

If the matter is serious/urgent and/or you wish to raise the matter formally, you should set out the complaint, grievance or code of conduct violation in writing to the Code of Conduct Committee ([email protected]). 

All reports will be reviewed by the Code of Conduct Committee and will be kept confidential.

The Code of Conduct Committee shall consist of 

  • President (or Vice President)
  • Secretary
  • Chair (or co chair) of Inclusivity and Diversity Working Group

If the grievance is against any member of the committee, please approach a single member of the committee so that an alternative trustee can be appointed to form a three trustee committee to process the incident report. The Code of Conduct Committee will aim to resolve your complaint within 4 weeks. If you are unable to contact any member of the Code of Conduct Committee then please approach another trustee who will help form a panel.

What to Include in my Complaint

You should stick to the facts, present any evidence you wish to be considered and avoid language that is insulting or abusive. In your report, please do your best to include:

  • Your contact information
  • Identifying information of the reported person
  • If you believe this is an ongoing situation 
  • Details of the behaviour being reported
  • If applicable, the location of the incident
  • The approximate time of the behaviour (if different than the time the report was made)
  • The circumstances surrounding the incident
  • Other people involved or that witnessed the incident
  • If there is a publicly available record (i.e. email thread, Slack messages, Twitter threads)
  • Any additional helpful information

What to do if someone is in physical danger?

If you believe someone is in physical danger, please ask a Code of Conduct Committee member, Society Trustee, event staff, or any Society volunteer (e.g. a member of the Conference Committee) to contact appropriate emergency responders. In the case of an event, all event organizers should, before the event, determine who would be appropriate to contact in case of an incident and make sure this information is available at all times over  the duration of the event in question.

Once the incident has been resolved, we ask that it be reported to the Code of Conduct Committee in the same way as all other incidents.

Enforcement manual

The following section details the enforcement manual followed by the Society of Research Software Engineering Code of Conduct Committee. It is used when we respond to an issue to make sure we are consistent and fair on every instance. Enforcement should be respectful and not include any harassing behaviours.

The Code of Conduct Committee

All formal grievances, complaints or reports of code of conduct violations will be managed by the Code of Conduct committee, which is designated by the Society trustees and should be composed of at least three members.  The committee members will be rectified or selected on an annual basis by the Society trustees after the AGM has taken place and any newly elected members are confirmed. 

The current Code of Conduct Committee is formed of Paul Richmond (President, [email protected] ), Fouzhan Hosseini (Diversity Inclusion and Accessibility Co-lead, [email protected]) and Teri Forey (Secretary, [email protected]).

How will the committee respond to formal complaints?

When a formal complaint is sent to the Code of Conduct Committee they will reply to the report to confirm receipt within 24 hours. If a report does not contain enough information, the committee will attempt to obtain all relevant data before acting, including contacting any individuals involved to get a comprehensive account of events.  Once a report has been filed one of the committee members will be assigned as the main acting member responsible for any communications with the involved individual(s) and the Society trustees.

The Code of Conduct Committee is also empowered to act if any of its members becomes aware of behaviour that violates the Code of Conduct without a report being made. This includes ongoing incidents that, taken as a whole over a long time period, are disrupting or harassing. Such behaviour might not be “over the line” in any single incident, and thus may not generate a report.

Immediate response to formal complaints

The initial response to a complaint is very important. Depending on the severity and details of the incident, an immediate response may be required.

In situations involving physical danger or involving a threat to anyone’s safety, any member of the Code of Conduct Committee may – and should – act immediately to protect the safety of the individual(s) in such a situation. This can include contacting law enforcement or crisis resources.

In situations where an individual committee member acts immediately, they must inform the other committee members as soon as possible, and report their actions to the committee for review within 24 hours.

Ongoing incidents

If the complaint refers to action which is ongoing, whether in person or online, any committee member may act immediately and employ any of the tools available to the community member to diffuse the situation including bans and blocks. In situations where an individual committee member acts immediately, they must inform the other committee members as soon as possible, and report their actions to the committee for review within 24 hours.

Less-urgent situations

Once a formal complaint is filed, the committee will review the incident and determine, to the best of their ability:

  • Whether this is an ongoing situation
  • Whether there is a threat to anyone’s physical safety
  • What happened
  • Whether this complaint constitutes a code of conduct violation
  • Who, if anyone, was the bad actor
  • Whether any communications should be made to the wider community

This information will be collected in writing, and whenever possible the committee’s deliberations will be recorded and retained (i.e. email discussions, recorded voice conversations, etc).

The Code of Conduct Committee should aim to have a resolution agreed upon within one week. In the event that a resolution can’t be determined at that time, the committee will respond to the reporter(s) with an update and a projected timeline for resolution.

Resolutions involving complaints against members

The Code of conduct Committee must agree on a resolution by consensus of all members investigating the report in question. If the committee cannot reach a consensus over the one week period, this matter will be presented to all of the Society trustees for a final resolution.

Possible outcomes may include:

  • Taking no further action (if it is determined that there was no violation).
  • A private reprimand from the committee to the individual(s) involved. In this case, the Society President will deliver that reprimand to the individual(s) over email, cc’ing the committee.
  • Ending a talk that violates the Code of Conduct early
  • A public announcement of an incident, ideally in the same venue that the violation occurred.
  • Immediately ending any event, volunteer responsibilities and privileges the individual(s) hold(s).
  • An imposed suspension from the Society platforms. The Society President will communicate this suspension to the individual(s). They’ll be asked to take this vacation voluntarily, but if they don’t agree then a temporary ban may be imposed to enforce this vacation.
  • A permanent or temporary ban from some or all Society spaces.
  • Assistance to the complainant with a report to other bodies, for example, institutional offices or appropriate law enforcement agencies.

Once a resolution is agreed upon, but before it is enacted, the Code of Conduct Committee will contact the original reporter and any other affected parties and explain the proposed resolution. The committee will ask if this resolution is acceptable, and must note feedback for the record. However, the committee is not required to act on this feedback.

Finally the committee will make a report to the Society trustees. The Code of Conduct Committee will never publicly discuss the details of the issue; all public statements will be made by the Society President.

Resolutions for complaints against Trustees

In addition to the above complaints against members (which may also be applied to trustees where appropriate), further possible sanctions may be imposed against Trustees. A report on the findings of any investigation, along with any recommendations, will be brought to a closed session of the Board of Trustees. Possible sanctions available to the Board include, but are not limited to, the following actions, which are listed in no particular order:

  • requirement for the Trustee in question to undertake relevant and appropriate training
  • removal of lead responsibility position
  • formal disciplinary letter recorded on the trustee’s file
  • temporary suspension from the Board pending further investigation
  • request to resign as a trustee of the charity
  • removal of RSE Community membership

If a majority of Trustees are not content that an internal investigation has been, or can be, suitably impartial, they may ask for the board of trustees to consider approaching the NCVO or an equivalent independent body to conduct an independent review.

Any determination for a trustee to resign will be made by the Code of Conduct Committee recommending a trustee board a vote of no confidence against the trustee in which the dispute is raised. The no confidence vote will follow the CIO Constitution guidance on voting. The no confidence is not legally binding; however if the trustee does not resign their position then the trustee board must put forward (after a period of 4 weeks to allow for appeals) a formal resolution to remove the trustee in accordance with the CIO Constitution clause 15.2, unless doing so is likely to cause substantial harm to the Society or its members, or to force the disclosure of confidential information. 

Conflicts of interests

In the event of any conflict of interest (a committee member, their family member, or someone with whom the committee member has a close academic or employment relationship is involved in a complaint), the committee member must immediately notify the other members, and recuse themselves if necessary.  

Appeal of formal Grievance

If you are unhappy with the outcome of the formal grievance and reject the proposed resolution then you have the right to appeal. In such a case three alternative trustees will be appointed to review your case following the above process. If no suitable trustees can be appointed due to conflicts of interest, then a committee will be formed by a former Society President (or association Chair) to be made up of previous trustees. The result of this decision will be final.

Complaints Directly to the Charity Commission

If you wish to make a complaint about the Society directly to the Charity Commission you are encouraged to first raise this using the policy set out above.

If you wish to formally complain to the Charity Commission then you should follow the Charity Commission Guidance on Raising Serious Concerns (the link provided gives examples of what constitutes a serious concern): https://forms.charitycommission.gov.uk/raising-concerns/