The purpose of this Policy is to ensure that Australasian Legal Practice Management Association (ALPMA, the Company, we, us) handle complaints fairly, transparently, efficiently and effectively.
This Policy provides guidance to anyone who wishes to make a complaint on the key principles and concepts of ALPMA’s Complaint Management System.
This Policy applies to any Authorised Person receiving or managing complaints from our members, partners, members of the public and others regarding our offering, services, events, partners, staff, volunteers.
Where a complaint is between our members or a member and the Company, section 27 of our Constitution will be considered and followed to the extent necessary and possible in consideration of all circumstances.
3. Organisational Commitment
We are committed to fair, transparent, effective and efficient complaint handling.
It is important to us to ensure that complaints are heard and understood and respected.
We aim to produce favourable outcomes for all parties involved.
4. Terms and Definitions
Authorised Person – ALPMA’s company secretary, a director of the board, a volunteer or staff member appointed by ALPMA from time to time.
Complaint – an expression of dissatisfaction or concern made to or about us, our services, staff or the handling of a complaint where a response or resolution is explicitly or implicitly expected or legally required.
Complaint Management system – all policies, procedures, practices, document, staff, hardware and software used by us in the management of complaints.
Dispute – an unresolved complaint escalated either within or outside of our organisation.
Feedback – opinions, comments and expressions of interest or concern, made directly or indirectly, explicitly or implicitly, to or about us, about our services or Complaint Management System where a response is not explicitly or implicitly expected or legally required.
Grievance – a clear, formal written statement by an individual staff member or a work-related problem.
Policy – a statement of instruction that sets out how we should fulfil our vision, mission and goals.
Procedure – a statement or instruction that sets out how our policies will be implemented and by whom.
5. Guiding Principles
An effective Complaint Management System must be modelled on the principles of fairness, accessibility, responsiveness, transparency, efficiency and integration into organisational culture.
6. Facilitating Complaints
a. People focus
We are committed to seeking and receiving feedback and complaints about our services, events, partners, systems, practices, procedures and complaint management.
Any concerns raised in feedback or complaints will be dealt with as soon as reasonably practicable, taking into consideration the nature of the feedback or complaint.
People making complaints will be:
- provided with information about our complaint management process and how to access it, if required;
- listened to, treated with respect by us and actively involved in the complaint process where possible and appropriate; and
- where appropriate, provided with reasons for our decision(s) and any options for redress or review.
b. No detriment to people making complaints
We will take all reasonable steps to ensure that people making complaints are not adversely affected because a complaint has been made.
c. Anonymous complaints
We accept anonymous complaints and will carry out a confidential investigation of the issues raised where there is sufficient information provided.
We will ensure that information about how and where complaints may be made to or about us is well publicised and easily accessible on our website. We will ensure that our systems to manage complaints are easily understood, transparent and accessible to everyone. Our Annual Report will also provide transparency to our members in respect of the number of nature of complaints received in any given year.
e. Responding to complaints
i. Early resolution
Where possible, complaints will be resolved at first contact with us.
We will promptly acknowledge receipt of complaints – usually within 48 hours of receipt.
We will assess and prioritise complaints in accordance with the urgency and/or seriousness of the issues raised. If a matter concerns an immediate risk to safety or security, the response will be immediate and escalated appropriately.
We are committed to managing people’s expectations, and where we are able to do so, we will inform them as soon as possible of the following:
- the complaints process;
- expected time frames for our actions;
- the progress of the complaint and reasons for any delay;
- their likely involvement in the process; and
- the possible or likely outcome of the complaint.
We will advise people as soon as possible when we are unable to deal with any part of their complaint and provide advice about where such issues and/or complaints may be directed (if known and appropriate to do so).
We will also advise people as soon as possible when we are unable to meet our time frames for responding to their complaint and the reason for our delay.
iii. Objectivity and fairness
We will address each complaint with integrity and in an equitable, objective and unbiased manner.
Conflicts of interest, whether actual or perceived, will be managed responsibly. In the instance of an actual or perceived conflict of interest, an internal review of how a complaint was managed will be conducted by a person other than original decision maker.
iv. Responding flexibly
We are empowered to resolve complaints promptly with as little formality as possible. We will adopt flexible approaches to service delivery and problem solving to enhance accessibility for people making complaints.
We will assess each complaint on its merits and involve people making complaints in the process as far as possible.
We will protect the identity of people making complaints where this is practical and appropriate in the circumstances.
7. Managing Parties to a Complaint
a. Managing unreasonable conduct by people making complaints
We are committed to being accessible and responsive to all people who approach us with feedback or complaints. At the same time, our success depends on:
- our ability to do our work and perform our functions in the most effective and efficient way possible; and
- our ability to allocate our resources fairly across all complaints we receive.
The complainant(s) and stakeholders are required to act with the same integrity and solutions-orientate intention as per ALPMA’s approach to the complaint. When people behave unreasonably in their dealings with us, that conduct can significantly affect the progress and efficiency of the complaints handling process. As a result, we reserve the right to manage inappropriate conduct throughout the complaints handling process as the circumstances may require.
b. Alternative avenues for dealing with complaints
We will inform people who make complaints to or about us about any external options available to them. These external options may incur expenses and the nature of those expenses may be incurred by the complainant.
This Policy and Procedure is to assist with the resolution of complaints within ALPMA. However, nothing in this Policy or Procedure is intended to affect the right of a person to approach a relevant external body in relation to their concerns.
8. Accountability and Learning
a. Analysis and evaluation of complaints
We will ensure that complaints are recorded in a systematic way so that information can easily be retrieved for reporting and analysis by the Governance, Risk & Nominations Committee.
We will regularly run reports on:
- the number of complaints received;
- the outcome of complaints;
- issues arising from complaints; and
- systemic issues identified.
Regular analysis of these reports will be undertaken to monitor trends, measure the quality of our services, events, partnerships, etc. and make improvements.
Both reports and their analysis will be provided to the Board for review, at least once annually.
9. Monitoring of the Complaint Management System
We will continually monitor our Complaint Management System to:
- ensure its effectiveness in responding to and resolving complaints;
- identify and correct deficiencies in the operation of the system; and
- monitoring may include the use of audits, complaint satisfaction surveys and online listening tools and alerts.
10. Continuous Improvement
We are committed to improving the way we operate, including our management of the effectiveness and efficiency of our Complaint Management System. To this end, we will:
- support the making and appropriate resolution of complaints;
- implement best practices in complaint handling;
- regularly review the Complaint Management System and complaint data; and
- implement appropriate system changes arising out of our analysis of complaints data and continual monitoring of the system.
When responding to complaints, we will act in accordance with this Complaint Management Procedure and any other relevant internal documents providing guidance on the management of specific complaints.
The 5 key stages in our Complaint Management System are set out below:
Unless the complaint has been resolved at the outset, we will record the complaint and its supporting information in a secure platform (currently HubShare) with a unique identifying number (YYMMDD).
The record of the complaint will document:
- contact information of the person making a complaint (unless the person has chosen to remain anonymous) and the date received;
- issues raised by the person making a complaint and the outcome they want (if applicable); and
- any other relevant information.
We will acknowledge receipt of each complaint promptly, and preferably within 48 hours.
We will communicate with the person making the complaint by email.
c. Assess and Investigate
i. Initial assessment
After acknowledging receipt of the complaint, we will confirm whether the issues raised in the complaint are within our control. We will also consider the outcomes sought by the person making the complaint and, where there is more than one material issue raised, determine whether each issue needs to be separately addressed. When determining how a complaint will be managed, we will consider:
- how serious, complicated or urgent the complaint is;
- whether the complaint raises concerns about people’s health and safety;
- how the person making the complaint is being affected;
- the risks involved if resolution of the complaint is delayed; and
- whether a resolution requires the involvement of other organisations.
ii. Investigating the complaint
After assessing the complaint, we will consider how to manage it. We may:
- give the person who made the complaint information or an explanation;
- gather information about the issue, person or area that the complaint is about; or
- investigative the claims made in the complaint.
We will keep the complainant updated on our progress (so far as reasonably practicable in the circumstances), particularly if there are any delays. We will also communicate the outcome of the complaint via email. The actions we decide to take will be carefully considered and communicated accordingly.
d. Determine outcome and provide reasons for decision
Following consideration of the complaint and any investigation into the issues raised, we will contact the person making the complaint and, where possible, advise them:
- the outcome of the complaint and any action;
- the reason for our decision;
- the remedy or resolution/s that we have proposed or put in place; and
- options for review that may be available to the complainant, which may include external review options or management by another Authorised Person within ALPMA (who was not involved in the complaint, investigation and decision making process).
There may be circumstances where it is not appropriate to disclose the actions we have take to address a complaint, or our reasons for those actions (for example, where the complaint and subsequent actions or decisions may involve confidential information or may cause detriment to an individual). ALPMA will always carefully consider each complaint and the most appropriate manner to address those complaints to ensure a fair outcome for all parties involved.
e. Close the complaint: document and analyse data
We will keep records about:
- how we managed the complaint;
- the outcome of the complaint (including whether it or any aspect of it was substantiated, and any recommendations made to address problems identified and any decisions made on those recommendations); and
- any outstanding actions to be followed up, including analysing any underlying or root causes.
ii. Analyse data
We will ensure that outcomes are properly implemented, monitored and reported to the Chair of the Governance, Risk & Nominations Committee.