Redress of Individual Grievances




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JSP 831





Redress of Individual Grievances:


Service Complaints

Issue 1.0
MINISTRY OF DEFENCE

November 2007


CONTENTS


Throughout the document, the male gender is used to describe both male and female personnel




Redress of Individual Grievances:

November 2007/ Issue 1.0

CHAPTER 1 - INTRODUCTION

SCOPE


LEGAL BASIS

TRANSITIONAL ARRANGEMENTS

PRINCIPLES

KEY FEATURES OF SERVICE COMPLAINTS PROCESS

CHAPTER 2 - SUBMITTING A SERVICE COMPLAINT

GENERAL


COMPLETING A COMPLAINTS Form

ALLEGATIONS BY THIRD PARTIES

DISCRIMINATION, HARASSMENT OR BULLYING COMPLAINTS

MEDICAL COMPLAINTS

PAY AND ALLOWANCE COMPLAINTS

COMPLAINTS ABOUT APPRAISAL REPORTS

EXCLUDED COMPLAINTS

CHAPTER 3 - LEVEL 1: THE COMMANDING OFFICER

THE COMMANDING OFFICER (CO)

PRE-DECISION PROCEDURES

DECISION – DECIDING THE COMPLAINT

POST-DECISION PROCEDURES

CHAPTER 4 - LEVEL 2: THE SUPERIOR OFFICER

THE SUPERIOR OFFICER (SO)

PRE-DECISION PROCEDURES

DECISION – DECIDING THE COMPLAINT

POST-DECISION PROCEDURES

CHAPTER 5 – LEVEL 3: THE DEFENCE COUNCIL

GENERAL

SINGLE SERVICE BOARD



THE SERVICE COMPLAINTS PANEL

FUNCTION OF A SERVICE COMPLAINTS PANEL

PRE DECISION PROCEDURES

ORAL HEARINGS

DECISION – DECIDING THE COMPLAINT

POST DECISION PROCEDURES

ReferENCE OF Complaint TO THE SOVEREIGN

REPORTING

CHAPTER 6 - THE SECRETARIAT

THE SECRETARIAT

CENTRAL SECRETARIAT

CONTACT WITH THE SERVICE COMPLAINTS COMMISSIONER

RECORDING COMPLAINTS ON JPA

CHAPTER 7 - THE SERVICE COMPLAINTS COMMISSIONER (THE Commissioner)

INTRODUCTION

TERMS OF REFERENCE

COMMISSIONER REFERRED ALLEGATIONS

SECTIONS 334 TO 339 OF THE ARMED FORCES ACT 2006

The Armed Forces (Redress of Individual Grievances) Regulations 2007

The Armed Forces (Service Complaints Commissioner) Regulations 2007

TRANSITIONAL ARRANGEMENTS

SERVICE COMPLAINTS FORM

FLOW DIAGRAMS OF SERVICE COMPLAINTS PROCESS

COMPLAINTS MADE OUTSIDE THE TIME LIMITS

ROLE AND RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE ASSISTING OFFICER (AO)

GUIDANCE FOR INVESTIGATING OFFICERS

ORAL HEARINGS


CHAPTER 1 - INTRODUCTION




SCOPE

1. The aim of this JSP is to provide guidance on the procedures to follow in order that statutory complaints (Service complaints) raised by Service personnel and former Service personnel are handled and resolved in accordance with legislation, using a process that is efficient, fair and transparent. This guidance is not legally authoritative and legal advice should be sought on the meaning of the relevant legislation.


2. The information in this publication is aimed at all those involved in processing or deciding a Service complaint, as well as the individual seeking redress.
3. This JSP deals with Service complaints seeking redress of individual grievance under sections 334 to 339 of the Armed Forces Act 20061 (The Act), the related Statutory Instruments and Defence Council Regulations 20072. The system came into effect on 1 Jan 08.
4. Arrangements for dealing with complaints of discrimination, harassment and bullying are contained in JSP 763 (The MOD Harassment Complaints Procedure), which covers both Service and civilian personnel.

LEGAL BASIS

5. The Act gives a person subject to Service law3 who thinks he has been wronged in any matter relating to his Service4, a statutory right to make a Service complaint. It also gives such a right to a person who is no longer subject to Service law, who thinks that he was wronged in such a matter while he was subject to Service law. Under the Defence Council Regulations, a Service complaint can only be made by an individual; there is no procedure for group complaints5.



TRANSITIONAL ARRANGEMENTS

6. Transitional Arrangements are contained in Annex E. Where any doubt exists as to how transitional arrangements are to be interpreted the matter should be referred to the single Service or central secretariat (See Chapter 6).



PRINCIPLES



7. Resolution. The intent is that complaints are dealt with at the lowest level possible and resolution achieved quickly and, where possible, informally. Every effort should be made, where appropriate, to resolve a complaint informally, but the making of a Service complaint in accordance with the legislation is a legal right6 and a person who is in the process of seeking an informal resolution should be aware that they have the right to submit a Service complaint at any time within the time limits. The difference between a Service complaint and an informal complaint is explained in Chapter 2. Redress, where justified, should be granted at the lowest possible level, within powers to do so7.
8. Justice. All those involved in the Service complaints process should act fairly, openly, without bias, in a reasoned manner and avoid unnecessary delay. A person who is the subject8 of or implicated in a complaint must have the opportunity to state their case and to correct or contradict any information relevant to their case. An individual who is the subject of a complaint should be given full details of any allegation made against him and a reasonable opportunity to respond. The complainant should be given reasonable opportunity to comment on or correct any information that might be relied on in coming to a decision on a complaint. It is important that a Service person feels free to exercise their right to make a complaint, without fear of victimisation or other inappropriate behaviour.
9. Investigation. Each complaint should be investigated to establish the facts as clearly as possible and details accurately recorded. Posting or discharge is not to be considered as a valid basis for excluding an individual from any inquiries.
10. Information and Disclosure. The principle of providing information and disclosure to the complainant and any other person who might be affected by the outcome of the complaint is an important aspect of the redress process. The prescribed officer9 (normally the commanding officer (CO)) will provide with his decision any information relied on to make a decision, so that all those who might be affected by a complaint understand the basis of the decision. Subsequently, if the complaint is to be considered at other levels by the Superior Officer (SO) or at the Defence Council level10, all documentation and information received that may be relevant to a decision will be disclosed before a decision is made on the complaint. The complainant and others who may be affected by the outcome of the complaint are offered the opportunity to see and comment upon the disclosed documents and information. Disclosure is subject to exclusions where appropriate and consistent with Information Rights legislation, i.e. the Data Protection Act 1998, the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and the Environment Information Regulations. Privileged and protected information and advice is not to be disclosed or paraphrased, except when advised to do so by the relevant legal adviser. If doubt exists on any aspect of disclosure, legal advice should be sought from the appropriate Service legal adviser. All disclosure should be in accordance with the MOD policy and advice sought as necessary from DG Info.
11. Delay. Unreasonable delay is unacceptable. In minimising delay, all those involved in the Service complaints process should ensure that this is not achieved at the expense of justice or appropriate investigation. All those involved in the Service complaints process have a responsibility to be reasonable and to expedite the handling of the complaint by responding to correspondence and requests for information within the timescales specified in Chapters 3, 4 and 5.
12. Standard of Proof. In assessing a complaint, the decision maker at each level must establish if there are sufficient grounds to uphold the complaint. The basis for the decision is the standard of proof used in employment law – it is enough if the person dealing with the case considers that a wrong probably occurred. In other words, at the very least, there must be evidence to show that it was more likely than not that the wrong alleged by the complainant occurred11.
13. Dishonest or Unfounded Complaints. Service complaints will be assumed to have been made in good faith12 and complainants have a right to be protected against victimisation for making such a complaint, even if it is not upheld. Complainants must be satisfied that their complaint is based on objective fact. Complaints should be made honestly and there should be no intent or deliberate act or omission to cause harm, distress or nuisance. Dishonest or unfounded complaints, that show intent or deliberate acts or omissions to cause harm, distress or nuisance may in themselves constitute harassment and if found to be groundless, could result in administrative or disciplinary action being taken against the complainant. Legal advice should be sought in deciding if a complaint is dishonest, in which case the complaint should be rejected and the complainant informed in writing. If any doubt exists about whether a complaint is dishonest or groundless, it should be treated as a valid complaint.

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