Principles of Good Complaint Handling

Acting fairly and proportionately

Public bodies should do the following:

  • Understand and respect the diversity of their customers and ensure fair access to services regardless of background or circumstances.
  • Investigate complaints thoroughly and fairly, basing their decisions on the available facts and evidence, and avoiding undue delay. Public bodies should deal with complaints objectively, fairly and consistently, so that similar circumstances are handled similarly. Any different decisions about two similar complaints should be justified by the circumstances of the complaint or complainant.
  • Seek to ensure, where a complaint relates to an ongoing relationship between the public body and complainant, that staff do not treat the complainant any differently during or after the complaint.
  • Avoid taking a rigid, process-driven, ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to complaint handling, and ensure the response to an individual complaint is proportionate to the circumstances. This means taking into account the seriousness of the issues raised, the effect on the complainant, and whether any others may have suffered injustice or hardship as a result of the same problem.
  • Ask a member of staff who was not involved in the events leading to the complaint to review the case. The public body can still put things right quickly for the complainant where appropriate.
  • Act fairly towards staff as well as customers. This means ensuring members of staff know they have been complained about and, where appropriate, have an opportunity to respond.

A minority of complainants can be unreasonably persistent or behave unacceptably in pursuing their complaints. Public bodies should have arrangements for managing unacceptable behaviour.