Setting the standard

Complaints Procedure for Communication Professionals

Effective from 1 March 2012


Introduction

IntroductionNRCPD requires that all regulated communication professionals, NRCPD Registered and NRCPD Trainee, abide by the Code of Conduct and accept they are subject to the Complaints Procedure. A complaint may be made if a communication professional is believed to have breached the Code of Conduct.

The Complaints Procedure can be used only for communication professionals regulated by NRCPD. NRCPD will respond to complaints about unregistered communication professionals explaining that action can not be taken.

NRCPD uses records of previous decisions made about complaints and professional advisors to decide if issues raised in new complaints might be a breach of the Code of Conduct. If there is potential for a breach a Complaints Committee is convened.

The Complaints Committee consists of three NRCPD retained professional advisors. The Complaints Committee considers and rules on the complaint. That decision may be appealed to an Appeals Committee formed of three NRCPD retained professional advisors who have not been engaged in considering the complaint at a previous stage in the proceedings.

Both parties to a complaint may attend a meeting of the Complaints Committee to present their case. They are expected to present their own case and may be accompanied by a friend, relative, professional advisor, or colleague for advice and support.

If a party to the complaint chooses to engage the services of a legal professional they, not NRCPD, are responsible for meeting any financial costs incurred. Legal professionals may not represent a party to a complaint at a meeting of a Complaints Committee. They may submit in advance evidence to the Committee on behalf of a party to a complaint, or accompany that party to the meeting of the Complaints Committee.


Stage 1 - Initial Complaint

1.1 1.1 Wherever possible minor complaints should be made during or after the assignment to the communication professional and/or the organisers. Every effort should be made to resolve problems locally.

1.2 1.2 If a complaint cannot be resolved under 1.1, or where a serious breach of the Code of Conduct is alleged, the complaint should be made to NRCPD. All complaints should be sent to the Registration Manager, using the complaints form in Appendix 1. Complaints by video letter should follow the structure of the questions in Appendix 1. Complaints cannot be made by telephone or text telephone, or by fax. Anonymous complaints will not be accepted. Unless there are exceptional circumstances, complaints must be submitted within one month of the assignment.

1.3 1.3 The Registration Manager will decide if the complaint may constitute a breach of the Code of Conduct based on previous decisions and professional advice. The Registration Manager will respond to the party complaining within ten working days. If the issue raised may constitute a breach of the Code of Conduct, a Complaints Committee will be convened to deal with the matter.

1.4 1.4 If a person complaining is not content with the decision of the Registration Manager and can provide substantial and relevant additional information within 20 days of receipt of the decision letter the Registration Manager will reconsider the complaint. The decision of the Registration Manager may be appealed at paragraph 2.1.

1.5 1.5 If a Complaints Committee is to be convened the Registration Manager will:

1.5.1 Contact the complainant and

  • provide them with details of the Complaints Committee process;
  • inform them that their First Statement (Appendix 1) will be shared with the other party and that they will have a further opportunity to respond in a Second Statement before all the papers are sent to the Complaints Committee.

1.5.2 Contact the communication professional and

  • inform them that a complaint against them has been received, outline the details of the complaint and the points of the Code of Conduct that they are alleged to have breached;
  • inform them that a Complaints Committee is to be convened to deal with the matter, and provide details of the Complaints Committee process;
  • request a response to the complaint from their viewpoint (First Statement) by a given deadline;
  • inform them that their First Statement will be shared with the other party and that they will have a further opportunity to respond in a Second Statement before all the papers are sent to the Complaints Committee.

1.5.3 On receipt of the First Statements in 1.5.1 and 1.5.2 these will be sent to the other party and comments requested (Second Statement), both of which will be sent to the Complaints Committee and both parties prior to the meeting.


Stage 2 - Complaints Committee

2.1 2.1 All formal complaints will be dealt with by a Complaints Committee including any appeal against a decision that the complaint is not upheld in Stage 1, provided that substantial and relevant additional information is available. The Committee will consist of three NRCPD retained professional advisors excluding any who has previously been involved in the complaint. One advisor will be chosen to chair the Committee. The Committee will have the power to obtain or refer to further professional expertise if it deems this to be necessary.

2.2 2.2 The Registration Manager will inform all parties to a complaint of the date on which their case will be considered by the Complaints Committee. This is likely to be approximately two months from the date on which both parties are contacted in 1.5 above.

2.3 2.3 If the Registration Manager or Chair of the Complaints Committee determine that the nature of the allegations warrants such action, the communication professional's registration may be suspended, without prejudice, pending the outcome of the Complaint Committee's consideration of the complaint.

2.4 2.4 The Complaints Committee will review all the available information. It has the following options:

2.4.1 Reject the complaint on the grounds that it is unfounded. No record will be kept.

2.4.2 Uphold the complaint without taking disciplinary action if, for example, the communication professional was working under difficult conditions but did his/her best to provide an acceptable service. It will be at the discretion of the Complaints Committee whether a record is kept on file.

2.4.3 Uphold the complaint and issue one or a combination of the following sanctions:

2.4.3.1 A formal written warning indicating ways in which similar breaches can be avoided in future.

2.4.3.2 A requirement to undertake appropriate Continuing Professional Development (CPD).

2.4.3.3 A fine to recoup costs incurred in considering the complaint.

2.4.3.4 A suspension from the Register for a period to be determined by the Committee of up to twelve months.

2.4.3.5 Removal from the Register.

2.4.4 Sanctions issued in response to upheld complaints will be published on the NRCPD website and a record will be kept on file.

2.5 2.5 Where a communication professional has outstanding sanctions from previous complaints on file, the Complaints Committee will be informed of this when they have upheld the complaint and are considering which sanction (at 2.4.3) to apply.

2.6 2.6 The Complaints Committee Chair will send a report to the Registration Manager summarising the case, outlining the decision made and sanctions imposed (if any). On receipt of the report the Registration Manager will inform the complainant and the communication professional against whom the complaint was made of the Committee's findings, wherever possible, within two weeks of the decision being taken.

2.7 2.7 Where the complaint is upheld and recorded on file, the record will remain for the period of the suspension or a period of up to two years determined by the Complaints Committee, whichever is the greater. After that period, unless removal from the Register is permanent, the record will be removed.

2.8 2.8 Where a communication professional does not comply fully with sanctions that are applied as the result of the complaints procedure, the matter will be referred to the Complaints Committee as gross professional misconduct.

2.9 2.9 Where a communication professional is found to have committed gross professional misconduct, the Complaints Committee will issue the sanction at 2.4.3.5


Stage 3 - Appeals Committee

3.1 3.1 If either the complainant or the communication professional is not satisfied with the Complaints Committee's decision and wants to appeal, s/he must appeal within twenty-eight days of the date of the communication in 2.6 by letter, email or video letter, to the Registration Manager stating the grounds for appeal. On receipt of the appeal, the Registration Manager will convene an Appeals Panel consisting of three retained professional advisors who have no prior knowledge of the complaint.

3.2 3.2 Grounds for appeal are:

3.2.1 errors in the procedure or conduct of the Complaints Committee;

3.2.2 availability of substantial and relevant new evidence.

3.3 3.3 The Appeals Committee will consider the appeal within two months of the receipt of the communication in 3.1. The person making the appeal may be invited to submit further information prior to the case being considered by the Appeals Committee.

3.4 3.4 The Appeals Committee will review the grounds for appeal and agree to one of the following:

3.4.1 They may find in favour of the appellant and overturn the original decision. In that case they will determine appropriate sanctions, if necessary, following the procedures in 2.4.2, 2.4.3 and 2.4.4 above.

3.4.2 They may agree with the original decision but, where relevant, change the sanction imposed.

3.4.3 They may agree with the original decision and, where relevant, the sanction imposed.

3.5 3.5 The Appeals Committee Chair will send a report to the Registration Manager outlining the outcome of the appeal and any changes to the sanctions imposed where relevant. Within two weeks the Registration Manager will inform both parties to the complaint of the decision, and take any action that is required concerning the communication professional's registration status.

3.6 3.6 Following the decision of the Appeals Committee the communication professional's file will be amended appropriately where necessary.


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