To create a framework for management of grievances about staff, members or officials of the VFF that is open for use by any individual person.
The VFF aims to create and maintain an environment in which its elected officials, members and staff collaborate to implement strategy and deliver services to achieve the aims of farmers and the agriculture sector in Victoria. To achieve this a positive work environment and culture are required. This policy provides a transparent, accessible and effective means of resolving grievances.
3.1.1. All grievances are treated seriously and addressed quickly and objectively.
3.1.2. All grievances remain confidential.
3.1.3. All grievances are managed in accordance with the VFF’s legal obligations under discrimination and work health and safety legislation and common law.
3.1.4. A grievance may be lodged with the CEO by any person at any time in writing using the approved template. Subject to clause
3.4.2, grievances concerning the CEO should be lodged with the Company Secretary.
3.1.5. The framework is not intended to be definitive, or prescriptive. It describes some options and processes that may be used to resolve grievances. These processes may be applied flexibly to suit circumstances, and other processes may be used instead.
3.1.6. The Board, subject to the constitution, an absolute discretion as to how the VFF manages a particular grievance;
3.2.1. Any person that thinks they are being treated unfairly or inappropriately in any way during a formal VFF activity, or as part of interacting with an elected official, member or employee, may lodge a grievance with the VFF CEO.
3.2.2. The CEO may only accept a grievance where conduct of elected officials, member or employees is reported as potentially:
18.104.22.168. Harassment, vilification or bullying;
22.214.171.124. Non-compliance with the VFF Constitution;
126.96.36.199. Non-compliance with an internal policy;
188.8.131.52. Non-compliance with a reasonable direction of the CEO, including;
184.108.40.206. Non-compliance with the rules of debate, charter or terms of reference of a council, committee or forum;
220.127.116.11. Non-compliance by elected officials, members or employees with obligations of a contract signed by the CEO;
18.104.22.168. Potentially bringing the VFF into disrepute;
22.214.171.124. Non compliance with a sanction issued by the CEO or Board.
3.2.3. A grievance will not be accepted if it relates to:
126.96.36.199. Matters of external general agricultural policy; or
188.8.131.52. A strategy or governance decision by the Board or management decision by the CEO.
3.3.1. The VFF will make the utmost effort to keep any grievance which is reported to it as confidential as reasonably possible.
3.3.2. Members should not discuss a grievance as this risks the application of natural justice principles, the outcome of the investigation and can impact adversely on the VFF and everyone involved.
3.3.3. Any person who has raised a grievance, is the subject of a grievance, is involved in an investigation as a witness to a grievance or otherwise knows of the grievance must always, unless required as part of an investigation, keep confidential all matters relating to the grievance including:
– the fact that a grievance has been raised.
– the name of the person raising the grievance (Complainant).
– the name of the person/s who is the subject of the grievance (Respondent).
– the name of any witness/es to the grievance.
– the nature of the grievance; and
– any findings or other decisions of the Grievance Investigator or Board.
3.3.4. This confidentiality obligation does not preclude:
184.108.40.206. A member initially discussing their grievance in confidence with another person within the VFF or an external advisor, as part of deciding whether to raise a grievance.
220.127.116.11. Any matter relating to a grievance being disclosed to the Board.
18.104.22.168. The Board discussing a grievance to determine any appropriate formal action to be taken.
22.214.171.124. Disclosing any grievance by the CEO or Board for the purpose of an investigation or to seek legal advice.
126.96.36.199. The CEO or Board disclosing any disciplinary sanction resulting from a substantiated grievance; and/or
188.8.131.52. Any person disclosing any matter relating to a grievance if required to do so by law or in the context of legal proceedings.
3.3.5. Notwithstanding anything set out above, the Board has the right to waive, in part or in whole, the above confidentiality obligations if it considers it is in the interests of the VFF to do so.
3.3.6. Non-compliance of the confidentiality obligations where they apply with respect to a grievance constitutes a breach of the Code of Conduct.
3.4.1. All grievances about elected officials, members or staff will be investigated by the CEO.
3.4.2. Grievances about the CEO will be investigated by the Board.
3.4.3. The Board may request that the CEO commence a grievance investigation if it is of the view that a member has acted in a way that is unfair, inappropriate or risks bringing the VFF into disrepute.
3.4.4. The CEO may convene a Grievance Panel to assist in the investigation of the grievance that comprises the VFF President, Vice President and an independent director nominated by the Board. When appropriate, or the grievance involves a member of the panel, other Board members or external advisors may be appointed by the CEO.
3.4.5. If, given the nature of the grievance and the parties involved, a member of the Grievance Panel has a conflict of interest, the CEO may appoint another member of the Board in their place.
3.4.6. When a Grievance Panel is convened, it becomes the Grievance Investigator for the purposes of this policy that chaired by the CEO. When a Panel is not convened, the CEO is the Grievance Investigator.
3.4.7. The CEO will acknowledge receipt of a grievance within 24 hours and whether or not it is accepted.
3.4.8. The Grievance Investigator should initially consider whether the grievance is sufficiently serious that notification of Victoria Police or other regulator is appropriate.
3.4.9. If a grievance is accepted, the Grievance Investigator will initiate and investigation into the grievance, including the collection of information and evidence about the grievance from a range of sources, including electronic, interviews, online and social media.
3.4.10. After a grievance is accepted, the Grievance Investigator will contact the Complainant with a view to establishing the basis and details of the grievance. The Complainant may be asked to provide documentary evidence of the complaint.
3.4.11. The Grievance Investigator will seek to classify the information and accept evidence as either primary (independently documented, or at least three independent verification sources) secondary (undocumented, or one or two separate independent verification sources) or circumstantial (not able to be independently verified). Independent corroboration of disputed circumstantial evidence is highly recommended before it is accepted.
3.4.12. The principles of natural justice apply to the investigation process.
3.4.13. Unsubstantiated grievances: A grievance is deemed unsubstantiated when evidence verifies the allegation is not accurate and found to be not valid, or there is insufficient acceptable evidence to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the allegation is accurate and valid.
3.4.14. Substantiated grievances: A grievance is deemed substantiated when evidence verifies the allegation is accurate and is found to be valid.
3.4.15. A member that is the subject of a grievance investigation will be advised in writing about the results of the investigation and any findings.
3.4.16. A member deemed to have a grievance substantiated against them is subject to sanctions in accordance with Policy M3: Member Sanctions.
3.4.17. An employee deemed to deemed to have a grievance substantiated against them is subject to sanctions in accordance with employment law, their employment contract, and VFF internal policy.
3.4.18. The outcome of any substantiated or unsubstantiated grievance process may be:
3.5.1. Both substantiated and unsubstantiated grievances may require resolution of some form whether or not sanctions are applied. There are different options for resolving grievances. The Grievance Investigator has the discretion as to whether:
– A decision that a grievance is substantiated or unsubstantiated;
– A decision about the application of sanctions when the grievance is substantiated;
– A mediated or unmediated compromise between the parties involved about the issues raised;
– A public statement by the VFF; and/or
– No action being taken.
184.108.40.206. Accept and/or engage in any grievance investigation process concerning a grievance.
220.127.116.11. Engage in a informal or formal resolution process;
18.104.22.168. Engage external specialist advisors to assist it to resolve a grievance within either the informal or formal process. This might include, for example, engaging an advisor to investigate the grievance and make findings of fact and/or law, an advisor to conciliate or mediate between the parties or an advisor to provide legal advice.
3.5.2. If it is established that a breach of the Code of Conduct or other VFF policy has occurred, or if a Respondent has otherwise acted inappropriately, the Grievance Investigator may apply sanctions against the respondent in accordance with Policy M4: Member Sanctions and that may include directing the Respondent to do one or more of the following:
3.6. Mediation: At any point in the process of resolving a grievance, whether informally or formally, the Grievance Investigator may request the parties attend mediation.
3.7. Informal resolution
3.7.1. Unacceptable conduct can be difficult to understand and manage. If you are concerned that someone else at the VFF is being treated unfairly or inappropriately, you should lodge a grievance with the CEO.
3.7.2. Informal resolution may not require the VFF to investigate or make a formal decision about what has happened, or what the consequences of the grievance should be. However, the Grievance Investigator may help the parties with discussions or other communications or give guidance about appropriate next steps. It may also bring in an external mediator to assist the parties to resolve their issues.
3.7.3. Informal resolution shall be the preferred option where the Grievance Investigator is satisfied there are reasonable prospects of resolution by informal process and the conditions for formal resolution may not apply. This approach would apply where the grievance is of a relatively minor nature such as rudeness, personality clashes, name calling etc.
3.7.4. The Complainant may request written or verbal support from the Grievance Investigator to ask the Respondent to cease unacceptable conduct.
3.7.5. Informal resolution may involve people involved to resolve the issues between themselves.
– Apologise to the person who made the grievance; and/or
– If appropriate, apologise to other Members who may have been offended by the Member’s actions that led to the grievance being made; and/or
– Attend training on discrimination, harassment and/or bullying, or other relevant training program.
– For unacceptable conduct, the Grievance Investigator may apply sanctions up to and including recommending to the Board that a membership be terminated.
This may involve all or one of the following:
3.8. Formal resolution:
3.8.1. Formal resolution processes are used in instances of serious misconduct or conflict between members. This would include breaches of the various VFF HR policies such as instances of Sexual Harassment, Bullying and Discrimination. A formal process would also apply where physical violence has been threatened or occurred, where personal safety has been seriously compromised or where there is an accusation of fraudulent or unlawful conduct.
3.8.2. Formal resolution will follow a formal investigation and findings of fact on the balance of probabilities. It may also involve an opinion on the legal position based on findings of fact.
3.8.3. In these matters it is appropriate for the Grievance Investigator to make a formal decision about what has happened and/or decide about what the consequences (if any) of the grievance should be.
3.8.4. A formal resolution process may be suitable if the grievance is about a very serious issue; for example, if it involves:
3.8.5. A formal resolution process may include:
22.214.171.124. The Grievance Investigator appointing an independent legal representative outside of the VFF to undertake this task.
126.96.36.199. Referral to a regulatory agency;
188.8.131.52. Formal mediation;
184.108.40.206. The Grievance Investigator requesting the Complainant to provide a detailed statutory declaration about the grievance. (Such statements have legal implications and must be specific, clear and comprehensive, so that all relevant issues can be considered).
220.127.116.11. The Respondent will be given details of the allegation(s) against him/her and be given a reasonable opportunity to explain his/her side of the story.
18.104.22.168. Other people (witnesses) may be interviewed.
-Exchange of correspondence; and/or
-A informal or formally mediated meeting between the parties involved to attempt to resolve the matter.
-A potential breach of discrimination, or work health and safety legislation.
-A serious breach of the Code of Conduct;
-Several people and /or very serious or complex issues.
22.214.171.124. Notes will be taken of interviews and documents may be collected.
126.96.36.199. After considering the evidence, the Grievance Investigator will make a finding in writing about the grievance on the balance of probabilities and the application of sanctions; and
188.8.131.52. There may be circumstances in which some of the steps outlined above are not appropriate and the Grievance Investigator or Board will determine, with absolute discretion on a case-by-case basis, the most appropriate method of handling the grievance.
3.9. Compliance and reporting
3.9.1. All members are required to comply with the Constitution of the Federation and the relevant codes and internal policies.
3.9.2. This policy is read in conjunction with policies for which acceptance and compliance are a mandatory condition of membership:
3.9.3. The CEO will report to the Board about all grievances submitted, if they are accepted (or not – and for what reason) and the conduct, findings, sanctions or recommendations of any investigation.
3.9.4. Following receipt of information about a grievance by the Board, it has the discretion to make a direction, action or sanction related to that grievance within constitutional and internal policy limitations, including the review of the constitution or internal policy.
3.9.5. The CEO will maintain a record of all grievances received and the outcome.
– M1: Membership;
– M2: Membership terms and conditions;
– M3: Member Code of Conduct; and
– M4: Member Sanctions.
The names of the positions that are accountable for implementing the policy, usually either or both of: