Skip to content Exit mobile menu

Employer Complaints Procedure

Last updated: September 2021, Review Date: August 2023

This procedure enables employers to draw concerns to the University’s attention in cases where they believe that the University, a department/service, a programme team, or a member of staff employed by the University has failed to provide an appropriate level of education, service or support to employees of their organisation/company, or are in breach of any formal agreements (e.g. in relation to placements or apprenticeships). In this context, 'employers' means any organisation that has a St Mary's University on a work placement.

Although our advice is that employers try to resolve issues informally in the first instance and at the point at which the issue arises, we recognise that this is not always possible and employers may wish to exercise the right to submit a complaint.

1 General Principles

1.1 The University aims to deal with employer complaints in a manner that:

  • encourages informal conciliation and resolution at a local level to the benefit of all parties where possible;
  • treats complaints fairly, transparently and with appropriate seriousness;
  • is carried out in a reasonable timescale;
  • allows all parties to learn from the experience;
  • is in line with University policies and practices;
  • has due regard to any applicable law;
  • only appropriate/necessary parties will be made aware of the nature of the complaint.

1.2 Whilst noting that there is often complex background to issues that arrive into the Employer Complaints Procedure the procedure is predicated on the concept of reasonable behaviour, which in this context is based on the notion that:

  • complaints will not be made for frivolous or mischievous reasons;
  • complaints will not be made in an offensive or abusive manner;
  • the stages outlined below will be followed;
  • complaints will be dealt with in confidence and without fear of recrimination;
  • a complaint which is upheld will be used to improve services.

1.3 Anonymous complaints will not be accepted.

1.4 The University reserves the right to reject complaints which it judges malicious, vexatious, frivolous or which lack clear grounds for further consideration. In such cases, the reasons will be given in writing to the complainant, a copy of which will be provided to complaints@stmarys.ac.uk.

1.5 Where complaints concern a level of service received or an academic matter, it is essential that issues are raised immediately.

1.6 Complaints may arise over the behaviour of a member of staff or a student, or a perceived failing in the University’s provision.

1.7 Issues and concerns about a Department, programme, or course, but which do not amount to a complaint should be brought to the attention of the Head of the Department or Institute concerned.

1.8 EARLY AND LOCAL RESOLUTION: St Mary’s University is committed to the early resolution of complaints wherever possible. Employers must seek to resolve complaints through an appropriate member of staff designated to deal with complaints.

If the matter falls outside the remit of a specific member of staff, employers may seek advice on where to direct your complaint at complaints@stmarys.ac.uk.

1.9 When making a complaint, employers should:

  • follow the correct procedures as set out in the Employer Complaints Policy
  • demonstrate respect
  • indicate the remedy you seek
  • provide written statements on request
  • attend meetings about your complaint with the Course Lead or Head of Department/Institute if required or requested.

If informal resolution does not prove possible, employers will then be able to submit a Stage 1 Complaint as indicated below in Section 2.1. But, you should note that this Complaints Procedure is not a mechanism with which to resolve disputes between individuals.

1.10 If an employer believes that a criminal offence has been committed, then you can report the matter to the police. If you report the incident to the police, employers can still report the incident to the University. The University may be able to take precautionary action while a police investigation is on-going.

1.11 Complaints lodged over 90 days after the act or omission complained of will not be considered.

1.12 Each Department and Service is required to keep a record of complaints received and in concluding a complaint copy in complaints@stmarys.ac.uk.

1.13 At the end of the academic year, each Institute/Faculty is required to include a summary of the complaints received in their respective review processes.

2 The Stages of the Employer Complaints Procedure

There are three possible stages included within the Employer Complaints Procedure at St Mary’s University, as follows:

2.1 Stage 1

2.1.1 Stage 1 of the St Mary’s Employer Complaints Procedure is to be followed when attempts to resolve issues or concerns informally as they arose has not proved successful.

2.1.2 Stage 1 complaints must be submitted in writing as indicated below, but there is no prescriptive form for this, and employers are asked to set out their concerns either by letter or email.

2.1.3 Programme /course-related complaints: If an employer has a complaint about the behaviour of a staff member or the University’s provision, or a perceived breach of an agreement relating to the educational provision of the University in relation to a programme or apprenticeship you should submit your concerns in writing to complaints@stmarys.ac.uk.

2.1.4 An investigation will be undertaken by an appropriate staff member (appointed by the relevant Manager/Head of Department or Service) who has had no previous involvement in the matter. Where possible the investigating officer will seek to resolve the complaint within 10 working days.

Employers may expect a written response to a Stage 1 complaint within the same 10 working days, or a written notification to advise them of the timescale in which they will receive a full response/proposed way forward. The investigator must send a copy of the Stage 1 outcome letter to complaints@stmarys.ac.uk.

2.1.5 Employers should then respond in writing (directly to the person from whom you received the outcome of your Stage 1 complaint) to indicate whether or not they accept the proposed action(s) to resolve the complaint. If the employer does not respond within 10 working days, they will be considered to have accepted the resolution offered.

2.1.6 Complaints concerning Services or Facilities provided centrally: If the employer’s complaint is about a service provided centrally by the University, they are required to submit their concerns in writing complaints@stmarys.ac.uk.

Central services or facilities are typically provided, for example, by the following:

  • Admissions
  • Apprenticeship Team (e.g. Account Management, ILR Operations)
  • Estates and Facilities (e.g. residential maintenance, grounds, etc.);
  • Finance (e.g. the administration of the collection of fees);
  • Information Services (e.g. the Library, learning resources, etc.);
  • Information Technology (IT infrastructure, Wi-Fi, etc.);
  • Marketing (e.g. website, marketing materials, Open Days);
  • Registry (e.g. academic regulations, exams, module registration, etc.);
  • Student Services (e.g. student accommodation, student funding, counselling, etc.);

2.1.7 An investigation will be undertaken by an appropriate staff member (appointed by the relevant Manager/Head of Department or Service) who has had no previous involvement in the matter. The investigating officer will seek to resolve the complaint within 10 working days. Employers may expect a written response to the Stage 1 complaint within 10 working days, or a written notification to advise you of the timescale in which they will receive a full response/proposed way forward. The investigator should send a copy of the Stage 1 outcome letter to complaints@stmarys.ac.uk.

2.1.8 Employers must respond in writing (directly to the person from whom you received the outcome of your Stage 1 complaint) to indicate whether or not they accept the proposed action(s) to resolve the complaint. If the employer does not respond within 10 working days, they will be considered to have accepted the resolution offered.

2.1.9 Complaints concerning the behaviour or activities of a member of staff (not Programme or Service related): If your complaint concerns the behaviour or activities of a member of staff, and is not related to the content of a programme or a service provided centrally by the University, employers are required to submit their concerns in writing to complaints@stmarys.ac.uk.

2.1.10 An investigation will be undertaken by suitably trained staff member (appointed by the relevant Manager/Head of Department) who has had no previous involvement in the matter.

2.1.11 The investigating officer will seek to resolve the complaint within 10 working days. The employer may expect a written response to the Stage 1 complaint within 10 working days, or a written notification to advise you of the timescale in which you will receive a full response/proposed way forward. The investigator should send a copy of the Stage 1 outcome letter to complaints@stmarys.ac.uk.

2.1.12 The employer must respond in writing (directly to the person from whom they received the outcome of your Stage 1 complaint) to indicate whether or not they accept the proposed action(s) to resolve the complaint. If the employer does not respond within 10 working days, they will be considered to have accepted the resolution offered.

2.1.13 Complaints concerning members of the Senior Management Team (SMT) of St Mary’s University: If you have a complaint in relation to the conduct of a member of the Senior Management Team, you are required to submit your concerns in writing to the relevant line manager, as indicated below:

  • SMT Member: Vice Chancellor. Line Manager: Chair of Board of Governors
  • SMT Member: Provost, Pro Vice Chancellor, Chief Operating Officer, Chief Financial Officer. Line Manager: Vice Chancellor
  • SMT Member: Heads of Academic Department/Institute. Line Manager: Provost
  • SMT Member: Director of Professional Services function. Line Manager: Chief Operating Officer

2.1.14 In all cases of complaints concerning a member of the SMT, an investigation will be undertaken by a member of SLT (or member of the Board of Governors) who has had no previous involvement in the matter. The investigating officer will seek to resolve the complaint within 10 working days. Employers may expect a written response to their Stage 1 complaint within the same 10 working days, or a written notification to advise you of the timescale in which they will receive a full response/proposed way forward. The investigator should send a copy of the Stage 1 outcome letter to complaints@stmarys.ac.uk.

Employers must then respond in writing (directly to the person from whom they received the outcome of your Stage 1 complaint) to indicate whether or not they accept the proposed action(s) to resolve the complaint.

2.2 Stage 2

2.2.1 Stage 2 of the St Mary’s Employer Complaints Procedure is normally only to be followed when attempts to resolve issues or concerns under Stage 1 have proved unsuccessful and employers are not satisfied with the way in which the matter has been resolved and/or with the outcome itself.

2.2.2 Stage 2 Employer complaints must be submitted in writing on the Stage 2 Employer Complaints Form provided at Appendix A and must also include the Stage 1 outcome decision.

2.2.3 All correspondence relating to Stage 2 of the Student Complaints Procedure should be marked “Private and confidential” to ensure it is only opened by the addressee.

2.3 The Stage 2 Process

2.3.1 Stage 2 Employer complaints will be considered by a Complaints Panel, which will normally be convened by the Head of Registry Services or by someone appointed by the Head of Registry Services to do so. Wherever possible such a panel will be arranged to enable attendance of an appropriate staff member from the employer concerned. If the employer staff member fails to attend the Stage 2 Complaints Panel without providing a satisfactory reason in advance, the Panel may proceed in their absence.

2.3.11 Composition of the Stage 2 Complaints Panel

A complaints panel will be chaired by a senior trained member of staff from a different Programme, Department or Service to that complained about. It will also contain two other members of staff with no previous involvement in the matter.

2.3.1.2 The Stage 2 Employer Complaints Panel will have assistance on administrative tasks from someone appointed by the Head of Registry Services. That person will inform the employer of the date of the meeting.

2.3.1.3 An appropriate member of staff from the employer organisation (normally the staff member who submitted the complaint) will be invited to attend to present the case. It is not permissible to be accompanied by a lawyer acting in a professional capacity.

2.3.1.4 If the employer representative (ie the staff member from the employer organisation submitting the complaint) chooses to present any further relevant written evidence to the Panel this must be provided at least 5 working days in advance of the hearing, unless suitable evidence can be provided to support the delay in submission of further evidence.

2.4 The decision of the Stage 2 Complaints Panel

2.4.1 Following the conclusion of the Stage 2 Employer Complaints Panel the Head of Department/Service or Senior Manager or nominee (as appropriate) will provide you with a written response to your Stage 2 complaint, indicating the action to be taken, where appropriate.

2.4.2 Employers may normally expect a written response/outcome letter to a complaint within 10 working days of the Stage 2 Employer Complaints Panel hearing. If the Stage 2 complaint is not upheld, the outcome letter will explain the reasons. When an outcome within 10 working days is not possible, you will be informed of the likely timescale within 10 working days of the meeting with the Stage 2 Complaints Panel.

2.4.3 This will normally mark the end of the formal Complaints Procedure. 

2.5 Stage 3 (Review)

2.5.1 After the completion of Stage 2 of the Employer Complaints Procedure, it may be possible to request a review. A review will only be available on the following grounds:

  1. The employer is able to present new information relevant to the case which could not be revealed for valid reasons or could not have been known at the time of the submission to the Stage 2 Complaints Panel;
    and/or
  2. The employer can provide evidence of procedural irregularities in the conduct of the Stage 2 procedures;
    and/or
  3. The employer can provide evidence there was bias in the Stage 2 procedures.

2.5.2 The review will not reconsider or review any evidence already considered at Stage 1 and/or Stage 2.

2.5.3 If the Stage 2 Complaints Panel upheld the employer’s complaint and/or they have accepted redress there are no grounds for a review.

2.5.4 If the employer’s complaint has not been upheld or has been only partially upheld they may feel dissatisfied. However, being dissatisfied with the outcome is not in itself a ground for a review.

2.5.5 Any review request which does not meet one or more of the three grounds set out above will be refused. The employer will be notified of this in writing.

2.6 Stage 3 (Review) Process

2.6.1 If the University believes that the employer’s request for a Review meets one or more of the grounds outlined above, and they wish to request a review, they must complete and return the Review Request Form at Appendix B within 10 working days of the outcome of the Stage 2 Complaint. Completed forms and any additional evidence should be emailed to complaints@stmarys.ac.uk.

2.6.2 The Head of Registry Services, the Director of Student Operations, the Chief Operating Officer or Provost may determine if any of the grounds outlined above are met.

2.6.3 Where there are grounds, the Head of Registry Services or nominee will convene an Employer Complaints Review Panel.

2.6.4 The Employer Complaints Review Panel will be chaired by a member of the Senior Leadership Team and will include at last one other member of staff who has had no previous involvement in the matter. The Panel will not normally meet with a representative from the employer unless they deem it necessary to reach an outcome.

2.6.5 The Panel will consider the evidence provided in the Employer Complaint Review Request form. The Panel may uphold the decision of the Stage 2 Panel, in which case the Stage 2 outcome will stand. If they do not uphold the decision of the Stage 2 Panel, the Review Panel may issue a new outcome or make recommendations on how to resolve the complaint. The decision of the Panel will be communicated to the employer within fourteen (14) working days of receipt of the Review Request, or as soon as is reasonably possible. If it is not possible to issue a decision within fourteen working days, the employer will be notified of when they might receive a response.

2.6.6 If your complaint is about a member of the Senior Leadership Team, then the matter will be referred to the Board of Governors.

2.7 The decision of the Stage 3 Review Panel

2.7.1 The decision of the Stage 3 Review Panel will be provided to the employer in writing.

2.7.2 Escalation to Education & Skills Funding Agency. If the employer is a partner of the University in the provision of a degree level apprenticeship and wishes to escalate their concerns to the Education & Skills Funding Agency (ESFA), they can contact the Apprenticeship Service Support service provided by the ESFA on 08000 150 600 or helpdesk@manage-apprenticeships.service.gov.uk