This document outlines the AHN policy on grievance and the procedures to be followed if a student or host feel that their problem cannot be resolved by general communication between themselves.
The emphasis in responding to a complaint between a student and a host should be focused on fair and efficient resolution, not retribution or retaliation. It is expected therefore that all parties direct their efforts towards addressing the matters in dispute at the first available opportunity.
Harassment may be sexual in nature or based on gender, race, disability or sexual preference. It includes behaviour that intimidates, offends, degrades or humiliates.
Discrimination occurs when a person is treated less favorably than another person because of certain attributes (direct discrimination), or when a requirement that is the same for everyone has an unfair effect on some people because of an attribute, such as race, gender or disability (indirect discrimination).
Bullying behaviour is described as the repeated less favourable treatment of a person by another or others, which may be considered unreasonable and inappropriate practice. It includes behaviour that intimidates, offends, degrades or humiliates.
When investigating a complaint, the number of people who know of the matter should be kept to an absolute minimum. Only those directly involved e.g. student, host and supervisor should be informed in the first instance.
Every person who becomes aware of the alleged complaint has a duty to maintain confidentiality and should be made aware of this.
Complaints and their investigation should be carried out in good faith. Students and hosts involved in a complaint should not be motivated by malice or ill will.
The supervisor who looks into a complaint between a student and host fairly and thoroughly, limiting his or her investigation to matters of relevance to the complaint and adhering to the confidentiality principle, will be acting in good faith.
The preferred method of complaint resolution is any complaint settled informally, where practicable. There are at least two perspectives to a complaint and opportunities for these to be aired need to be provided. This needs to be done without prejudging, forming conclusions without all the facts, or predetermining any outcomes.
Informal complaint resolution processes can be effective. They are voluntary, confidential, are conducted with goodwill, involve the minimal number of people and allow the parties to explore options and make their own decisions about how to resolve a complaint rather than having a ‘third party’ making and enforcing a decision.
Informal processes are not about blaming or finding fault; they are about attempting to resolve the complaint. In many instances the relative informality encourages both student and host to be more honest and to feel that they do not have to defend or justify themselves as they would have to in a more formal investigation process. They are not, however, appropriate in all instances.
The Host Manager will assist in solving the problem however, if satisfaction is not reached after discussion with the supervisor then the problem can be taken to the Operations Manager and if no resolution is reached, to the AHN CEO.
The AHN community should ensure all students and hosts have the contact details for their supervisor should they have concerns or grievances about any aspect of their homestay placement; in particular, if damage has been caused to the home or facilities in the home.
The AHN community should take seriously any complaints of victimization which may follow the making of a complaint especially if the complaint is about harassment, bullying or discrimination.
Where informal methods of resolving the matter do not satisfy the student or host or are inappropriate, and the grounds and context of the complaint require further investigation a formal process will be instigated if this is what the complainant requests.
At all stages in this process the student or hosts are entitled to have a support person present. A student may prefer to have an interpreter or friend whose English is at a higher level than their own. The support person is not an advocate and should not advocate on behalf of the student. Similarly, if a host is more comfortable with a support person then this must be allowed.
Procedures for Dealing with Complaints
During the initial interview with the student and host seek information from them including:
Records need to be kept of all conversations, telephone calls and meetings as follows:
The records are required if the complaint becomes formal. All records should be kept on the AHN system in a confidential file.
At the conclusion it is important that, whatever the outcome, both the student and host understand what the outcome is, how it was reached and what is expected of them.
The outcomes should include:
A procedure for monitoring the situation so that each individual will feel supported and protected