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Guidelines on the Code of Ethics Complaints Process

These guidelines outline principles, procedures and potential outcomes of the HIA Code Complaints Process.

Guidelines on the Code of Ethics Complaints Process

These guidelines outline principles, procedures and potential outcomes of the HIA Code Complaints Process.

Purpose of these guidelines

HIA is committed to upholding the integrity of the HIA Code of Ethics (Code). 

In order to support the Code, HIA acknowledges that from time to time, it may be necessary to deal with complaints alleging poor, unethical or unprofessional behaviour on the part of a particular HIA member (“member”).

The purpose of these guidelines is to outline principles, procedures and potential outcomes of the HIA Code Complaints Process. 

The Code Complaints Process is intended to be a fair, effective, transparent, and consistent process for handling complaints against members and determining whether the member has breached any of the Code’s professional and/or ethical standards. The Code Complaints Process is not intended to be used to coerce or punish members or solicit complaints. 

The HIA National Board may from time-to-time update, change and replace these guidelines. 

What are the guiding principles?

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Credibility & compliance
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The Code Complaints Process reflects HIA’s commitment to uphold the Code to achieve credibility and compliance.

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Fair & transparent process
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Complaints are assessed and managed in a process that:

  • supports procedural fairness and natural justice;
  • is transparent and timely; and;
  • supports consistency of decision-making process while recognising that each complaint may have its own particular circumstances and needs to be considered on its own merit.
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Focus on education & continuous improvement
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The Code Complaint Process is intended to be a constructive process with an educative focus to improve behaviour and professionalism. The HIA Code Complaint Process is not designed to resolve disputes or impose punishment.

If there has been non-compliance with the Code, any action against the member should be proportionate to the nature, seriousness and frequency of the conduct and serve to deter the affected member and others from engaging behaving in such a manner in future.

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Courtesy respect & confidentiality
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HIA will document and deal with complaints in a polite and courteous manner. It is also expected that all participants in the process will behave with courtesy, respect and in a cooperative manner.

HIA will reserve the right to disregard any complaint that is made in an abusive or offensive manner or where HIA considers the complainant’s conduct is unreasonable.

HIA requires complainants to have already directly raised their issue with the member before lodging their formal complaint.

HIA will respect the confidentiality of the process as far as possible, noting that for the member to properly understand and respond, HIA will provide the member with a copy of the complaint and disclose the identity of the complainant.

Scope of the process

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HIA's authority:
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HIA is a voluntary membership body. This means that it only has authority over its members in relation to matters relating to their HIA Membership.

HIA is not a court, regulator, statutory body or tribunal and is unable to impose fines or require members to take a particular course of action such as to complete work or make a payment.

HIA does not get involved in contractual, commercial or personal disputes and does not provide legal advice to the public.

The outcomes of the complaints process are detailed later in the guidelines.

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Who can make an ethics complaint?
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If you are concerned with the conduct or behaviour of a HIA member you may make a written complaint based an alleged breach of the Code.

This may include:

  • clients or customers of members, or consumers of services or products provided by members;
  • other HIA members;
  • external agencies or organisations;
  • members of the public (who have first-hand knowledge of the alleged breach of the Code).

HIA can also initiate an investigation under the Code when it has good cause to believe that a serious breach of the Code may have occurred.

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What types of complaints won't HIA investigate?
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HIA cannot investigate all complaints. There are circumstances where the matter may be more appropriately dealt with through contractual, court or legal processes or by another body such as a regulatory body or the police.

HIA cannot investigate or determine:

  • complaints made anonymously;
  • legal, commercial or contractual disputes;
  • licensing, registration or matters relating to technical requirements or standards;

HIA will also not investigate complaints that it considers to be frivolous, vexatious, unreasonable or made in bad faith.

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Before making a complaint
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HIA will not commence the Code Complaints Process unless it is satisfied that the complainant has first attempted to address their issue directly with the member.

How the Complaints process works

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Completing a complaints form
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All complaints must be in writing and must contain sufficient information for HIA to assess the complaint as acceptable under HIA’s Constitution, By-Laws and Code of Ethics.

The HIA Board may require that complaints be completed and lodged using a prescribed form or process. 

As a minimum, complaints must:

  • identify the HIA member;
  • include the complainant’s full name and contact details;
  • clearly explain the circumstances that gave rise to the complaint;
  • detail how the HIA member breached the Code;
  • provide any relevant documentation;
  • detail any regulatory complaints, tribunal or legal proceedings in relation to the complaint;
  • detail steps taken to raise the matter with the HIA member.

Lodge a complaint

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Initial processing
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Following receipt of a complaint, HIA will consider if it is a matter than can be investigated. 

As part of this process, HIA:

  1. may request further information from the complainant; and
  2. may notify the complainant that the complaint cannot proceed if:
    • it falls outside the Scope of the Code Complaints Process;
    • there is insufficient information to warrant investigation; or
    • it appears, in HIA’s opinion, that the complaint is frivolous, vexatious, unreasonable or made in bad faith.

If HIA considers that the matter can be investigated, it will notify the member that a complaint has been made against them, give them a copy of the Complaint and request a response.

HIA may continue to offer membership services, support and advice to the member the subject of the Complaint and may also assist that member on how to meet their ethical obligations.

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Investigation of the complaint
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HIA may appoint one or more persons to carry out the role or functions of an Ethics Officer. The role of the Ethics Officer is to investigate complaints and suspected breaches of the Code. 

In undertaking the investigation, the Ethics Officer will examine all documentation reasonably available in respect of the Complaint, including any relevant HIA membership records.

The Ethics Officer may also speak with the HIA member and the complainant.

HIA does not however have the investigative powers or resources of a regulatory body and does not carry out site inspections as part of the Code Complaints Process.  

The Ethics Officer may directly resolve, determine and finalise any complaints that he or she considers do not require a hearing. These may include complaints that lack sufficient basis to require a hearing or involve a breach of the Code that was inadvertent, minor and able to be addressed through the provision of education, advice and training.

Hearings may also not be required if the HIA member has already taken appropriate and adequate measures to address the allegedly unethical or unprofessional behaviour.

If the Ethics Officer considers that the Complaint should be referred to the HIA Ethics Complaints Panel for determination, the Ethics Officer will prepare a report and recommendation to the HIA Managing Director.

If HIA’s Managing Director agrees with the Ethics Officer’s recommendation, the complaint will be referred to an Ethics Complaints Panel for further consideration and to make findings.

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Ethics Complaints Panel
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The Ethics Complaints Panel (Complaints Panel) is established by the HIA National Board.

The role of the Complaints Panel is to determine complaints against HIA members that are referred to them and to make recommendations to the HIA Board.

Members of the Complaints Panel serve at the convenience and discretion of the HIA National President. 

To hear a Complaint, a Complaints Panel comprising at least three (3) persons will be appointed. The Complaints Panel will consider the material provided by the Ethics Officer and decide whether the matter needs to progress to a full hearing or if a decision can be made on the available documentation.

Complaints Panel Hearings

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General
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The Complaint Panel’s focus is on the conduct or behaviour of the member as it relates to the alleged breach of the Code.

Complaints hearings will operate under the principles of procedural fairness and natural justice, which includes an opportunity for the member to be heard.

Importantly, the Complaints Panel is not a court and hearings are not trials. This means that the panel will not be expected or required to resolve legal, contractual or other disputes or deal with questions or issues of law.  If a court, tribunal or other adjudicative body has already made findings about aspects of the complaint, the panel is entitled to rely on these findings. 

All hearings and meetings are conducted in private and may be held in-person or via virtual technologies, teleconference or such other electronic means, as determined by the Complaints Panel.

Prior to a hearing, the Complaints Panel may issue directions to the parties, request further information and documents, and obtain their own independent or specialist advice. 

The Complaints Panel may impose time limits on any stage of the procedure, including on the time allowed for the hearing.

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Evidence information to be considered by the Complaints Panel
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Provided that the rules of natural justice are applied, the Complaints Panel:

  • is not bound by the formal rules of evidence;
  • may consider material that would not ordinarily be admitted in formal legal proceedings;
  • may also consider any information it deems relevant, including documentation and expressions of opinion;
  • may adopt a common sense approach to the substantive issues, rather than technical or trivial points; and
  • may adopt specific procedures for the hearing.

During the hearing, the Complaints Panel may ask questions of the complainant and HIA member. The Complaints Panel may also, at its discretion, allow the parties to call and cross examine witnesses. 

In deciding the complaint, the Complaints Panel should be satisfied that the evidence of breach of the Code is strong enough to substantiate the allegations on the balance of probabilities. In keeping with the principles of procedural fairness and natural justice, the burden of proving a breach of the Code rests with the complainant.

The Complaints Panel is not under any obligation to make a finding if it considers that facts remain in dispute between the parties that it is unable to resolve.

Outcomes

The outcome of the Complaints Process may include:

  • a finding that the member has not breached the Code; or
  • a finding that member has breached one or more of the principles of the Code; or
  • the Panel’s conclusion that they did not have sufficient information to make a determination on whether the member has or has not breached the Code.

It is open to the Complaints Panel to make such comments regarding the complaint, their decision and any recommended action as they deem appropriate in the circumstances.

If the Complaints Panel finds that the member breached the Code they may:

  • consider that the matter requires no further action;
  • recommend or direct the member to undertake further education and training;
  • recommend or direct the member to obtain professional advice or services;
  • issue a caution or reprimand;
  • recommend a suspension of membership for up to 12 months;
  • recommend that the HIA National Board of Directors cancel membership.

Both the HIA member and complainant are entitled to be advised of the outcome of the Complaint in writing.

The decision of Complaints Panel is final with no provision for appeal in this process.

Complaints process


 

Non-compliance with the Code can be raised in accordance with the Code Complaints Guidelines.

Lodge a complaint

Complaint guidelines