As a registered apprenticeship Training Provider, the University of Bath is required by the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) to have and maintain a clear feedback and complaints policy for all employers using our services.
The University is committed to providing the highest possible academic and service standards to all its learners and client organisations. The University welcomes feedback in respect of the services it provides. Employers of apprentices that work with us to deliver apprenticeships should feel able to make a complaint, knowing that it will be fairly investigated.
Detailed below is the process the University has adopted for all complaints that employers wish to raise with the University in relation to apprenticeship provision. It is intended to provide a clear means of resolving such complaints to the satisfaction of all parties.
Definitions and scope
The University defines an employer complaint as an expression of dissatisfaction levelled by an employer against the service or facility of the University. For the purpose of this procedure, an employer is defined as an organisation that employs an apprentice for whom the University is acting as a training provider in respect of an apprenticeship standard.
This process can be used for all complaints that employers wish to raise with the University in relation to apprenticeship provision. Apprentice complaints are outside the scope of this policy. Where an apprentice is dissatisfied with any aspect of their apprenticeship, they should refer to their commitment statement and raise relevant matters with the University via the Student Complaints Procedure.
Employers are encouraged to raise a concern or complaint as soon as possible after the event has taken place, and normally no later than four months from the date the initial issue or event occurred, to enable the matter to be addressed in a timely manner.
As far as possible, matters raised as a complaint will remain confidential to those directly involved in investigating the complaint, providing a response to it, and communicating with the employer. However, it should be noted that, in the interests of natural justice, parties to a complaint have the right to know the full details of the complaint or, if necessary, in exceptional circumstances, only those details which need to be shared to enable a proper response to be made.
Any investigation into a complaint will be carried out in a timely, thorough, and systematic manner, and any judgement made will be on the basis of the evidence provided by all parties.
In order to ensure that a thorough investigation of a complaint is made, the University expects to be able to collect appropriate information from all the parties involved. Anonymous complaints will therefore not be accepted.
Those investigating or adjudicating upon a complaint at any stage of the procedure will do so impartially. Anyone with a material personal interest in the complaint will neither investigate nor adjudicate.
Every effort will be made to adhere to the time limits set out in this procedure. However, the timescales may be varied by mutual agreement in individual cases. The parties to the complaint will receive an explanation of the delay and be advised of when progress is expected.
Where a deficiency in provision or process is acknowledged, a complaint may be addressed by offering an apology or an acceptable explanation for the deficiency, by undertaking to implement future improvement, or by a mutually acceptable course of action to address the individual circumstances of the case.
A complainant is strongly advised to report matters which they suspect are criminal offences to the police. Where criminal proceedings are under way, the University may delay the progression of any complaint relating to the same matters until after the outcome of the proceedings is known.
If the complaint is about the Head of Department / Service, advice should be sought from the Apprenticeship Compliance Manager, to whom the complaint should be submitted. If the complaint directly affects the Apprenticeship Compliance Manager, their role would be taken by the Pro- Vice-Chancellor (Education).
Employers will not be disadvantaged as a result of raising a matter of concern or of making a complaint, provided it is made in good faith. Where a complaint is shown to be vexatious, the complaint shall be rejected.
In the event that any dispute arises between the University and the employer, or between the employer and any sub-contractor, the parties shall discuss in good faith a resolution to the dispute. For the University, the initial point of contact for discussions is the course Head of Department.
If the dispute continues for a period of five working days, either party may formally refer the dispute in writing to the authorised officer or lead contact nominated for their organisation. The authorised officer for the University is the Apprenticeship Compliance Manager. The referral notice should include:
1. the name and job title of the authorised officer to whom the referral is being made;
2. sufficient details of the nature of the dispute or complaint;
3. copies of any supporting documents;
4. details of what steps have already been taken to resolve the dispute or complaint;
5. what outcome(s) the referrer would like to address the complaint or resolve the dispute;
6. whether there are any special circumstances which need to be considered, including any reasonable adjustments which any party wishes to make to the complaints-handling process to ensure it is accessible and fair to those involved.
The University’s authorised officer and employer contact shall discuss the dispute within five working days of the date of referral and attempt to resolve the dispute or agree the next steps for working out a solution.
If no resolution can be reached, either of the authorised officers may refer the matter to the Pro-Vice Chancellor (Education) on behalf of the University and an alternative representative of the employer, who shall seek to resolve the dispute within ten 10 working days thereafter.
Where the parties cannot reach a satisfactory resolution within thirty days working days after commencing discussions, either party may refer the matter to mediation in accordance with the model procedure of the Centre for Dispute Resolution, London (“CEDR”), with such mediation to be completed within thirty working days of signature of the CEDR Mediation Agreement.
Nothing in this procedure is intended to replace or repeal any rights of the employer or the University in accordance with the contractual agreements signed by the parties in connection with the apprenticeship and this procedure is intended to supplement the contractual arrangements between the parties. If there is any conflict between the terms of this procedure and the contractual documentation between the Parties, the contractual documentation shall take precedence over the terms of this procedure.
Roles and Responsibilities
Relevant roles on behalf of the University are:
1. Head of Department is the initial point of contact for employers to raise issues and seek early resolution.
2. The Apprenticeship Compliance Manager is the Authorised Officer and is the operational policy owner responsible for monitoring implementation of the policy as well as being responsible for signing off changes to the agreement. The Authorised Officer will also advise the Executive Policy Owner where there is a senior level resolution of a dispute.
3. Pro-Vice Chancellor (Education) is the Executive Policy Owner with responsibility for keeping under review the effectiveness of the policy via the University’s Apprenticeship Steering Group and responsible for adjudicating senior level disputes.
4. The Lead Contact for the Employer is the signatory to the apprentice agreement with responsibility for oversight of the apprenticeship arrangements, or such other person as the Employer may reasonably notify to the University from time to time during the term of the apprenticeship agreement.
End Point Assessment Providers
The Employer acknowledges that the University does not exercise control over the End Point Assessment Provider, other than where the University has been selected by the Employer as the End Point Assessor. If the Employer has a complaint about a third party End Point Assessment Provider, they should contact the University in the first instance to discuss the complaint with the Head of Department.
If the University at its sole discretion considers it appropriate it may seek to mediate any complaints between the Employer and End Point Assessment Provider. The University may, however, determine that it is appropriate for a complaint against an End Point Assessment Provider to be raised directly with the End Point Assessment Provider by the Employer. If the Employer is directed to the End Point Assessment Provider to raise a complaint with them, the Employer shall keep the University informed of the progress and any resolution of the complaint.
In the event that the Employer is not able to reach a resolution of a complaint with an End Point Assessment Provider the University may provide such assistance to the Employer or the End Point Assessment Provider as it considers appropriate in order to resolve the complaint.
If the Employer has not been able to resolve a complaint with an End Point Assessment Provider in accordance with the above paragraphs the Employer may raise a formal complaint with the University regarding the End Point Assessment Provider, using the procedure set out above.
Joint Complaints (Employer/Apprentice)
If the Employer and its Apprentice seek to raise a joint complaint against the University arising out of the apprenticeship provision the University shall consider the facts of the complaint and will determine, at its sole discretion, the appropriate procedure to be adopted in respect of the complaint and the complaint will either follow the process set out in this procedure or shall follow the process set out in the University’s Student Complaints Procedure.
Escalation of Complaints
In the event that the Parties have been unable to resolve a complaint in accordance with the process set out in this procedure the Employer may escalate their complaints in accordance with the ESFA complaints process.
Monitoring and review
This policy is subject to annual review to ensure that it continues to be i) effective in resolving complaints to the satisfaction of all parties; and ii) compliant with the ESFA’s latest funding rules.
Version 1.0 September 2018
Version 1.1 January 2022