Note: This policy is subject to change at any time. Please check all AmeriStudent Policies on a regular basis for updates.
This document outlines the AmeriStudent policy on grievance and the procedures to be followed if a Student or Host feels 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 behavior 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 behavior is described as the repeated less favorable treatment of a person by another or others, which may be considered unreasonable and inappropriate practice. It includes behavior 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, 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 feel 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 Local Coordinator 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 Homestay Manager and if no resolution is reached, to the AmeriStudent CEO.
The AmeriStudent 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 AmeriStudent 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 Host are entitled to have a support person present. A Guest 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
· Respect and give prompt attention to complaints
· Assist the Student or Host to evaluate their options and choose a strategy for addressing the issue
· Discuss the complaint with a fair, non-judgmental attitude
· Attempt to resolve the complaint with the parties concerned if appropriate
· Clarify appropriate standards of behavior
· Ensure that a complaint is dealt with as quickly as possible
During the initial interview with the Guest and Host, seek information from them including:
· Who the allegations are against
· What the alleged behavior is
· When the alleged behavior occurred
· Where it occurred
· How the parties both felt and how it affected them
· How the parties wants to proceed with the complaint
· What each party wants as an outcome of the complaint process and how this might be achieved
· Check if there is an immediate need to make interim changes to reduce the continuing impact of the situation, e.g. the re-location of the Student
Records need to be kept of all conversations, telephone calls and meetings as follows:
· file note recording details on the AmeriStudent system of meetings:
· such as who was present
· when the meeting took place
· what was discussed
· the outcomes of the meeting
· the actions taken
The records are required if the complaint becomes formal. All records should be kept on the AmeriStudent system in a confidential file.
At the conclusion it is important that, whatever the outcome, both the Student or Host understands what the outcome is, how it was reached and what is expected of them.
The outcomes should include:
· A guarantee that any offending behavior will stop
· An assurance that reprisals for making the complaint, or retribution for having offended, will not be tolerated
· An agreed code of behavior which takes into account the specific needs and feelings of each individual involved
· A procedure for monitoring the situation so that each individual will feel supported and protected
· Students or Hosts may lodge an appeal with the AmeriStudent CEO through their local AmeriStudent Manager if no resolution can be reached. Full written justification for the appeal will need to be provided.