We make decisions every day. Often these decisions will have an impact on someone else. Sometimes those decisions will change the opportunities and choices of others. In these situations it is essential that the decision-making procedure is ‘fair and proper’.
Procedural Fairness is a concept most commonly used to describe a set of guiding principles for decision-makers. These principles are an essential starting point for any decision you might make on behalf of the University.
A decision-maker must be unbiased and impartial; provide those who may be affected be the decision with the opportunity to present their case; and base their decision on factual evidence. How should you apply these principles in practice?
Be unbiased and impartial.
A decision-maker must act fairly and without bias in making decisions.
Decision-makers must be impartial and operate within the ‘bias rule’. The bias rule means that those who are making the decision must not have an interest in the matter being decided or appear to bring a biased or prejudiced mind to making the decision.
For example; a person should preclude themselves from deciding a case where they have a conflict of interest over the issue to be decided.
Decision-makers must also be without the “appearance of bias”, meaning that a fair minded observer should not reasonably think that the decision-maker has pre-judged the matter.
Hear both sides of the story.
A decision-maker must take time to hear from those whom their decision concerns.
Procedural fairness requires that a decision-maker must inform any individual whose rights or interests may be impacted by a decision. The persons concerned must be made aware of the situation and given the chance to respond before a decision is made.Where there has been an allegation or complaint made against an individual, the decision-maker must provide the person with the details of the complaint (a summary may be sufficient – original documentation and identity of confidential sources need not be disclosed), an outline of the possible decision, what criteria would be used to make the decision and any information that the decision would be based upon. The individual must also be made aware of their right to be accompanied to a meeting by a support person if they so choose.
Base the decision on factual evidence.
A decision-maker must investigate a matter and have factual evidence to support their decision.
Procedural fairness requires that there must be factual evidence supporting a decision. Decision-makers must make reasonable inquiries or investigations and ensure that the decision is based on those facts and supported by evidence.Remember that procedural failings may override a valid decision should it be subject to external review (e.g. Ombudsman) or challenged in a court of law.
As a decision-maker it is important to follow the rules of procedural fairness to secure an equitable outcome for everyone.
If you have any questions about procedural fairness or would like advice please contact Legal and Risk Branch.