Complaints and Disciplinary Rules
For handling complaints against HKMFTA members
(adopted by the Board of Directors of the HKMFTA Ltd on 18th September 2016)
Purpose & Definitions
- All members of the HKMFTA are required to comply with its published Code of Ethics and Practice as updated from time to time. The purposes of these rules are to put in place procedures for handling complaints, and if appropriate, taking disciplinary proceedings against HKMFTA members for misconduct or for breaches of HKMFTA’s Code of Ethics and Practice.
- For the purposes of these Rules, unless the context otherwise requires, the following words have the meanings attributed to them.
|Board||Board of Directors of the HKMFTA Ltd.|
|Code||The Code of Ethics and Practice of the HKMFTA as published and updated from time to time.|
|Complainant||Any person making a Complaint.|
|Complaint||A complaint made against a Respondent Member for misconduct in accordance with these Rules.|
|Complaint Notice||A written Complaint made using the Complaint Form in Schedule 1.|
|Complaint Officer||A person designated by the Board to handle Complaints.|
|Complaints Register||A register containing a summary of all Complaints received and processed under these Rules.|
|Disciplinary Committee||A committee formed by the Board with authority to handle and investigate Complaints and to recommend to the Board penalties and sanctions made against any Respondent Member found guilty of Misconduct. This Committee shall be composed of not less than 3 persons appointed by the Board for such term as the Board decides.|
|HKMFTA||Hong Kong Marriage and Family Therapy Association operated by the HKFMTA Ltd.|
|HKMFTA Ltd||Hong Kong Marriage and Family Therapy Association Limited, a company with limited liability incorporated in Hong Kong.|
|Misconduct||Any conduct of any member of HKMFTA that:-
(i) appears to be dishonourable, improper or unprofessional as Marriage and Family Therapists, or
(ii) is in breach of the Code, or
(iii) discredits or damages the HKMFTA, or the professional reputation of Marriage and Family Therapists.
|Respondent Member||Any member of the HKMFTA against whom a Complaint has been made.|
|Response Form||A written response made by a Respondent Member in relation to a Complaint against him/her using the Response Form in Schedule 2.|
|Rules||The Complaints and Disciplinary Rules for handling complaints against HKMFTA members as published and updated from time to time.|
- As used in these Rules and where the context so requires or permits, words importing the masculine include the feminine and vice versa; words importing the singular include the plural and vice versa.
- The Complainant should make a complaint in writing in the form of a Complaint Notice addressed to the Complaints Officer at the address published by the HKMFTA. The Complaints Officer will log the Complaint in the Complaints Register.
- If the Complainant does not make the complaint in writing, the Complainant will be invited to lodge the complaint in person by appointment. The Complaint Notice shall be filled in according to the Complainant’s instructions and the Complainant will be asked to confirm its accuracy by signing the same.
- No Complaint will be dealt with unless:-
- There is a signed Complaint Notice; or
- In the case of an anonymous Complaint, the Board considers that it warrants further action after the Board has taken into account the seriousness of the Complaint, the credibility of the Complainant and the likelihood of verifying the Complaint from reliable sources.
- Complaints will normally only be dealt with if they are lodged within a year of the date on which the complainant became aware of the circumstances giving rise to the Complaint. Complaints made thereafter will only be investigated if the Complainant has a good reason for the delay.
- The Complaints Officer may ask the Complainant for further information or documentation to give details or to substantiate the Complaint. Upon receipt of such further information or documents, or upon the Complainant’s refusal to provide the same, the Complaints Officer will acknowledge receipt of the Complaint and bring it to the attention of the Board as soon as practicable.
- Within one (1) month of presentation of a Complaint by the Complaints Officer, the Board shall consider whether to proceed with the Complaint.
- The Board, before deciding whether to proceed with the Complaint, may ask the Complaints Officer to invite the Respondent Member to make a response to the Complaint. Upon invitation, the Respondent Member may make a response in writing by filling the Response Form and submit to the Complaints Officer any further information relating to the Complaint.
- Upon receipt of the Respondent Member’s Response Form, or upon the Respondent Member’s refusal to provide the same, the Board will consider the Response, if any, and decide whether to proceed with the Complaint.
- Should the Board decide not to proceed with the Complaint, the Board must give written reasons for not proceeding. The Complaints Officer shall, if the Complainant has given contact details, inform the Complainant of the Board’s reasons for not proceeding with the Complaint.
- Should the Board decide to proceed, the Disciplinary Proceedings in these Rules shall follow.
Circumstances for Decision not to proceed
- The Board may take no further action in respect of the Complaint under certain circumstances, including but not limited to:-
- where the Complaint cannot be dealt with under these Rules;
- where incomplete or inaccurate contact details have been provided;
- where the Complaint is trivial in nature;
- where the Complaint contains insufficient information to enable it to be assessed comprehensively, and there is no reasonable prospect of obtaining the missing information;
- where the Complaint has already been considered and no new information in regard to the Complaint is provided;
- where there has been undue delay in making the Complaint;
- any other circumstances which shall be specified in writing.
- A Complainant may apply to the Board for review against a decision of the Board not to proceed by writing to the Board. The Board shall review its previous decision and determine whether to:-
- confirm the previous decision not to proceed with the Complaint;
- request the Complaints Officer to make further enquiries before making a decision, OR
- refer the Complaint to the Disciplinary Committee.
- Upon the Board deciding to refer the Complaint to the Disciplinary Committee, the [Chairman of the] Board shall appoint a Disciplinary Committee, consisting of three (3) members selected from members of the HKMFTA consisting of:-
- one Certified Clinical Supervisor,
- one Certified Marriage and Family Therapist, and
- one member of the Board.
- The Disciplinary Committee shall investigate and determine whether or not there was Misconduct on the part of the Respondent Member. In so doing, the following shall be considered:-
- Poor performance as a psychotherapist or a family therapist by a Respondent Member, even if such amounts to negligence in law, does not necessarily constitute Misconduct. Mere error on the part of a Respondent Member is not sufficient to amount to Misconduct;
- In the event that a Complainant alleges negligence or incompetence on the part of a Respondent Member, the negligence or incompetence must be so gross and inexcusable that it can be fairly interpreted as Misconduct; or
- In determining whether the level of non-compliance or Misconduct by a Respondent Member is adequate to merit his/her removal from membership, the Disciplinary Committee and the Board is required to exercise serious and impartial judgment when they make any decisions under these Rules.
- The Disciplinary Committee shall have the power to conduct the Disciplinary Proceedings in such manner as it considers appropriate. The Disciplinary Committee may take into consideration and act on any information available to it, whether or not such information would be admissible in a court of law. In dealing with all matters before the Disciplinary Committee, the Complainant and the Respondent Member may act on their own respective behalves or be represented by another person of his/her own choice. A Disciplinary Committee may appoint a solicitor or barrister to advise it as to the manner in which it exercises its functions.
- The Disciplinary Committee hearing procedures shall be as follows.
- The Chairman of the Disciplinary Committee shall as soon as possible, but in any event no later than fourteen (14) days after the Disciplinary Committee has been appointed, notify the Respondent Member and the Complainant in writing that the Disciplinary Committee has been appointed.
- The Complainant shall have up to thirty (30) days from the date of the notice referred to in Rule a. to file with the Disciplinary Committee a restatement of the Complaint, which must be accompanied by or cross-referenced to the evidence and statements the Complainant wishes to rely on in support of the Complaint. At the same time of filing, the Complainant must send copies of such filings to the Respondent Member or his/her duly designated representative.
- The Respondent Member shall have up to thirty (30) days from the date of the Complainant making his/her filing set out in Rule b. to file with the Disciplinary Committee a restatement of the Response, which should be accompanied with such evidence and statements which the Respondent Member may wish to rely upon in support of his/her Response. At the same time of filing, the Respondent Member must send copies of such filings to the Complainant or his/her duly designated representative.
- Unless otherwise agreed between the Disciplinary Committee, the Complainant and the Respondent Member, a hearing shall take place in Hong Kong at a venue designated by the Disciplinary Committee, on a date fixed by the Disciplinary Committee not earlier than thirty (30) days but no later than ninety (90) days from the date of the filing of the Respondent Member’s response pursuant to Rule c.
- At a hearing held pursuant to Rule d., the Complainant or his/her duly authorised representative shall present to the Disciplinary Committee all the information and evidence, including witnesses, if any, available to the Complainant in relation to the Complaint; and the Respondent Member or his/her duly authorised representative shall present all the information and evidence available to him/her, including witnesses, if any, in support of the Respondent Member’s Response.
- Notwithstanding anything else herein contained, a Disciplinary Committee shall have the power to extend any of the time limits and/or deadlines set out in this Rule 19 in such manner as the Disciplinary Committee in its entire discretion sees fit.
- All decisions shall be made by majority vote of the members of the Disciplinary Committee.
- After considering all the evidence, information and representations in the matter, and hearing the witnesses, if any, the Disciplinary Committee shall make a decision and inform the Board in writing of its decision.
- Where the Disciplinary Committee is of the opinion that there is Misconduct, the Disciplinary Committee may recommend to the Board any of the following actions to be taken against the Respondent Member:-
- no action;
- issue an advice;
- issue a letter of reprimand;
- suspend membership with or without terms;
- terminate membership.
- Upon receipt of the Disciplinary Committees’ recommendation, the Board shall approve, reject and/or substitute the recommendation with other sanction(s) as the Board thinks fit.
- Upon the Board making a decision, the Complaints Officer shall notify such decision to both the Complainant and the Respondent Member and shall keep a copy of such decision in the Complaints Register.
- Either the Complainant or the Respondent Member has a right to apply for review the decision within thirty (30) days of receipt of the Board decision. The Board shall review its decision after which its decision shall then be final.
- All members of the HKMFTA (except the Respondent Member), the Board and the Disciplinary Committee shall be indemnified out of the assets of the HKMFTA against any liability and expense incurred by him or her, including but not limited to the costs of legal representation in defending any court proceeding which may be taken by any person in regard to matters arising out of or in connection with these Rules.
Mediation & Alternative Dispute Resolutions
- There may be different approaches to resolving the Complaint. Using mediation can help both parties to understand what is driving the Complaint, and may be more likely to result in a mutually satisfactory conclusion being reached. The Board may encourage the parties to consider such alternatives before referring the Complaint to the Disciplinary Committee. A Complainant and a Respondent Member wishing to consider alternatives to complaint investigation should seek advice from the HKMFTA.
- Where other means of dispute resolution are attempted, the processing of the Complaint according to these Rules will be suspended.
- If there is a settlement between the Complainant and the Respondent before any decision is made in accordance with these Rules, such a settlement must be recorded and agreed by the Board.
- If the alleged Misconduct is so serious as to undermining the credibility of the profession, any settlement reached under this section shall not affect the investigation and determination on whether or not there was Misconduct on the part of the Respondent Member by the Disciplinary Committee.