Complaints and appeals

Page owner: Standards director

The SfEP’s complaints procedure

The SfEP rarely receives complaints about its members. Upon joining the SfEP, each member formally agrees to abide by our Code of Practice. Given our training programmes, mentoring schemes, regular opportunities for professional development, strong information-sharing community and rigorous criteria for upgrading membership, we are confident that our members conduct business properly and with integrity.

We would encourage anyone working with one of our members to communicate clearly with that member if a difficulty has arisen. It may be that a discussion between the two parties will resolve the issue without the need for a formal complaint.

In the rare event that we receive a formal complaint about one of our members, we investigate it thoroughly and even-handedly.

The SfEP’s complaints and appeals procedures are briefly explained below, or you can download the full procedure here.

Full complaints and appeals procedure

Making a complaint

If you are considering making a complaint to the SfEP, please note that we are able to investigate a complaint only if it meets the following criteria.

  1. The person complained of (the complainee) must be a member of the SfEP; the SfEP cannot investigate complaints against non-members.
  2. Your complaint must show good grounds, setting out the specific and substantive cause of dissatisfaction with the work or professional behaviour of a member of the SfEP.
  3. You, as the complainant, will be asked to provide evidence. This should include copies of all relevant material before and after editorial work was done on it, as well as copies of all correspondence between complainant and complainee, chronologically ordered.

The complainee will also be invited to supply evidence of the same nature as in the final point above.

If you wish to make a formal complaint, please email or contact the SfEP office.

How the SfEP deals with complaints

When a formal complaint inquiry is begun, the standards director appoints a complaint panel of three Advanced Professional Members who are not directors of the SfEP. All communications between the SfEP and the two parties (complainant and complainee) go through a complaint handler – usually a member of our office staff – and are held in strict confidence.

The complaint panel normally has 30 working days to produce a detailed report to the Council, with its recommendations. The panel may recommend that the complaint be rejected, or that it be upheld in whole or upheld in part. The panel may also recommend disciplinary action.

The panel’s report is passed to the SfEP Council, which then votes on the panel’s recommendations. The complaint handler promptly informs both parties of the Council’s decision.

All stages of handling a complaint – who does what, and when – are documented in the complaints procedure (204KB PDF).

What happens afterwards

If a complaint is upheld, in whole or in part, the investigation and its result will be reported to the members of the SfEP. The names of the complainant and complainee will not be reported, except that the complainee may be named if they are expelled from the Society.

Disciplinary actions imposed on the complainee can range from advice, a written warning or a requirement to retrain through to downgrading of membership or expulsion. If disciplinary action is imposed on the complainee, the standards director will maintain contact with the complainee and the complaint handler to ensure that such action is followed through.


After the SfEP Council has given its decision on a complaint, either party may appeal within 20 working days. They must explain what part of the Council’s decision they are appealing against, and why; they can also submit further evidence.

In general, an appeal will be considered only if it concerns at least one of the following issues:

  • the complaint inquiry failed to take into account some relevant evidence or aspect of the evidence; or
  • the complaint inquiry failed to give due weight to certain aspects of the case; or
  • the action recommended is too lenient or too harsh.

There may, however, be other circumstances under which an appeal will be considered. If an appeal goes ahead, any action arising from the complaint is put on hold until the appeal is concluded. The standards director will appoint an appeal panel of three Advanced Professional Members, none of whom served on the complaint panel in the same case. The panel has 30 working days to review all the evidence and the previous decision, and to report with its recommendations, on which the SfEP Council will then vote. All stages of handling an appeal – who does what, and when – are documented in the complaints procedure (204KB PDF), sections 7 to 11.