Complaining against a member of the Institution

We have a thorough and impartial complaint process. Alleged breaches of our Code of Conduct are investigated by our Professional Conduct Committee.

How we can help:

We can provide impartial advice to complainants and members regarding the obligations and expectations that the Articles of the Code of Conduct places on members. The Code of Conduct deals with members’ professional and ethical behaviour.

If you feel that a member has failed to comply with the these expectations, we have a complaints procedure which you can follow for the matter to be investigated by the Institution. 

Members who are found by the Institution to have breached the Code are sanctioned according to the severity of the breach.

Please note:

We are not a trade association and firms and companies are not members. We are unable to act as a mediation or arbitration body between members and their clients. In addition, it is not within our remit to decide whether a member has been negligent.


What the process involves

 


To make a complaint you will need to submit a request for a complaint form at the bottom of this page.

Complaints must be submitted using the Institution's complaint form.

As seen in the illustration above, your complaint will then be provided, by the Institution, to the member concerned, with a request for a response. You will receive a copy of the member's response.

Once the preliminary investigation stage has been completed, the matter is referred to Assessors or directly to our Professional Conduct Committee (PCC).

The PCC will normally postpone consideration of a complaint until the completion of any ongoing legal proceedings relevant to the complaint.

The procedure for dealing with complaints against members and the penalties that the Institution may impose on members are set out in our  Disciplinary Rules and Regulations.

 

Possible outcomes

 

Where the PCC decides that there has been no failure by the member to comply with the Laws of the Institution, including any Article of the Code of Conduct, it will dismiss the complaint. 

Where the PCC decides to uphold the complaint, it can:

  • Give Guidance to the member

  • Issue a Training Order to the member

  • Direct the member to issue an Apology

  • Issue a Warning to the member

  • Issue a Reprimand to the member

Where the PCC decides that the details of the complaint are complex and/or serious such that an oral hearing before a Disciplinary Board will be required, the PCC may refer the complaint to our Disciplinary Board. The Disciplinary Board has the same powers as the PCC, and the following additional sanctions:

  • Issue a Severe Reprimand

  • Order a Suspension of the member (for a period up to five years) 

  • Order the Permanent Expulsion of the member from the Institution
     

Examples of cases


On an annual basis, the number of members who were the subject of complaints in the Institution's complaints procedures, amounted to only 0.1% of the total number of qualified members. This is due to the fact that the number of complaints received by the Institution, on an annual basis, tends to be very low.  

The Institution's Professional Conduct Blog provides examples of complaints received and explores the lessons learned.

 

Frequently asked questions

 
Before submission of a complaint
1. What is this complaint process intended for?

To investigate any allegation made in relation to a breach, by a member, of the Institution’s Code of Conduct and/or of its Bylaws. The Code of Conduct deals with members’ professional and ethical behaviour.
 

If the Professional Conduct Committee of the Institution (”the PCC”) determines that there has been failure by a member to comply with the Code of Conduct, in most cases the PCC will impose one or more sanctions on the member which are intended to change behaviours and practice such that a repeat of the offending behaviour does not occur.

 
Some commercial disputes may fall outside of the jurisdiction of the Institution to investigate. In those cases, Complainants are advised to pursue other legally enforceable remedies. And it is not within the remit of the Institution to decide whether or not a member has been negligent.

2. How to check whether the individual who is the subject of the complaint, is a member of the Institution?

If the individual is a member of this Institution, the member’s name will be listed in the Members Directory page of the Institution’s website.

3. Can the Institution award compensation?

The Institution has no power to award compensation or legal or other costs – either from its own funds or by an order to a member– for any loss suffered.

4. How long is the complaint process?

Upon receipt of the “Complaint”, the Institution will begin its preliminary investigation, which will involve:

  • Up to 30 working days, to obtain the member’s “Response”, to the Complaint,

  • Up to 20 working days to obtain the complainant’s “Reply”, if required, to the member’s Response.

  • Up to 20 working days to obtain the member’s “2nd Response”, if required.

 
Once the above has been obtained, the “Complaint”, “Response”, “Reply” and “2nd Response”, will be provided to the Institution’s Professional Conduct Committee “the PCC” who will then meet to decide on the allegations. In more complex complaints it may take two or three meetings before a final Decision is reached.
 
The PCC usually meets five times a year, in the following months: February, April, July, September and November.

5. What sort of information should the Complainant include in a complaint?

A complaint must be made using the form provided by the Institution’s Professional Conduct Department. The form must identify the member concerned and the Article(s) of the Code of Conduct that the complainant considers to have been infringed.
 
Allegations against a member should be evidenced by supporting documentation where possible.

6. Is there a time frame by which the complaint must be submitted?

A complaint must be received by the Institution either within 3 years of the date of the last event alleged to give rise to the Complaint, or within 1 year after the conclusion of any legal action relevant to the Complaint, whichever is the later.

7. Does it matter if the complainant is also considering/taking legal action regarding the complaint?
Yes. The PCC may, at its sole discretion, postpone consideration of a Complaint and will ordinarily do so where legal or other proceedings relevant to the subject-matter of the Complaint have commenced or such legal action or other proceedings are being contemplated.
8. Can the Complainant talk to someone at the Institution before submitting the complaint?
Yes, please contact the Professional Conduct Manager on +442072354535, or by email at [email protected]
Upon member's receipt of the Complaint.
9. What does it mean for a member to receive a complaint against them?
The Institution places obligations on all members, which they have agreed to upon entering membership. If a complainant believes that those obligations have not been upheld they may choose to raise a complaint alleging that the Laws of the Institution have been breached by the member.
 
The investigation of any complaint is confidential to the Professional Conduct Department and to the Professional Conduct Committee (“the PCC”) and its advisers.
 
The PCC is responsible for determining whether any member has breached the Code of Conduct and/or Bylaws of the Institution
10. Is there a process to avoid submission of spurious complaints reaching the PCC ?
Whilst the Institution recognises that the complaint process can be a stressful time for the parties involved, it is part of the Institution’s duty to the public to investigate all complaints (within its jurisdiction) however spurious or malicious the member believes the complaint to be.
 
it is entirely for the PCC, or Preliminary Assessors if appointed under rule 2.12, to determine whether a complaint is spurious or malicious, once all the documentation has been submitted by the complainant and the member to the Institution.
 
11. Can the complaint be withdrawn by the complainant?
In any Complaint received by the PCC that is subsequently withdrawn by the Complainant, the PCC, having regard to the Code of Conduct and the evidence before it in the Complaint, is entitled to adopt the complaint and determine the Complaint as submitted. In such circumstances, the Complaint will be brought in the name of the Institution.
 
12. What does the member need to do on receipt of a complaint from the Institution?
  1. Prepare the response to the Complaint and submit the Response Form within 30 working days to the Institution.
  2. The member is advised to be timely and transparent in their response to the Complaint so that the Institution can continue to assist all parties during the process.
  3. The member must not require the complainant to withdraw the complaint as part of any settlement agreement. Any attempt to disrupt or interfere with the Institution’s complaints procedures may be considered an aggravating factor in the complaint.
13. What sort of information should the member include in a Response to a complaint?
The Response must contain a detailed answer to each allegation in the Complaint together with any documents or other evidence on which the member relies.
 
14. What if the member doesn’t respond?
Members are obliged to respond to a complaint.
 
In normal circumstances, 30 working days is considered sufficient time for members to provide a response to the complaint. However, there may be extenuating circumstances such as health and/or other personal circumstances where it is not possible to respond in that timescale. In such cases, members must inform the Professional Conduct Manager of their particular circumstances, providing evidence where possible. The Professional Conduct Manager, and/or the PCC, may then approve an extension of the timescale in which to respond.
 
In the absence of any response from the member, the PCC may decide to amend or add to the Complaint further allegations of the member’s failure to comply with the Laws of the Institution. The Institution may then proceed with its investigation without further reference to them.
 
15. Can the member talk to someone at the Institution about the complaint?
Yes, please contact our Professional Conduct Manager on +442072354535, or by email at [email protected]
Upon submission of the matter to the PCC
16. Who is the PCC, what is its’ format, and what if there is a conflict of interest?

The Professional Conduct Committee (‘PCC’) is chaired by a Past-President of the Institution (‘the Chair of the PCC’) and 14 other members who are Chartered Members of the Institution.
 
Upon receipt of a complaint, the Chair and the members of the PCC will declare whether they have any connection with the Complainant and/or the member against whom the Complaint is made, and/or, knowledge of the Complaint such that it would give rise to a conflict of interest or affect their independence and impartiality. Any member of the PCC who is conflicted is withdrawn from participating in the investigations, discussions, and decisions of that Complaint.

Upon issue of the "Decision" by the PCC
17. What happens if the PCC decides that the member has not breached the Institution’s Code of Conduct and/or its Byelaws?
If the PCC decides that there has been no failure by the member to comply with the Laws of the Institution including, any Article of the Code of Conduct, it will dismiss the complaint. 
18. What happens if the complaint is proven?

If the Professional Conduct Committee finds that the member has breached one or more Laws of the Institution, it may impose one or more of the following sanctions:
i) Guidance, and/or
ii) Training Order, and/or
iii) order a member to issue an Apology, and/or
iv) order the member to provide an Undertaking, and/or
v) Issue a Warning against the member, and/or
vi) issue a Reprimand against the member.
 
The imposing of sanctions on members is intended to affect change in behaviour so to avoid a repeat of a similar breach happening in the future, thereby protecting the interests of other clients and the wider public.

The PCC may also decide to refer the matter to a Disciplinary Board.

19. What does it mean if the PCC decides to refer a complaint to the Disciplinary Board?
It means that the PCC has found a prima facie case (i.e. based on the evidence submitted) that the member has breached one or more Laws of the Institution, however, that the details of the complaint are complex and/or serious such that an oral hearing before a Disciplinary Board panel is required.
 
The Institution will appoint a Disciplinary Board panel which consists of two Fellows of the Institution and an independent Chair. The Disciplinary Board investigates the matter anew and both the complainant and the member are entitled to attend the inquisitorial hearing.
 
The Disciplinary Board may decide to dismiss the complaint if it finds there has been no breach of the Laws of the Institution; or if it decides to uphold all or part of the complaint it has all of the sanctions available to the PCC and, in addition, has the power to suspend (up to a period of 5 years) and to permanently expel the member.
 
20. What happens if the complainant or member disagrees with the decision of the PCC or the Disciplinary Board?
The complainant and the member have a right to apply for a review of a decision, however, this is limited to the grounds listed under rule 2.38 of the Disciplinary Rules and Regulations.
 
After the Decision
21. What happens once the member has complied with the sanctions (if any) imposed by the PCC’s Decision?
Once the PCC is satisfied that the member has complied with the terms of its Decision, the matter will be closed.
 
22. What happens if the member fails to comply with a decision of the PCC or the Disciplinary Board?
The PCC will consider such failure and invite the member to provide an explanation. The PCC, after taking into account the member’s explanation (if any), will have power to take such steps as it considers appropriate without further recourse to the member, including ordering the suspension of the member.
 
  

Request a complaint form

Is the individual you wish to complain against, a member of the Institution of Structural Engineers?:

Visit our Members Directory page to confirm.
Did the matter of the complaint occur within the last 3 years?:

Is this matter currently subject to legal or other proceedings?:

Without mentioning the member's name, please provide a summary of your allegations limited to 3 sentences only / 300 Characters.
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