What makes for an 'effective' grievance mechanism: eight criteria under soft law
The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (the Guiding Principles) provide eighteffectiveness criteria for company grievance mechanisms.
These effectiveness criteria “provide a benchmark for designing, revising or assessing a non-judicial grievance mechanism to help ensure that it is effective in practice. Poorly designed or implemented grievance mechanisms can risk compounding a sense of grievance amongst affected stakeholders by heightening their sense of disempowerment and disrespect by the process.”
The following table lists the questions companies can ask themselves as they seek to meet the guidance provided under soft law when designing grievance mechanisms. These questions come from the effectiveness criteria in the Guiding Principles, as well as the research that fed into their development at the time. (See the end of this page for links to that research and other helpful resources on grievance mechanisms.)
#1) IS THE GRIEVANCE MECHANISM LEGITIMATE?
#1A) Is the mechanism trusted by its users?
What engenders trust in this particular situation and how can we build it?
How can affected stakeholders be involved in designing/ reviewing/ providing feedback?
#1B) Is the mechanism accountable for the fair conduct of grievance processes?
Is there a process to ensure parties cannot interfere with its fair conduct?
Is there a formal and independent oversight structure?
#2) IS THE GRIEVANCE MECHANISM ACCESSIBLE?
#2A) Is the mechanism known to all intended users?
How is the company publicising its existence?
Does the company know the access points users are most likely to use?
Are there users who are harder to reach who need special consideration?
Are there ways of targeting publicity when/ where grievances are most likely to arise?
#2B) Does the mechanism provide adequate assistance for those who may face particular barriers to access?
Does it consider barriers (e.g., those related to language, literacy, costs, physical location and fears of reprisal)?
How does the company seek to protect individuals who raise concerns from retaliation?
#3) IS THE GRIEVANCE MECHANISM PREDICTABLE?
#3A) Does the mechanism provide a clear and known procedure with an indicative time frame for each stage?
Does the mechanism have clear indicative time frames, while allowing that flexibility may sometimes be needed?
Does the mechanism adhere to its indicative time frame?
Where it does not, does it communicate why?
#3B) Is the mechanism clear on the types of process & outcome available & means of monitoring implementation?
Does the mechanism provide public information about the procedure it offers?
#4) IS THE GRIEVANCE MECHANISM EQUITABLE?
#4A) Does the mechanism seek to ensure that parties have reasonable access to sources of information, advice & expertise necessary to engage in a grievance process on fair, informed and respectful terms?
Are users adequately informed and readily able to use the mechanism?
If not, are there providers of external advice that can provide support that are respected by both the company and users?
#5) IS THE GRIEVANCE MECHANISM TRANSPARENT?
#5A) Does the mechanism keep parties informed about the progress of their grievance?
#5B) Does the mechanism provide sufficient evidence to build confidence in its effectiveness and meet any public interest at stake?
What information can the company provide publicly to demonstrate that the mechanism is working, effective and can be trusted (e.g., statistics, case studies, detailed information about the handling of certain cases)?
Is the information provided in such a way as to protect user confidentiality?
#6) IS THE GRIEVANCE MECHANISM RIGHTS-COMPATIBLE?
#6A) Do the outcomes and remedies accord with internationally recognised human rights?
Do the procedures enable and ensure rights-compatible outcomes?
Does the mechanism treat all complaints seriously, including those which do not represent allegations of human rights abuse?
#7) IS THE GRIEVANCE MECHANISM A SOURCE OF CONTINUOUS LEARNING?
#7A) Does the mechanism identify lessons for improving the mechanism and preventing future grievances and harms?
Is there regular analysis of the frequency, patterns and causes of grievances?
Has the company developed meaningful indicators to assess success?
Are there procedures in place to enable feedback from users/ potential users?
Does the company seek to adjust wider company policies and procedures based on identified trends?
#8) IS THE GRIEVANCE MECHANISM BASED ON ENGAGEMENT AND DIALOGUE?
#8A) Are the users consulted on the mechanism’s design and performance?
Are stakeholder perspectives considered for the public-facing aspects (e.g., choice of access points, modes of dispute resolution, transparency)?
#8B)Is dialogue used as the means to address and resolve grievances?
Are agreed solutions reached through dialogue, including, where appropriate, through facilitated discussions (e.g., mediation)?
Is recourse to a legitimate, independent third-party mechanism possible?