Compliments, Comments and Complaints Policy

We appreciate that the feedback we receive will be varied, including complaints, compliments and comments, and that complaints may range from a serious allegation about a person or a more minor complaint about a process. 

Our Compliments, Comments and Complaints Policy describes our overarching approach to handling feedback and the consistent principles we will adhere to.

How to send feedback to BTO

We appreciate the time that any individual takes to provide constructive feedback on their interactions and experience of BTO.

To send a compliment, comment or complaint to BTO:

  • email us at info [at]
  • state in the subject line whether your email is a complaint, compliment or comment – this will help us to pass it to the right department.

When we receive feedback, we will:

  • make a brief record of your feedback and assess its nature, before forwarding it to the most relevant person; 
  • acknowledge receipt of your feedback, and contact you again to let you know the timescale for an investigation and to give you a more detailed response
  • treat any feedback you send, and any information you share, confidentially and in accordance with General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) and our Privacy policy.

Read our Privacy policy

Our staff will respond to and deal with any comment or complaint professionally and respectfully.

BTO’s Board and Leadership Team expect that any communications sent to or interactions with our staff are also done so respectfully.

We are clear that we will not accept offensive or abusive behaviour towards our staff.

You can find out more about our values and commitments, and the aspirations and expectations of our community, in our other policies. We hope sharing these will support everyone in creating a positive and safe environment for anyone with a link to the BTO community. 


We’d like to say thank you to anyone who takes the time to provide feedback about the work of our fantastic staff.

We will share any positive feedback with the relevant staff member/s, recognising the positive impact this can have on wellbeing and satisfaction at work.


When an individual comments on their experience and interactions with BTO, we will share this with the relevant department so that any necessary action can be taken.

A comment may be a suggestion about something we could do better, but is not an expression of dissatisfaction. If we are unclear about the nature of your feedback we will contact you to discuss this.


Complaints received by BTO generally relate to dissatisfaction with the actions or policies of the BTO and its activities. 

If you would like to make a complaint it is helpful if you can put your complaint in writing - this ensures we have a record in your words and can refer back to it. Please provide as much information as possible. 

A complaint may be in the form of:

  • A request for redress.
  • A request for something to be changed.
  • An assertion that something was done wrong.
  • A suggestion that something could be done better.
  • A question.

Where possible, please also let us know your desired outcome. Although we cannot guarantee this, knowing this will help us to look into your complaint.  

We understand that making a complaint can be difficult, and we will support you through the process.

Making an anonymous complaint

We recognise that there are times when anonymity is particularly important to complainants; we encourage anyone with a complaint to come forward and speak with us about their concerns. If you do wish to remain anonymous it is important we make you aware that anonymous complaints can sometimes be hard to investigate satisfactorily for a number of reasons. We will, however, work with you to discuss the options and seek to agree on a way forward. 

We hope that by sharing our position on Inclusivity and our Code of Conduct we are clear about our expectations and the support we will offer to anyone that does get in touch with us. 

How will we investigate a complaint?

We aim to investigate complaints as thoroughly and efficiently as reasonably possible. Our investigation may involve speaking to relevant people both in and outside BTO (for example, if witness statements will help our understanding of the issue). If we do this we will ensure any third party understands the importance of confidentiality. 


We will acknowledge receipt of your complaint immediately.

We aim to respond to complaints within 10 working days but this may vary considerably depending on the nature of the complaint. We will let you know if it will take longer and keep you updated about the timescales and any delays.


We will write to you confirming the outcome of the complaint and explaining any decision that we reach. There are a range of possible additional steps we may take, including, taking action internally or externally, improving a process, or rectifying a mistake.

Our ‘test’ for reaching a decision on any complaint in relation to behaviour or conduct is a ‘balance of probabilities’ based upon the information available at the time rather than ‘proof beyond all reasonable doubt’. 

BTO will, in the more serious cases or cases where patterns of inappropriate behaviours persist, and only after reasonable investigation and careful consideration, bring to an end our association with anyone that is found to have breached our Code of Conduct or acted in any way that is not congruent with BTO values. 

When we are taking further action with an individual as a result of a complaint, we may not, due to confidentiality, be able to share the full outcome of our investigation and decision making but we will provide as much information as possible to demonstrate that we have taken your complaint seriously. 


Where our decision results in a sanction, such as the removal of a license or ending a membership, any person subject to this will be offered a full and fair right to appeal; we will confirm this process and its timescales in writing.


We will keep records of complaints for 12 months unless there is a legal reason (or other reason) for us to retain the information longer. This record may include your name and contact details and details of your complaint. Any information we retain will be kept secure.  

More about the complaints process

If we are unclear about the nature of your feedback we may contact you to discuss this.

We may also contact you for further details about your complaint, to make sure that we have all the information needed to look into it properly and if necessary, to understand your desired outcome. 

We will take the steps to review, investigate and respond to any complaint in a way that is proportionate to the complaint made and in communication with the individual making the complaint.

From time to time, people will contact us to tell us about issues and concerns they have, perhaps in relation to a member of our staff, volunteer or Ringer.  In most cases, we will only be able to fully enact our policies if we receive a formal complaint and the complainant is prepared to feed into the process. Without this, we do not have the information or independence we need to carry out our processes fully and fairly. There are some exceptions to this, for example, if we are made aware of a serious breach of safety or a Safeguarding concern, but in these cases, we hope individuals will still support our internal processes in whatever way they can.  We understand that making a complaint can be difficult and will support you through the process.

If your complaint is about a BTO supporter, volunteer or member, or an experience or interaction with a group or event not directly managed by BTO

BTO is a community of volunteers, supporters and members, meaning we e may be unable to investigate complaints and issue sanctions in the same way as if the complaint relates to a staff member or BTO event or process. We would still encourage any person with a concern to come forward as it may be that we can take action, help in a different way or learn from the feedback. What we will do at every opportunity is be clear about our values, aspirations and expectations through our Customer Charter, Inclusivity Statement, Social Media policy and Code of Conduct. We firmly believe that a positive environment and positive interactions rely on the whole community which is linked to BTO sharing these values and upholding the behaviours.

There may be a range of things we can do. For example, we can share our policy and guidance documents or speak with the individual concerned, offering support or training, and in some cases, we may be able to issue a limited number of more serious sanctions, particularly where the complaint is of a serious nature (for example, relating to bullying and harassment or Safeguarding).

Complaints relating to ringing

Complaints against a ringer in relation to their conduct or behaviour will be addressed through this overarching complaints process.

Complaints about their ringing practices or issues related to bird welfare are addressed by the Ringing Standards Select Committee (RSSC).

Complaints relating to volunteers (for example, Breeding Bird Survey, Wetland Bird Survey etc)

Complaints against a survey volunteer such as a Regional Organiser for a scheme in relation to their conduct or behaviour will be addressed through this overarching complaints process.

The seriousness of the complaint

Potential complaints range from the obviously serious (e.g. a complaint that the Trust has broken the law, relevant regulations, or the conditions of a contract) to the apparently more minor (e.g. spelling someone’s name wrong). We will take steps to treat all complaints seriously, recognising the importance of this to our supporters and the public, and that doing so can help us to continuously improve.

Repeated patterns of behaviour

Where we receive a series of comments or complaints, minor or serious, informal or formal, about an individual that indicate a pattern of behaviour that is not congruent with the values and expectations of the BTO community, we may take steps to investigate and take action where we decide, based upon a balance of information available, that this is a reasonable thing to do.


Where our decision results in a sanction, such as the removal of a license or ending a membership, any person subject to this will be offered a full and fair right to appeal; we will confirm this process and its timescales in writing.

If you are the subject of a complaint we receive

For example, we may receive a complaint from a member of the public about the behaviour of a volunteer that contravenes our stance on Equality, Diversity and Inclusiuon.

If we determine that the complaint is something we have a responsibility to look into, then we will contact you to make you aware that we have received it.

  • We will provide you with as much information as possible, to enable you to give a response to the complaint.  
  • We will not assume any wrongdoing.
  • We will offer you support, keep you informed about timescales and delays and write to your confirming the outcome.


Where our decision results in a sanction, such as the removal of a license or ending a membership, any person subject to this will be offered a full and fair right to appeal; we will confirm this process and its timescales in writing.

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