21 June: Chris Wheeler, Deputy Ombudsman, NSW Ombudsman will speak on Procedural Fairness and Procedural Justice. Register here.
Organisational scientists have put forward ‘organisational justice theory’ or ‘justice theory’ as a way to explain how individuals react to decisions and the way they are made. Nearly 40 years ago, Thibault & Walker put forward the proposition that disputants care as much about how their disputes are resolved as they do about the outcomes they receive. Subsequent research from around the world has supported this view. Recent research has found that children as young as 7-8 recognise the importance of a fair process.
Justice theory looks at what is important for outcomes to be perceived to be acceptable and/or for the people involved in the process to be satisfied with the fairness of the process and how they were treated. Justice theory argues that where the procedures followed (referred to as procedural justice) and the interactions with the person concerned (referred to as interactional justice) are perceived to be fair, reasonable and appropriate, then a negative outcome is more likely to be accepted by a complainant. It further argues that when this occurs, the complainant will be less likely to develop a negative perception of the decision-maker. [NB: where the dispute is about a very important personal issue, the research indicates that the final outcome is likely to be the more important factor].
For the public sector, over the years the courts have developed the rules of procedural fairness (sometimes referred to as natural justice) to ensure that statutory powers are exercised appropriately by administrative decision makers. The courts assume that it is the intention of the legislature that decisions or actions authorised by statute, that are likely to affect the rights or interests of individuals, will be implemented using a fair process.
While the rules of procedural fairness do not apply the decision-making in the private sector, justice theory emphasises the importance for the private sector of ensuring that people affected by a decision or action perceive the process leading up to the decision, and the way they were treated, to be fair.
This presentation will look at the importance of perceptions of fairness in decision-making in both the public and private sectors.