Auditur et altera pars (The other side shall be heard as well.)
-- Seneca, Medea
What are Fairness and Natural Justice?
‘Natural justice’ was developed in England in the 19th century to define rules for decision-making. Having evolved over time, the concept is now often described as ‘procedural fairness’ or just ‘fairness.’ As a result, the terms natural justice, procedural fairness, and fairness are often used interchangeably.
Is it Fair or Unfair?
Consider these basic aspects of fairness:
- the right to know about a case against you
- the right to an impartial and unbiased decision-maker
- the opportunity to be heard
- the right to a decision and the rationale for that decision
Keep in mind: fairness does not necessarily mean getting what you want.
Dimensions of Fairness
A person's experience of fairness can have three dimensions:
- Relational - how a person is treated
- Procedural - the process used to make the decision
- Substantive - the decision itself
The fairness triangle, below, can be helpful for students, administrators, staff, and faculty when considering the process of decision-making or a completed decision [developed by Ombudsman Saskatchewan and adapted by the University of Victoria Ombudsperson].
“It is my firm belief that if all decision-makers abided by these basic principles when forming conclusions and making decisions there would be very few complaints about the fairness of decisions other than from those for whom any answer other than the one they want is unacceptable.”
Nora Farrell, Ombudsperson, Ryerson University
Martine Conway, former Ombudsperson, University of Victoria, adapted fairness triangle.
Ombudsman Saskatchewan, original fairness triangle.
BC Office of the Ombudsperson, Quick Tips: Aspects of Procedural Fairness.