Mediation in the workplace

In any relationship, there is bound to be a dispute (or two!).

In an employment context, it is no different. When employees are working side by side, day in and day out, it is likely there will be some occasional tension. Sometimes it can be positive because it can produce competition and innovation, but other times it can cause damage to working relationships, team morale and employee engagement.

Resolving disputes in the workplace can involve a significant amount of time, patience, resource and expense. You may think that going to an Employment Tribunal or court is the only way to go, but there are other ways you can approach the dispute to avoid the need to resort to formal procedures or litigation.

What is mediation?

Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution. It involves an independent and impartial third party who will give the two sides a platform to explore the issues at the heart of the dispute.

It is up to the parties to find a resolution – the mediator cannot force the parties to make or reach an agreement as to how best to resolve the conflict.

Are mediation discussions confidential?

Typically, mediation is held on a ‘without prejudice’ basis until the  point where the parties agree they have a resolution. This means that anything discussed during the mediation process cannot be used as evidence in legal proceedings until the point of settlement is reached. This enables the parties to talk openly and freely about the issues.

Is mediation compulsory?

There is no legal requirement to use mediation and there are no legal consequences if the parties cannot reach a resolution.

When should mediation be used?

Although it is not appropriate to deal with all types of disputes, it can be useful to resolve workplace conflict, such as discrimination, harassment, bullying or personality clashes.

It can be used to resolve disputes between employers and employees or line managers and their subordinates. It can also be beneficial to resolve conflict between team members.

But does it really have any value?

Although some employers seem to be sceptical as to what can be achieved through mediation, many employers are recognising its benefits.

In brief:

  • Mediation gives control to the parties, rather than relying on a judgment by an Employment Tribunal or court. This is particularly valuable when the employee is still employed with you.
  • It is less adversarial in nature than going through legal proceedings, fostering more of a positive environment at the end of the process.
  • It provides more flexibility.
  • It can help nip escalating issues in the bud.
  • It can solve a matter quickly, avoiding the use of valuable resource and time.

Contact your Ellis Whittam Employment Law Adviser for further information on how mediation can be integrated into your employer’s practices and procedures or to make use of Ellis Whittam’s mediation services.

Director of Legal Services

James Tamm

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