Workplace mediation is on the rise, particularly following the increase in tribunal fees and the increase in length of service to 2 years to bring a claim. Moreover, employers are seeing that resolving things before they reach the tribunal stage can have great advantages as opposed to displaying the dirty laundry for all to see. There are many reasons why mediation is seen to be an appropriate tool to resolving workplace disputes. Employees who have disputes are encouraged to take mediation as their first course of action rather than going straight to a tribunal. The number of tribunal cases has dropped for a third consecutive quarter according to the latest figures from the Ministry of Justice. This is arguably because of the change in the cost associated with tribunal cases, referred to above, but I also believe that early reconciliation through mediation has played a part in the reduction of claims.
Whilst I was completing my accreditation to become a mediator, I asked an experienced person if there was ever a situation in which mediation would not work, in his opinion and his answer was no. My experience to date of workplace mediation bears this out. I truly believe that mediation is a positive tool that can provide solutions for challenging workplace situations. If there is one area where mediation would automatically spring to mind when thinking about alternative dispute resolution, it would be discrimination. Discrimination in all its forms is an extremely sensitive issue which is highly emotive. How can you ask someone who has been for example racially discriminated against to go into mediation? I think this is a challenging situation for any HR professional to tackle.
To engage in such an approach without considering the feelings of the offended party could cause any future attempt to mediate to become disastrous. What’s the solution? In my experience taking care in the approaching the idea of mediating can help to make the concept more palatable. The physical arrangements of mediation can be adjusted to accommodate both parties, so they are situated in different rooms. This is where the mediator comes into her own, working between both rooms to enable both parties to feel comfortable to discuss the issue at hand without having to deal directly with each other, creating much needed space and room to breathe. If a solution can be brokered, then the parties can get back to working together fruitfully together, or other solutions can be worked out that would not necessarily be available following acrimonious tribunal proceedings.
There is clear evidence that in most workplace situations, mediation can work effectively for both parties. Willingness to mediate is always the deciding factor when choosing this route, but innovative approaches can also sway those less willing to mediate. For more details about workplace mediation, please firstname.lastname@example.org
Dianne Greyson – Workplace Mediator
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