The number of claims being lodged at the employment tribunal has dropped dramatically since the introduction of fees in 2013. Of course that does not mean that conflict in the workplace has gone but it might mean that disputes drag on for even longer rather than being resolved ‘once and for all’ by a legal decision.
Mediation provides a great opportunity for employers and employees to look at other ways of resolving work issues and achieving peace and calm in the office or on the shop floor.
Of course, ACAS has always been available to assist parties who are heading towards an employment tribunal hearing, and their services are free. Now, employees must contact ACAS before they are able to bring a claim (Early Conciliation).
ACAS’ service is mainly conducted by telephone, and the staff member (or ex-employee) is not required to pursue conciliation (although many do).
However, some disputes can be so entrenched, and feelings running so high, that a settlement through ACAS is unlikely. In those cases, there can be no substitute for getting the parties around a table (or at least in the same building!)
Mediation involves an independent facilitator working with employer and employee to help them achieve a settlement. It can be used while the person is still employed, or after employment is ended, and even after a legal claim has been issued. It provides a safe environment for parties to discuss the issues between them, desirable for those who want their ‘day in court’ but might not want to go through all the stress and cost. Settlement terms are not confined to money, and any agreement can be wide-ranging.
Mediation is not the only form of dispute resolution available to deal with workplace issues. Arbitration is increasingly being used to determine claims, especially for parties who do not want the full public glare of court proceedings. Early Neutral Evaluation can assist parties who are uncertain about the potential outcome of a tribunal claim and can aid settlement. Sometimes a combination of processes will work best. For example, Mediation-Arbitration (‘Med-Arb’) provides parties with an opportunity to reach a settlement, followed by arbitration if their differences cannot be resolved.
Solent Mediation is a group of mediators, arbitrators and professionals who can offer a wide range of solutions to all types of dispute. If you are in conflict with a member of staff, or with your employer (or former employer), contact us for a discussion about our dispute resolution services.