Regular readers of our blog will recall that the government is currently undertaking a reform of the Employment Tribunal system. As part of this process it has been announced that a pilot scheme for two regional mediation networks will be set up in Cambridge and Manchester for small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The pilots will run for 12 months and, if successful, the Government will consider introducing them into other areas of the UK.
What is mediation?
Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution which is used as a way of resolving disputes between two or more parties. A third party, the mediator, assists the parties to negotiate their own settlement, with a view to resolving matters without initiating legal proceedings. The process is carried out in a private and confidential setting. Over the last few years there has been an increasing emphasis on the role of mediation as a means of resolving disputes from both the Employment Tribunal and ACAS.
What will the scheme entail?
Under the scheme a group of selected SMEs will be able to receive government-funded mediation training. It is anticipated that once training has been provided a network of mediators will then be available to provide mediation to other employers in the region. The scheme is also intended to raise the profile of mediation as a more informal way of resolving workplace disputes as research has indicated that it is currently being underutilised by employers.
What are the benefits of mediation?
It is hoped that the increased use of mediation in the work place will see a reduction in the number of complaints that are made to the Employment Tribunal, which can often be a costly, stressful and lengthy process for all involved. If matters are resolved through mediation this can also negate the need for utilising grievance and disciplinary measures, which can be very damaging for working relations.
Are there any pitfalls associated with mediation?
In order for mediation to be successful all parties involved in the dispute need to agree to participate in the process voluntarily and have a willingness to move matters forward. If parties have adopted an entrenched position and have no desire to work towards a resolution then the process can be futile.
If you would like further information on mediation, or wish to discuss any element of a workplace dispute please get in touch.