Workplace disputes

There are two types of employment dispute.

First, as an employee, your dispute may be with a fellow employee or with the company management. As an employer, you may have a problem between two of your key staff.

The second type of employment dispute is between the employer and an employee.

Employee-employee issues

Resolution of the dispute between two employees usually becomes serious enough to require an external mediator only when the employees are at a senior level.

Mediation is the perfect solution. The very fact that the Mediator is impartial and unconnected with the employer places him perfectly to provide the required help.

Employer-employee issues

The considerations for a dispute between an employer and an employee are slightly different.

Every employer should have an employment dispute resolution policy. However, having a policy does not necessarily resolve the dispute.

Many employers perceive the tribunal system as unfair, unjust, expensive and inconsistent. However, whether or not it provides justice is not the only question.

For an employee, the tribunal system provides an opportunity for redress in the round but it has become so much a creature of the legal establishment that the procedures are almost as formal as they are in any other part of the judicial system, and can be very expensive.

As a result, many employees hesitate to become embroiled in what they perceive as an extremely stressful situation lasting many months.

Additionally, many employees don't just want a financial outcome, they would also like to be able to speak openly and clearly about their problems, and to be heard and understood by their employer.

Mediation is the preferable solution for both parties. It provides a quick, comfortable and stress-free opportunity to close the door on the problem.

We will help you to resolve any employment dispute at any level. It is usual for the employer to pay a mediator’s full fees and to provide a suitable venue.

Extra advantages of workplace mediation

The advantages of mediation in an employment context are broadly the same as for any other business context. The unhappy road which leads ultimately to a tribunal hearing can be avoided to the same advantage as the unhappy road to the County Court.

The dispute can be resolved fast, with far less expense. Often, neither party needs legal advice. The element of stress is downgraded from “severe and continuing” to “light and short”. We suggest the most important advantage of mediation in a workplace dispute is secrecy and confidentiality. This is usually as important to an employee as to the employer.

Although confidentiality agreements are often demonised, in mediation, confidentiality is the norm. A contractual term requiring confidentiality is written into most mediation agreements. That means even in the rare event that your mediation meeting fails to result in agreement, confidentiality must be maintained.

An application to an employment tribunal will usually terminate all goodwill between the employee and employer. As a result any continuing employment will be scarred for ever by that dispute. Mediation does not have that effect. Any damage to the employment relationship could be shallow and forgotten after a week or two.

For both parties, mediation provides a quick, comfortable and stress-free opportunity to close the door on the problem through a memorandum of understanding.

Healing a long-running sore

Many employment disputes do not arise from a sudden disagreement but accumulate over time until some particular event becomes the “last straw to break the camel’s back”. In such a case, the very fact of both sides being able to put their case confidentially to the mediator and then, as far as they wish, openly to each other, enables each to see the position of the other with new clarity and understanding. That is most conducive to agreement.

Disputes with multiple employees

Mediation is also an extremely efficient way to deal with the dispute which affects multiple employees. They could be represented by a trade union, an informal leader, or not represented at all. This is one of those rare situations where the Mediator will accept that a party consists in several people all of whom would like to be able to speak. The situation does require an extended meeting time but does provide a forum to deal satisfactorily with those disputes which drag on for ever.

It is particularly useful to be able to settle a labour dispute in the course of an ongoing substantial project where a misunderstanding with just one team can cause a bottleneck costing millions of pounds a day.

If by chance either side requires an experienced negotiator then the Mediator is also available to take that role. Of course, that role is quite different from his role as a Mediator.

The procedure for workplace mediation

In our mediation, the procedure follows the route we have set out for business mediation generally. The differences are as follows:

workplace mediation rarely requires a large volume of documentation;

workplace mediation usually requires less time to resolve. A 3 to 4 hour meeting is likely to be sufficient, as against a full day for a business dispute.

it is usual for the mediation meeting to take place in the employer’s premises and for the employer to pay the full cost of both sides. That means that a mediation meeting can be set up quite quickly since the venue can be made available at short notice and the employee is unconcerned at the cost.

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Andrew Taylor might agree to mediate

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