Direct Mediation Services

Mediation Process in the Workplace

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Mediation process in the workplace

Mediation is an independent form of conflict resolution, which is used in resolving disputes or creating a dialogue between individuals. When introduced in the workplace there is a danger of it being construed as a way of tying the hands of an employer, or obligating an employee. In recent years, employment legislation, and a keen awareness of employment rights, has made it more complicated to navigate disputes in the workplace. However, unlike law, policy and HR procedure, mediation has the power to cut through the red tape.

What is mediation in the workplace?

At DMS we have a facilitative style of mediation. A representative of the employer and the employee are given a safe, confidential space with an independent mediator to discuss their concerns and reach creative solutions on how to resolve their differences. The process ensures a balance is maintained between the participants, which allows an openness that is rarely achieved in a disciplinary process.  Both are afforded equal time to speak, and a mediator is careful to draw information out and summarise each participant’s stance. The importance of trying to empathise and understand the other participant’s position is paramount. It is likely that mediation will be considered where an informal discussion or a disciplinary/grievance process is failing to resolve a dispute. A better way to consider mediation would be to always place it as one of the options right at the outset of managing the employer/employee relationship.

How to explain mediation to employees?

How to introduce mediation to employees is important. It should be explained very clearly that mediation does not form part of any internal process and it is entirely up to the employee if they participate, or not. If there are questions, they should be referred to the DMS website or one of our workplace mediation team. This will ensure that everyone feels they have ownership of the process. It will be explained very clearly that what is discussed will always remain confidential between the participants and the mediator. Nothing raised in a mediation session is capable of being disclosed in a tribunal, or to management/colleagues within the workplace. Confidentiality is at the heart of the mediation process.

What happens in a mediation session?

 In practice, a mediation session will be conducted as follows:

  • Participants sign an Agreement to Mediate, which emphasises the confidential nature of the process, amongst many other things.
  • A mediator will meet with both participants separately to find out what each participant would like to achieve in the mediation and assess whether the issue is something which is suitable for mediation.
  • Mediator reminds participants of the workplace mediation ground rules and participants explain their position. The mediator will encourage a calm and polite interchange and may ask questions to gain further clarity.
  • Participants agree an agenda and prioritise points. There are no time constraints on how long a mediation can take, but the mediator aims to ensure discussions are kept in focus and remain balanced.
  • Participants explore the issues. The mediator will keep the conversation future focused and use their experience to neutralise any heightened emotion.
  • Participants consider all options. The mediator’s task is to also guide the participants in reality testing any proposed agreements to ensure they work in practice.
  • The mediator closes mediation, a mediator will provide a copy of session notes to the participants with any action points. This may form the basis of a settlement agreement.

Examples of Mediation in the Workplace

By its very nature, mediation is not limited to any particular type of dispute. It can be used in a range of bullying and harassment claims, employee performance issues and cases where personalities clash. Where there is conflict, there is normally stress and this can give rise to health issues. There is the potential for mediation to work to improve employee attendance and uncover the sources of sickness absence. This is particularly the case where mental health and anxiety have caused an employee to disengage. Mediation is a way of breaking through when good communication is faltering.

Mediation can also be a valuable tool in change management. When workplace decisions affect particular individuals, mediation can provide a neutral environment to discuss the risks and opportunities this might present for individuals – both those managing the change and experiencing it. Actions may arise from such sessions that have not been considered in the past. This way mediation can have the additional benefit of providing valuable brain storming.

Benefits of Mediation in the Workplace

The mediation process is simple in its form, but as with all human interaction emotions can run high. It is key that a mediator is experienced in handling the process and at all times remain impartial to avoid inflaming tensions. Either participant can withdraw from the process at any point because mediation is voluntary. If it is stopped, or ends in no agreement, the disciplinary or grievance process is then able to resume and nothing is lost. The discussion which has taken place in mediation may indirectly assist other procedures, but essentially the notes and conversations must never be made available beyond the mediation session.
Mediation improves the chances of retaining good employees, reducing reputational damage and engendering respect between individuals. A duty of mutual trust and confidence is implied by law into every employment contract; mediation is a key tool to preserving this relationship.

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Please note this service is delivered by DMS Civil and Commercial Ltd.