Small Firms Fail to Mediate Workplace Disputes

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More than half of small firms are failing to use mediation to help prevent workplace disputes escalating to employment tribunals, according to employment advisory service Acas.

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In mediation, an impartial expert talks to both sides separately and helps come up with a solution that both accept. According to Acas, mediation is usually quicker than taking legal action, often lasting less than one day, and is almost always less expensive and stressful.

“Small businesses often don’t think their problems are suitable for mediation, because they aren’t aware of all the circumstances in which it can be helpful,”

said Acas mediation project manager Gill Trevelyan.

“Mediation can help resolve workplace disputes, such as bullying and harassment claims, before they escalate to employment tribunal claims.”

“Small firms think it is only for disputes between a manager and an employee, but it can actually be used for problems between employees, if that’s causing a business problem,” she added. “It can be used at any stage, before, part-way through or after formal procedures, if people feel the situation hasn’t been resolved.”

According to recent research from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), 49 per cent of employers who use mediation do so to avoid the cost of taking a case to an employment tribunal. The research also highlighted that of those firms which used mediation, only three per cent had to take the case to tribunal.

“Poor conflict management does not just lead to management time being wasted and significant financial cost but also creates stress, leads to employee absence, dysfunctional teams and damages morale and productivity,”

said CIPD employee relations adviser Mike Emmott.

“Providing managers with informal mediation skills would allow them to step in and attempt to resolve disputes before they escalate.”

Further information on resolving disputes through mediation can be seen in our Handling grievance & discipline procedures article.

For more information on Acas’ mediation services visit the Acas website

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