In this short article, Jack Harrington and Radhika Das from our employment and pensions team consider the use of mediation as a conflict resolution tool. They look at why employers should be utilising mediation, the benefits of doing so, and how to implement mediation in your workplace.
A recent Acas study found that workplace conflict costs employers around £30bn per year. It reported that nearly half a million employees resign each year as a result of conflict, costing employers around £2.6bn annually. A further 874,000 are estimated to have taken sickness absence each year as a result of conflict, at a cost of around £2.2bn annually.
The study found that while 35% of respondents had experienced an incident of conflict or ongoing difficult relationships at work, just 5% had taken part in workplace mediation. Of those who did go through mediation, 74% said their conflict was fully or largely resolved.
Mediation is a flexible, voluntary and confidential form of dispute resolution increasingly being used for resolving disputes in the workplace as an alternative to more formal procedures. A CIPD survey suggested that ‘mediation is an effective approach to help resolve workplace disputes [which] should be required before using the formal grievance process.’
Larger organisations have set up their own internal mediation schemes in order to train employees to act as mediators. Often, employers prefer to engage an external mediator. External mediators offer a number of benefits, including:
- Saving resources: setting up an internal scheme can be costly and employees often don’t have the time to commit to facilitating a mediation process.
- Conflicts of interest: it can be difficult for an employee to remain impartial and unbiased.
- Seniority: if those involved in the mediation are senior individuals within the business, it can be difficult for an employee to feel comfortable facilitating the mediation.
- Confidentiality: disputes often concern sensitive or confidential information. An external mediator can help to control the spread of that information within the organisation.
A simple first step on the journey to introducing workplace mediation is to include mediation in internal policies and procedures as part of the organisation’s approach to people management. For example, as the CIPD survey referenced above suggests, encourage mediation to be considered before the formal grievance process is used.
It is increasingly being recognised that mediation can be a ‘win-win’ approach – employees are able to reach a resolution without going through a lengthy and adversarial process, and employers are able to improve staff retention and avoid expensive tribunal claims. It is unsurprising therefore that the reported number of mediations carried out in England and Wales jumped from 2,000 in 2003 to 12,000 by 2018 and 16,500 by 2020.
Our employment and pensions team have qualified mediators who would be happy to assist you with implementing mediation as an approach to resolve workplace disputes. For more information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
We will be talking more about the benefits of workplace mediation and practical tips on approaching it at our next HR Club on 14 September 2023 – contact email@example.com to register your place.
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