If you have a problem at work, there are a number of ways you can try to sort it out without going to court or an employment tribunal. Two such ways are mediation and conciliation.
What is workplace mediation?
The workplace mediation process involves an independent and impartial third party – a mediator – discussing your problem with you and your employer (or whomever else it may relate to) in order to solve a problem in your workplace.
The mediator will talk to both sides separately and may also deem it necessary to bring them together. They will not tell you what to do, although they will advise you on certain issues and ask questions.
Mediation is typically faster, less expensive and less stressful than taking legal action and the entire process often lasts less than a day.
Mediation is often used after informal methods of resolving the issues have failed to produce a solution. It is a voluntary process and the mediator cannot force you or your employer to accept a certain solution. You and your employer must agree on the solution.
Mediation is not appropriate for solving problems that require formal investigation, such as discrimination or harassment. If you would like to find a mediation service, you can use the Civil Mediation Council website.
What is workplace conciliation?
Workplace conciliation is similar to mediation. Ordinarily, it is used when:
- You think you may be entitled to bring a claim before an employment tribunal
- You already have a claim pending before an employment tribunal.
A trained conciliator performs the following functions:
- Discuss the issues with both sides
- Explain the legal issues involved
- Consider the opportunities for settling the case.
Like mediation, conciliation is voluntary and you and your employer must agree to undertake it before it takes place. Other features of conciliation are:
- You stay in control because any agreement is reached by both sides and not imposed by a third party
- You are informed because you get a clearer understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of your case and can explore options for resolving your differences
- It is confidential. Anything you discuss with the other side cannot be used by them at a tribunal hearing
- It can restore trust. If, for example, you are still employed, it reduces the risk of a permanent breakdown of the employment relationship.
If you would like free advice on how to settle a claim or potential claim, contact the Advisory Council and Arbitration Service (ACAS) online or by calling their helpline on 0300 123 1100 from Monday to Friday, from 8am to 8pm and Saturday from 9am to 1pm.
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