Workplace Mediation - The Low Cost of Compromise

Posted in : HR Updates ROI on 21 October 2015
Breda O'Malley
Hayes Solicitors

Mediation is an efficient, practical and cost-effective method of dispute resolution. It can provide a quicker, cheaper and more effective way of arriving at a suitable outcome, than litigation.

Voluntary and Confidential Process

The mediation process itself takes place on a strictly voluntary and confidential basis. Mediation provides an environment conducive to early dispute resolution. The approach is less adversarial and confrontational by its nature, than the process of dispute resolution in the Courts system.

Mediator – Neutral Third Party

Mediation involves a mediator who acts as a totally neutral third party. The mediator facilitates open discussion between the parties, in a skillfully managed process with a view to the parties themselves reaching an agreed settlement of their own dispute.

What the Aim?

Unlike with the Court system, the aim of mediation is not to establish fault, to determine who caused any wrongs that has arisen, or to identify or to seek to protect legal rights. Mediation has a different aim. It works to overcome the dispute and to enable life, whether work, commerce, family or community life, to continue after a dispute arises. It works to resolve the dispute and to put practical steps in place to enable the parties to it to move on from the dispute and to cater for their future, whether individually or in co-operative arrangements.

Mediation allows for resolution in which the parties themselves create, frame and control the outcome. Mediation provides an opportunity for parties to meaningfully participate in the process. They can work together to arrive at a solution which is tailored to their own respective needs. This is often practically more beneficial than having a binding rights-based solution imposed by the Courts. Agreed settlement terms arrived at during the course of mediation can be recorded and signed by the parties in a legally enforceable contract.

Agreements resulting from mediation are arrived at voluntarily. Therefore, it is also more likely that they will be complied with voluntarily, unlike Court judgments which may need further legal and judicial enforcement measures.

At the very least, if no agreement is reached, the process should facilitate the streamlining of the issues at hand, which will in turn be of assistance in subsequent litigation.

Mediation and the Law

In light of recent legislative changes, it is advisable for employers to familiarise themselves with the mediation process which will undoubtedly play a much more significant role in the resolution of employment disputes going forward. As of 1 October last, mediation was formerly introduced to the Irish employment litigation system through the Workplace Relations Act 2015. The Act introduces a legally binding mediation facility which encourages the early resolution of disputes without the need for formal adjudication, where possible. There is also the Mediation Bill 2012 which, when enacted, will require solicitors to provide clients with information and advice regarding mediation before taking the decision to commence Court proceedings.

Quick and Cheap

Litigation can be extremely drawn out and stressful for those involved. It is also very costly. The costs in respect of mediation, on the other hand, are significantly lower. Furthermore, the time involved in mediation is considerably less than the amount of time involved in attending Court. While it often takes a few days or weeks to reach an agreement through mediation, the average time involved in a case that proceeds to the High Court is two years. This delay inevitably leads to absorption of limited business resources which are used to manage and progress litigation. It also impacts on staff morale in an organisation, where a dispute is left to fester, without early intervention and the support of healing measures.

An Accredited Experienced Mediator It is important to bear in mind that when availing of mediation, an accredited and experienced mediator should be engaged to facilitate the process. In this regard, interested parties should consider referring to the Irish Commercial Mediation Association (ICMA), the Mediation Institute of Ireland (MII) or One Resolve, the contacts for each of which are available online.

Summary

In summary, mediation provides a highly efficient and cost-effective platform for the resolution of interpersonal employment disputes. It can yield significant benefits for the parties. If mediation is availed of at an early stage, before matters become fraught, the parties can work together to resolve their dispute and to prevent irreparable damage to working relationships, which, alternatively, are often rendered fractured, or in many cases irrevocably sundered, in the wake of litigation.

This article is correct at 04/01/2016
Disclaimer:

The information in this article is provided as part of Legal-Island's Employment Law Hub. We regret we are not able to respond to requests for specific legal or HR queries and recommend that professional advice is obtained before relying on information supplied anywhere within this article.

Breda O'Malley
Hayes Solicitors

The main content of this article was provided by Breda O'Malley. Contact telephone number is +353 1 662 4747 or email bomalley@hayes-solicitors.ie

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