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Mediation – The Most Effective Way to Avoid Tribunal?

The Supreme Court recently announced the termination of the fees regime for employment tribunal claims. This move is likely to result in increased numbers of claims, which has serious implications for businesses across the country.

Here’s some more information about the decision, and how professional mediation can diffuse situations in the workplace before they result in legal proceedings.

No More Fees for Employment Tribunal Claims

On 26th July, the Supreme Court ruled that fees would no longer be payable for claims taken to a tribunal hearing. The decision came after a four-year case in which a trade union protested that the fees were unlawful and a barrier to justice.

Whilst the trade union may have had a point, the lack of fees now presents a serious problem for companies, particularly SMEs, who don’t have the available funds for costly legal claims.

The Solution – Workplace Mediation

With numbers of claims likely to be rising in the future, it’s more important than ever to know how to resolve issues before they become serious problems. An accredited mediator can help with this, by:

  • Acting as an impartial ‘person to speak to’. Sometimes, all employees want is the chance to air their grievances; something they don’t feel comfortable doing with their bosses. A workplace mediator is a neutral figure, who hears all sides of the dispute without judgement – giving staff the opportunity to speak their mind. This alone can be enough to diffuse the situation.
  • Presenting options. A professional mediator will listen to all involved, then suggest ways that the situation can be resolved without the need for legal action. These suggestions are advisory only – neither the employer nor employee will be forced to adopt them.

Workplace mediation is generally considered the cheaper, more effective option – and can mean the difference between resolving a complex work-related issue, or taking it to court.

Addressing Potential Problems from the Start

In light of the recent changes to tribunal fees, it’s also advisable to review your HR process. For example:

  • Check your staff handbook. Do you have a clear, concise staff handbook – ready to be presented to every new employee? Does it outline procedures in the event of workplace disputes etc? If not, it’s worthwhile hiring an HR expert to assist with creating one.
  • Review your contracts. These vital HR documents help to prevent disputes in the future – and as such, should be reviewed on a regular basis.
  • Ensure you’re up-to-date with discriminatory laws. Discrimination in the workplace is illegal, and it’s imperative to ensure you’re acting fairly – from initial recruitment to settling on a salary. If you’re not sure about the current discrimination laws, ask an HR expert to help you.

Acting Swiftly

If your employee threatens legal action, it’s tempting to ignore the situation, in the hope that it’ll go away. In most cases, it won’t. Instead, take action – hire a workplace mediation service as soon as possible, and tackle the situation before it enters the courts.

Harris Law are accredited mediators in Devon, with specialist skills in addressing disputes in the workplace. We also offer an extensive range of HR services, including staff handbook creation and contract review. To find out more, call 01803 861086 today.