Mediation is a dispute resolution mechanism that involves the parties in dispute (the employee and the employer), a mutually agreed upon mediator, and potentially, legal representatives from each side.
The purpose of mediation is to enable both sides to explain their points of view, and have a mediator work with them to determine a solution to the issue that is acceptable to both sides.
Mediation is being increasingly used to resolve employment disputes, and for good reason:
- It’s faster than going to court. Mediations require less preparation than a trial.. They can often take place within days if needed. Whereas, taking an issue to court can take months or years – with all of the worry and cost that comes with such a time delay.
- As referenced above, it’s cost-effective. Solving disputes through mediation is a fraction of the cost of alternatives, such as court.
- It’s private. Most employers would prefer that any employment issues within their company be kept out of public knowledge. No one wants to be known for having a discrimination case lodged against them. They are even more reticent to have the details of an employment situation shared on a public platform. Employees might also be hesitant about sharing personal and potentially embarrassing details in public. Mediation takes place in private, with only those directly required in attendance.
- It can be less harmful to the work environment. Should mediation result in the decision that the employee should return to work, this is easier under conditions where the issue has not become a drawn out and difficult battle between the company and the employee, and where other employees might take sides once they are aware of more of the details of the issue. Further, a quick and private mediation – whether the employee returns to work or not – limits the amount of water cooler talk, exaggeration and speculation that can occur in a drawn-out process.
Mediation is a voluntary process, which means that either side can stop the process at any time. This sense of control enables participants to feel greater buy-in to the process, which may in part contribute to the very high success rate of mediations. It’s been suggested that mediations result in a resolution 9/10 times.
Further, as both parties agree to a solution, they can come away from the process with a sense of satisfaction. This is not always the case at the end of a trial, where one party might feel they “lost”.
As mediation results in an agreed upon solution, the process can also serve as a learning tool for all sides. The process demonstrates how a “win/win” solution is possible, and may help the parties to engage in more meaningful conflict resolution strategies earlier on, thus avoiding the need for more formal, third-party lead solutions in future.
Mediation can be used in virtually all types of employment related issues. For more information on HHBG’s mediation practice and style, see the biography of our mediator, Richard Hamilton