In the past few years more and more businesses are turning towards mediation as a way of resolving conflict in the workplace and recent findings are encouraging.

Current statistics show a year on year drop of 15% in the number of employment tribunal claims made in the year ending March 2012. In addition, 57% of organisations had used some form of mediation by the end of 2012, an increase from 43% in 2008.

With an average of 7 days being spent by HR and Line Management on disputes, it often pays to nip situations in the bud before they escalate. So how does mediation work and why should organisations use it?

It is widely known that mediation is a process of dispute resolution but in the workplace an impartial third party (the mediator) facilitates a series of private and joint meetings with employees to find a mutually acceptable and appropriate resolution. The final outcome of mediation is agreed by the employees, not the mediator and it is important that the employees have participated voluntarily. In most cases the mediation process will last one day and can be used for a multitude of different situations.

Successful mediation has been used to resolve employee conflicts; allegations of bullying; harassment and discrimination; supported and enabled change management processes; and managed other employee disputes which may have otherwise resulted in claims of unfair or constructive dismissal. The advantages to organisations of adopting a culture where mediation becomes a regular occurrence are vast. First and foremost it stops conflicts escalating out of control and subsequently quickly reduces stress and anxiety experienced by employees as a result of conflict.

It promotes a safe environment where employees are enabled to have open and honest dialogue without fear of reprisal. It can improve the productivity of those employees who, without mediation, may have become entrenched in their position and demotivated. Critically, it saves hundreds of pounds for employers every year by reducing the number of grievances, claims and litigation.

Currently, there is a Government pilot taking place across the UK for SMEs where managers and HR Professionals are being upskilled to mediate in the workplace. Whilst the results of these pilots are yet to be published, initial feedback is positive. For mediation to be effective, organisations need to consider a range of different factors when thinking about introducing it. No scheme will work unless the workforce, managers and representatives are aware of it as a viable option in settling disputes and are encouraged to resolve their differences before a situation escalates out of control.

For further information on work place mediation and resolving employee conflict please contact Anita Wynne at Beststart HR on or Tel: 01438 747 747.