Being taken to an Employment Tribunal can be expensive, time consuming (delays of up to one year or more are not uncommon), a drain on resources and very stressful!
For these reasons, it is often a good idea to ‘nip staffing problems in the bud’.
This can be done in a number of ways.
By far the most common issue I encounter is a failure to take appropriate disciplinary action against an employee when the problem first arises. Unless the matter is dealt with at the time (and records kept), an employee’s conduct may well be regarded as being exemplary. This often comes as a shock to employers, particularly in the context of Employment Tribunal proceedings.
Another way of dealing with a workplace issue is to consider mediation. This can be particularly effective when there are personnel issues within a team.
Bring in an independent
Mediation is the process whereby an independent party (the mediator) seeks to bring the parties together and find a solution to their problem. The aim is to resolve the problem and rebuild working relationships. Aside from assisting a company retain valuable staff, it also reduces legal risks – both in terms of Employment Tribunal litigation and sickness/stress related absence.
The mediation process is voluntary and confidential. The mediator is not a judge. Rather, their role is to listen to the parties and try to facilitate an agreement that both parties are happy with.
The mediation process typically involves the mediator meeting with the parties separately. This is then followed by a joint meeting. The venue can be the pace of work or a neutral one. If a resolution is reached, the parties will be encouraged to keep a written record of what has been agreed.
Many workplace problems lend themselves to mediation including, personality clashes, bullying and harassment allegations and grievances. Inevitably, there will be some cases which would not be suitable – for example, an allegation of serious misconduct where disciplinary action would be the most appropriate way forward.
From time to time, employers may require an independent investigation to be carried out. This is something which we can also assist with. Typically, it may involve a serious compliant about an employee and the employer believes that it is important that a neutral, independent, party establishes the facts and then presents a report. On receipt of this, the employer will then decide what, if any action should be taken.
Written by Jonathan Waters, our employment law, mediation and arbitration specialist
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