Catrin Lewis considers the context, benefits and practicalities of incorporating mediation into written grievance procedures. This article was first published in the UK Mediation Journal in December 2015.
The Gibbons Review of workplace dispute resolution published in 2007 recommended the use of mediation to resolve workplace disputes at an early stage. This was followed in 2009 by the inclusion of mediation in the Foreword to the ACAS Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures, and in the accompanying Guide, encouraging employers and employees to,
“always seek to resolve disciplinary and grievance issues in the workplace”, and, “Where this is not possible employers and employees should consider using an independent third party to help resolve the problem”.
Many organisations responded positively to the greater emphasis on the use of third-party mediation. The results for those who embraced mediation appear to be almost universally positive, as can be seen from the articles in the previous issue of this Journal. The success rates for those who use mediation remains high, with most organisations reporting success rates of over 75% and many mediators pointing to figures closer to 85%.
The benefits of embracing mediation in the workplace are not just seen in the time and resources saved but also in fractured relationships repaired and the empowerment of staff to reach their own solutions to disputes, rebuilding mutual trust and respect in the process. The resulting benefits of greater staff retention and productivity are hard to quantify but none the less real.
The 2008 CIPD survey on workplace mediation found that grievance and disciplinary procedures are the main ways by which organisations communicate their policy on mediation. Stand-alone policies on mediation are relatively rare.
According to the ACAS report on the 2011 Workplace Employment Relations Survey published in 2014 mediation has become a significant part of workplace dispute resolution regimes, being used in 17 per cent of workplaces that experienced a formal individual grievance. Of the 89% of workplaces that had written disciplinary and grievance procedures mediation by an impartial third-party was provided for within written disputes procedures in around two-thirds of those workplaces. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the report found that mediation was more likely to be used in workplaces with written procedures. Providing the option of mediation in the written grievance procedure is a powerful tool for mainstreaming mediation as a workplace dispute resolution tool; not only does it communicate its availability to staff who might otherwise be unaware of its existence, it send a clear message that the organisation is committed to the process. It is also likely to encourage the use of mediation at an earlier stage in the process before the dispute becomes more entrenched.