Mediation versus tribunal

  15th January 2011      


Findings from a CIPD survey and reports from both Arcadia and BT highlight the benefits of mediation over tribunals as a method for resolving work grievances.

The CIPD survey, which explores employers’ experiences of managing workplace conflict, revealed that the majority of employers would support an overhaul of the “broken” employment tribunal system. Employers would like to see a number of reforms to the current system, including changes to the law on unfair dismissal and more protection from employees who make unjustifiable claims.

It could potentially be this lack of faith in the tribunal system which has caused the significant growth in organisations’ use of conflict management. The survey saw half of respondents increasing their application of disciplinary action and grievance procedures and 62% training their line managers to handle difficult conversations.  

According to BT and Arcadia, who spoke at the CIPD’s Conflict Management conference last week after the publication of the survey, this increase can only be a good thing. Both Arcadia Group and BT explained to delegates how the adoption of mediation practices at their firms had both saved money and resolved more workplace issues. 

BT Retail’s head of employee relations, Carol Russell, demonstrated that the in-house mediation had resolved nearly 90% of workplace disputes that would have otherwise progressed as formal grievances. Additionally, mediation resulted in a 34% reduction in grievance costs in the first four months and reduced average timescales from 60 to 10 working days.  

Mike Emmott, the CIPD’s employee relations adviser, commented,

“It is encouraging to see that employers are increasingly using mediation to resolve workplace issues. Not only does the survey show that it is significantly cheaper than having to respond to tribunal claims, but a large majority of respondents say that it improves relationships between employees and reduces or eliminates the stress involved in more formal processes.”

“In-house mediation, using trained managers and others, can reinforce a culture where people recognise they need to take some personal responsibility for sorting out their problems.”

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