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Solving workplace disputes is possible without litigation, but what are the options? Essentially there are three possible ways in which disputes between an employer and an employee can be resolved without the need to resort to costly litigation proceedings:
Mediation involves the appointment of an independent and impartial third party to facilitate an agreement being reached between the parties themselves in relation to a dispute. The overriding aim of workplace mediation is to restore and maintain the employment relationship wherever possible.
It is voluntary and intended to be a less formal, more flexible approach to the resolution of disputes. The mediation process is confidential and any information revealed during the course of the mediation cannot be used for any other purposes (including any future legal proceedings), other than with the agreement of the parties.
Arbitration is also a voluntary dispute resolution process, involving the appointment of an impartial third party negotiator. However in the case of arbitration it is the arbitrator who makes the decision on the case, on the basis of the evidence presented and it binding on the parties.
Conciliation is used in circumstances where a dispute has already been presented to an Employment Tribunal, or there are grounds for doing so. Most commonly the conciliation process is conducted by an independent ACAS conciliator. A settlement achieved through ACAS will be legally binding and preclude the possibility of a claim being brought in respect of the issues conciliated. Under reforms to be implemented by the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013, with effect from April 2014, before lodging a claim to bring proceedings (with a few exceptions), a prospective Claimant will have to take part in a statutory early conciliation process through ACAS.
Pam Loch, Managing Partner of niche employment law practice, Loch Associates Employment Lawyers and Managing Director of HR Advise Me Limited.
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