A new government pilot scheme could pave the way to earlier and more cost-effective resolution of workplace disputes.
The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills is to fund mediation training for employees from a group of 24 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in each of two pilot areas, centred on Cambridge and Manchester, later this year.
Trained mediators will be available to provide mediation to other organisations in their respective regional network, with the aim of the pilot to resolve workplace disputes, at the earliest possible opportunity, before they reach the employment tribunal stage. The pilots will run for 12 months and, if successful, the government will consider introducing them into other areas of England, Scotland and Wales.
Business Minister Edward Davey said: “We have always said that employment tribunals should be a last resort for resolving workplace disputes.
“Mediation offers an informal method of dispute resolution and can be used at the point when problems first arise in the workplace. For both employers and employees, it can mean avoiding the need for formal discipline and grievance procedures. And it can also mean avoiding the time-consuming, complex and often stressful employment tribunal process.
“We want to help employers and employees to help themselves. In particular our consultations showed SMEs are often not aware of the benefits that mediation can bring for both parties. This pilot will directly target this group, help to raise awareness of the benefits and reduce the burden on the tribunal system.”
There were 218,000 tribunal claims in 2010-11, a rise of 44 per cent since 2008-09, with each business spending an average of nearly £4,000 per claim defending itself.