Workplace mediation – does it have a place in veterinary practice?

Mediation is a form of conflict resolution. It works by engaging an independent, trained facilitator to allow both parties in a dispute to reach an agreement, or resolution, in a comfortable, voluntary, confidential and non-judgmental way. Mediation is ideally used in the workplace to manage a variety of different types of grievances, both between employee and employer, and between staff members.

Mediation has several advantages in workplace dispute resolution including the following:  

•      The agreement made at mediation is legally binding; 

•      It is significantly cheaper than using solicitors alone; 

•      It provides for earlier intervention which prevents situations escalating; 

•      It is less time consuming and more productive than going through the courts; 

•      It is entirely confidential; 

•      As the process is voluntary and either party can withdraw from the process at any time, mediation is more empowering for both parties as the outcome is entirely in their hands;  

•      It allows participants to explore relationships and historic conflicts thereby getting to the root of certain issues and clearing the air;  

•      It is an opportunity for management to send a clear message to staff that it is interested in investing time and money in their wellbeing at work; and 

•      Where a resolution cannot be found at mediation, the case can still progress to the courts or the WRC, whichever is appropriate, and the discussions which took place with the mediator are non-prejudicial (they will not be used against you in a subsequent hearing).  

Best success is achieved with mediation when both parties genuinely want to resolve the issue. Ideal cases for mediation are interpersonal issues between staff members, and employee grievances and complaints. Care should be taken when enlisting the use of mediation in bullying, harassment and sexual harassment cases which should be carefully assessed to ensure genuine agreement to mediate between both parties, and to avoid the risk of coercion at all costs.

There are, of course, situations which arise in the workplace when the use of mediation to resolve the conflict would not be appropriate. These include serious allegations which would warrant a formal investigation, any case which would result in further risk to a participant’s well-being, or cases where one or both of the parties is not committed to the process and is merely ‘ticking a box’ as part of the organisation’s code of practice.

For more information see

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