The following two examples of cases mediated by Oxfordshire Mediation mediators demonstrate how mediation can provide a safe, impartial setting in which, with the help of a neutral third party, a resolution can be found to both workplace and employment conflicts.
Workplace mediation tends to involve conflict between two or more employees, rather than being between the employee and the employer. The mediation is mainly about past and future relationships, and it is generally envisaged that the employment relationship will continue once the conflict is resolved.
Employment mediation tends to take on a more commercial character as it generally takes place in the context of a possible or actual Employment Tribunal claim. If agreement is reached it usually takes the form of a Compromise Agreement.
Workplace conflict – If nothing changes, I am going to leave!
In this case two members of a team were experiencing ongoing difficulties and despite the best efforts of the department manager and Human Resources could not find a resolution to the difficulties.
Two employees had been working together for a few years. They were in the same department and reported to the same departmental manager. Jenni had been at the company longer and was senior to Fiona. Fiona had felt under pressure from Jenni since she joined the company. She raised the issue with her departmental manager; however, she felt that nothing had changed. When both parties agreed to mediation they were both accusing the other of bullying and harassment.
Jenni had a no nonsense approach and felt that some aspects of Fiona’s work needed improvement. She had asked for these changes in ways that she felt had been clear and fair. Fiona kept going to management with the allegation of bullying by Jenni.
Fiona felt her work performance had been made subject to very public comment in team meetings and she felt embarrassed and singled out. She felt she could do no right as far as Jenni was concerned. She liked her job. It was close to her home so she was able to take her children to school and pick them up on her way home.
Both parties were thinking about leaving if the situation could not be worked out. They reluctantly agreed to mediation but neither wanted to change jobs.
The mediation allowed both parties to explore where their working relationship was going wrong, and discuss what they both expected from each other. With their new understanding of the other parties’ perspective two agreements were drawn up. The first agreement was confidential to the two parties. In it there were expressions of regret and apology. The second agreement was for circulation to their manager and it set out changes in work practices that they both wanted to see for the future.
Employment dispute – To tribunal or NOT to tribunal!
In this case an employer turned to mediation to resolve an Employment Tribunal claim. The parties reached agreement prior to ET, saving both time and money in legal fees and employer time.
The mediation arose out of David’s allegation of disability discrimination and his claims for civil service injury benefit and ill health retirement. The employer denied the allegations and resisted the claims on the basis that they had made reasonable adjustments to take into account David’s disability and that they had not discriminated against him.
The parties’ previous attempts to discuss the matter had been unsuccessful.
David’s starting point in the mediation was a demand for £860,000. His claim in the Employment Tribunal included compensation for disability discrimination, damages for injury to feelings, aggravated and exemplary damages, interest, costs and compensation for loss of career earnings. The employer started out in the mediation offering £1,000. The employee was supported in the mediation by his union representative, and the employer was advised by an in-house legal team.
The mediation took place over a day and agreement was reached. The mediator assisted the parties think creatively about their needs and interests and the Compromise Agreement that was drawn up at the conclusion of the mediation included a payment to David of £45,000. and various other conditions which opened the way for him to apply for ill health retirement and leave his employment in a dignified fashion. The mediation agreement also addressed the employer’s need to keep the outcome confidential and to terminate the employment relationship on an amicable basis. Both parties were happy with the outcome and were relieved to have averted further costs in time and legal fees.
*Please note these cases have been anonymised and all names have been changed to ensure confidentiality.
FELICITY STEADMAN AND TINA SUVAJAC – LEES
OXFORD MEDIATION MEDIATORS