If you’ve never undergone workplace mediation, you’ll most likely have some questions about what it involves.
Used as an informal mechanism to resolve a range of issues or disputes within the workplace, workplace mediation is a process where an impartial mediator facilitates a discussion between individuals or groups involved in a dispute, with the goal of reaching a mutually agreed-upon outcome or solution.
To help you prepare for workplace mediation, we’ve answered some of the questions you’re probably already asking.
Is workplace mediation a voluntary process?
Yes, participation in workplace mediation is voluntary. We recommend that you consider an invitation to a mediation as an opportunity to demonstrate your skills in being able to navigate conflict in a safe environment.
If you’ve been requested to participate in workplace mediation, and you are unsure, you should at the very least attend on the one on one pre-mediation session (often referred to as an intake) before making a decision about whether or not you want to proceed to the joint session (with the other party).
If you are worried about your emotional or psychological safety, ask the mediator how they will keep you safe through the process. Remember you can always leave at any time, stop for a break and / or terminate the process if you need to.
Workplace mediation is often used to help resolve issues which are not serious enough to warrant formal legal intervention, yet still need to be addressed. Such as; communication breakdowns, professional disagreements, issues with conduct, the fair allocation of work (rostering for example) and the rules around how to share and look after limited resources (such as photo-copiers, equipment, cleaning of cars) or to resolve a past incident.
Mediation (or facilitated discussions) are usually offered where participants have been unwilling, or unable to resolve their concerns directly with each other. It is offered so that you can proactively participate in the resolution any outsanding issues locally to avoid it being escalated further.
Where an issue can’t be resolved through mediation, then the employer needs to determine what, if any, further initiatives need to be administered. This usually involves them looking their policies and procedures and commonly include instructing participants to attend; training, counselling, performance reviews, issuing specific lawful employment instructions (for example; you must demonstrate that you can work together in a constructive way) and or more formal interventions (depending on the conflict) such as; disciplinary action.
Is workplace mediation legally binding?
Generally, the agreements reached during mediation are not legally binding unless the participants each sign an agreement to that effect.
Where the parties involved each sign a settlement or deed in relation to the mediation agreement, the agreement can be enforced like any other type of contractual agreement.
However, endorsed Emverio Workplace Mediators are committed to making real workplace relationship differences and not just capturing proscriptive agreements that need to be monitored and enforced post-mediation. The most important shift we look for in workplace mediation is the intention of the parties and their commitment moving forward. Any agreements reached is an expression of this.
How long does workplace mediation take?
The mediation process can usually be completed in one day (or over several depending on your business requirements) and includes:
- 3 x pre-mediation sessions (employer and each of the parties) to outline the process and objectives and define the roles and responsibilities of each party, help you prepare for the joint session, align everyone’s expectations and address any questions that you might have.
- a joint facilitation session where the mediator will manage the conversation between the parties involved, with the aim of providing a safe space for the parties to explore what’s happened, how they got there, whether they can work together moving forward, and what they are willing to commit to moving forward.
At the end of the session, if agreements are reached the mediator will work with the parties to capture their intentions and provide all parties with a copy of that.
Who would normally attend workplace mediation?
Generally, you would find the following people attending a workplace mediation session:
- The mediator: The role of the mediator is to facilitate the discussion between each of the parties involved, helping them to clarify the issues, share their points of view, and consider their options moving forward.
- The parties involved in the dispute: In a business context, this could include individual employees, teams or groups of employees, managers or contractors.
- Representation from management or HR: While they won’t generally attend the joint facilitation session, as they have a vested interest in resolving the issue, we invite them to attend the pre-mediation session to understand what their expectations are, explain how the mediation process will be managed, and what we will be providing them post mediations.
- Support people: participants can request to have a support person attend with them and should speak to their mediator at their intake session. A support person could be a friend or family member, but we don’t recommend that it is someone from the workplace. The support person’s role is one of emotional and psychological support, and as such, the support person cannot advocate or speak on behalf of either party at the mediation and will be subject to the same confidentiality conditions as participants.
Can you mediate online and what about COVID?
All our intakes (pre-mediation sessions) can be conducted via the telephone (or online) and our mediations (joint sessions) are conducted online using the platform zoom.
We have discovered some unintended benefits to using a virtual an online platform to conduct our workplace mediations, including;
- You can choose any of our mediators now, as they are no longer restricted by jurisdictional boundaries,
- Parties are less anxious because they are not required to be in the same room,
- Parties can conduct these sessions in the privacy and comfort of their own homes without any risk of being interrupted or viewed by co-workers,
- No more logistical issues with parties who are interstate and travelling,
- The mediator has control over who is speaking and who can participate in private break out rooms, and finally but also importantly,
- No more parking or associated travel costs.
Emverio Workplace Mediators are experienced online practitioners and we already have conducted many online mediations. All you need is a device with audio and video capabilities, the internet, the zoom application and a private comfortable space.
Who pays for workplace mediation?
The cost of a workplace mediation is the employer’s responsibility.
What happens if an agreement can’t be reached through mediation?
This will largely depend on the nature of the issue or disagreement and the businesses issue-management policies and processes.
If an issue cannot be resolved informally through workplace mediation, the business may need to consider other more formal options such as:
- issue lawful instructions,
- training, coaching,
- disciplinary action,
- performance management, or
- legal proceedings.
Do you need workplace mediation assistance?
At Emverio Workplace Mediations, our national team of experienced and accredited workplace mediators, facilitators, trainers and coaches can support your team to promptly and amicably resolve a range of workplace issues and disputes.