What is mediation?


Branch health & safety officer Jeff Pittman explains the use of mediation in the workplace

Mediation does not form part of any formal disciplinary, grievance or Dignity At Work process but can be utilised to resolve workplace issues between individuals. The purpose of mediation is not to establish who is right or wrong, it is a process whereby the individuals eventually resolve their differences and they themselves agree a way forward

For the mediation process to have some degree of success it is essential that both parties enter into the process willingly and voluntarily. The process preferably takes place at a neutral location away from other employees and the entire process is confidential. Everything and anything which is discussed during the mediation meetings remains strictly confidential and any written notes which are made during the meetings are required to be handed over to the mediator at the end of each meeting to be destroyed.

The first meetings are on a one to one basis with the mediator and these initial meetings may last up to several hours depending on the circumstances. Both individuals will have equal time offered by the mediator and after the one to one meetings ACAS recommend that both parties have equal down time to consider what they have raised with the mediator and how they as an individual may wish to move forward. The next (joint) meeting may not be held on the same day as the one to one meetings in order to ensure that both parties have equal time for reflection.

The joint meeting is where both parties meet with the mediator at the same time. During this time while person A is speaking, person B is required to remain silent, not interrupt or display aggression or intimidating body language. They may jot down notes which they later refer to after person A has finished speaking and establishing how matters have impacted upon them. Person B can then respond to the matters raised by person A, at the same time expecting the same level of courtesy while they are speaking.

After person A has completed their period of narration, it may be an opportune time to have a short fresh air break prior to resuming with person B explaining how matters have impacted upon them while person A remains silent in the same manner as person B previously, also making any notes which they may wish to refer to after person B has finished speaking.

Throughout this process the purpose of the mediator is to facilitate a peaceful, calm and open exchange of communications between both parties. It is not the place of the mediator to offer suggestions as to how matters might be resolved or to indicate that either party may be in the wrong or to blame. When both parties have completed their narrations it may benefit all persons to take a further fresh air break or even refreshments break. The final part of mediation is to focus on the specific key points which have been raised by both parties in order for them to be addressed and a final resolution achieved and harmony restored.

When mediation has been completed, the only information which the mediator will pass on to management is that “Mediation has taken place”, unless both parties specifically request that management be informed of any information which both parties agree to being passed forward. If mediation fails then management will be informed that “Mediation was not appropriate”.