Frequently asked questions about mediation

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Mediation can be defined as a form of conflict resolution allowing individuals to help clarify the concerns involved and to explore options for resolution. Mediation helps parties that are in disagreement to seek a resolution through an impartial third party outside of their department known as a mediator.  Parties that are in disagreement are helped to explore each other’s positions, interests, common ground and to agree a way forward that is amicable to all parties.

  • Assisting with wellbeing as may result in a faster outcome without the need for a formal process with the preservation of relationships
  • Greater control as the individual parties can take ownership of resolution outcome
  •  Enhance awareness of the value of early intervention when applied appropriately
  • External mediators are potentially better equipped to deal with complex or potentially sensitive cases with a range of staff from across the University and have more time and potentially experience in mediation as they are carrying out mediations on a regular basis and the parties have very little if any prior knowledge of the external mediator.
  • Voluntary - mediation must be agreed by all parties as an appropriate way forward and a written agreement is signed to this effect
  • Confidential- all parties agree that issues raised in private will only be communicated outside the mediation with their agreement.  The only exception to this rule of strict confidentiality is where there is evidence of serious risk to self or others
  • Non-binding unless all parties reach a signed agreement

Mediation is an informal process and therefore parties are not permitted to be accompanied to these sessions, unless there are exceptional circumstances and all parties are comfortable with this arrangement.

This is normally the case in order to seek a resolution however there may be exceptional circumstances when the meditator feels that it is appropriate to shuttle between the parties in order to help facilitate a resolution.

The mediator is present to help people explore ways of reaching resolution and/or putting their working relationships on to more positive footings. Mediators are trained to remain neutral and impartial and to help both/all parties equally.  Mediators do not express opinions or make judgements about who is right or wrong. Any choices and decisions made during mediation are the participants’ decisions and choices– mediators do not impose decisions.  The aim is that, by the end of the process, the mediator(s) will have helped people identify the key issues of concern, and options for moving forward. 

  • Stage 1 – Assessment of potential suitability
  • Stage 2- Mediation proposed and parties agree to attempt to seek a resolution
  • Stage 3 – Mediator introduces themselves to the parties separately normally over the phone explains process of mediation and answers any questions
  • Stage 4 – Mediator meets both parties separately and confidentially to discuss their concerns and to ensure that the party agrees to mediation
  • Stage 5 – Joint meeting where the ‘ground rules’ are set including working with the other participant(s) constructively and focussing on solutions. The parties meet with the mediator together to seek a resolution/agreement (a minimum of one day (7.5 hours) should be allocated to this stage) 
  • Stage 6 – Mediator contacts the parties to follow up after the mediation session if agreed and required
  • Stage 7 – Mediator confirms to appropriate person that mediation has taken place, but would not disclose the contents of the mediation agreement without the expressed consent of the parties.

Mediation sessions on average take up to one day however the mediator may recommend longer in specific situations.

Team mediation is available in specific circumstances.

Any member of University staff who is seeking a resolution can be referred for mediation as long as the key principles are observed.

The University department/ faculty will be required to pay the full amount of mediation, which normally lasts one day. The University uses two external mediation companies as follows:

TCM Group - https://thetcmgroup.com/conflict-management/workplace-mediation/

Steve Hindmarsh Ltd - https://www.stevehindmarsh.co.uk/

ACAS mediation service - https://www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=2009   

Costs can be supplied by the providers directly, but costs approximately £1,275 inclusive of VAT per day.

Whilst the Faculty/ department is not precluded from sourcing their own external mediator and whilst this is not official endorsement the ones recommended have completed successful mediations for the University and are aware of the sector.

Any University staff members identified by the department/faculty, and the Departmental contact is encouraged to liaise with their HRBP contact to ensure that mediation is suitable.

  • Mediation works best in resolving relationship issues between people rather than matters of fact
  • To restore or repair a working relationship
  • Re-establish communication channels between work colleagues
  • Can be used in any stage but is most beneficial when used at an early stage

Mediation is an informal process and it therefore does not prevent staff from invoking the formal University procedures if they wish, such as a grievance.

Mediation is an informal process and therefore is not legally binding. However it is actively encouraged by ACAS for the resolution of some workplace conflict situations, and is actively encourage by the University.

Staff are encouraged to speak to their manager/ Departmental Administrator / departmental HR representative and /or trade union representative in the first instance.

Unless the parties agree the departmental contact will inform University HR that mediation has taken place and record that mediation has taken place. This information will be held confidentially and securely in accordance with the University Data Protection policy and procedure and GDPR guidance.

Unfortunately it is not always possible for parties to reach an agreement, however they may agree ways of working that will help reduce conflict between the parties.

There are certain circumstances where the use of mediation is not appropriate, for example:

  • When a staff member wishes somebody to decide on who is right or wrong
  • If the issue has arisen from a matter of fact rather than relationship issues and or perception of difference is at the heart of the issue
  • Where partaking in the process could be detrimental for one or both of the parties’ health (However where a staff member has a disability it would be appropriate to consider if there are reasonable adjustments that could be made to enable full participation in the mediation process).
  • If somebody is not performing in their role for reasons other than the stress caused by any workplace conflict this should be dealt with as a capability issue under the disciplinary procedure and not through mediation.
 
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