When someone feels poorly treated by a colleague or employer, a situation that may seem petty can quickly escalate into one which makes the idea of going to work unbearable. Although workplaces have systems in place to help their staff to resolve any issues, it can sometimes seem as though employers hold all the cards. If things spiral out of control, it can lead to serious consequences with both parties feeling powerless to mount a defence without resorting to potentially costly legal action. You can contact ACAS using these details.
Having a third party come in to offer a neutral perspective can be a positive and constructive way to resolve workplace disputes and allow both parties to have their say in front of an impartial observer. ACAS’s dispute resolution processes can prevent problems from becoming insurmountable and provides the best chance of a practical solution being reached.
Stage one – conciliation
Resolving a dispute informally, as soon as it begins to get out of hand, provides the best opportunity to ensure that formal proceedings are not necessary. The first step in the process is conciliation, in which both parties can participate on a voluntary basis in order to try and reach a mutually acceptable resolution.
An independent conciliator from ACAS will listen to both parties and engage in a discussion in order to try to help them understand each other’s point of view. This process is designed to help the participants reach an agreement without the need for any official legal intervention.
Stage two – mediation
Like conciliation, mediation is an entirely voluntary process suitable for individuals or groups who are keen to reach a resolution that is acceptable to everyone involved in the process. Mediators are impartial and their job is to assist each party to understand the underlying issues at the heart of any dispute and to identify options for resolving them.
Mediators do not decide on outcomes or make decisions about the situations that they encounter. Their role is to ask questions and help both parties to work together to create a plan for the future, not to find fault or apportion blame for past disagreements. When ACAS mediators are involved, around 80% of cases end in an agreement being reached.
Stage three – arbitration
If a dispute gets to the point where more intervention is required in an attempt to avoid more formal processes, then arbitration may be able to offer a resolution. The goal of arbitration is to avoid the stress and expense of an employment tribunal.
Like conciliation and mediation, arbitration also involves an impartial third party, but the arbitrator is expected to make a decision, by which both parties must agree to be bound for the process to be successful.
The process of arbitration is more like a court case, although it is still private and the arbitrator themselves will ask the questions. Arbitration involves evidence presented by the parties involved which will be reviewed by the arbitrator in order to reach a decision which they believe will help those involved to move forward without recourse to the legal system.
These methods of dispute resolution are all offered by ACAS to help in cases where the employer’s internal grievance procedures have already been exhausted, but where the parties involved wish to reach a resolution that doesn’t involve the legal system.