BIS launches mediation trials but are they necessary?

On 23 January the Employment Relations Minister, Edward Davey, announced a pilot scheme for regional mediation networks for SMEs.

This has resulted from the government’s Resolving Workplace Disputes consultation which opened with the consultation document in January 2011 and closed with the government’s response in November 2011.

Located in Cambridge and Manchester, BIS will fund mediation training for employees from a group of 24 SMEs in each of the pilot areas. A network of trained mediators will be available to provide mediation to other organisations with a view to resolving workplace disputes without the need for employment tribunal proceedings.

alternative dispute resolution to be promoted

As part of the government’s review of employment law strategies to reduce the number of claims which get as far as a tribunal are less controversial, and, some might say, less pro-employer.
ACAS’ current power to conciliate will revert to a duty, and all cases will be referred to voluntary early conciliation before employment tribunal proceedings are started, with an extension of a month to the time limit for bringing claims to allow for this. ACAS has a reasonable track record of success in such early conciliation, but the crunch will be whether they have the resources to cope with the level of work. The need to increase resources is recognised, with the government saying that the additional funding needed will be paid for from the savings made elsewhere. It has to be observed that referral to ACAS in past similar arrangements which operated until 2009 frequently amounted to little more than a few phone calls. Accordingly not too much should be expected from this initiative.