Why mediate? Resolving employment relationship problems through mediation

November 2014 . . . When things go wrong between employers and employees, it might be tempting to go out guns blazing and aim for a showdown in Court. However, when the actual and emotional costs are taken into account, a victory at Court can be somewhat hollow. Keep in mind that court cases are also Google-able.
However, employers and employees sometimes struggle to resolve workplace problems by themselves. That’s where mediation can really assist. Over 80% of employment disputes that go to mediation are resolved at mediation. That’s a great statistic! So what makes it work so well?
1. You won’t be forced to agree to anything
In mediation, you are in control of the outcome. The mediator’s aim is to get you to reach an agreement, but they can’t force you into anything. If you want, you can agree with the other party for the mediator to act like a judge and to make a binding decision.
2. Agreements are enforceable
If agreement is reached, the mediator will draw up a binding agreement which can be enforced just like a court judgment.
3. It’s free
Mediation is a free service, in which an independent and highly trained mediator tries to help employers and employees to resolve their problems. 
4. It’s confidential
The general rule is that you can say anything in mediation and it can’t be used against you outside of that setting. This creates a “safe” environment where you can say exactly what you think and feel.
5. It’s available at any time
The service is available to any employer or employee who has an employment issue they want resolved. You don’t need to have proceedings underway in the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) to take advantage of mediation – in fact, early intervention without taking legal steps is often better, as you don’t have to deal with the stress and expense that comes with bringing a claim. It’s also much easier to mend a damaged employment relationship at this stage, before becoming embroiled in an adversarial dispute.
6. It’s easy
If you want to attend mediation, you just need to write to MBIE’s Labour Group and ask. They will give you a date for the mediation. It is up to the other side whether or not they want to attend (unless legal proceedings are already underway, in which case attending mediation is generally ordered by the ERA). You don’t need to have a lawyer with you, although lawyers know the process well and can certainly help you achieve better outcomes.
7. Mediators know what they’re doing
At the mediation, a highly trained mediator explains the process and gives each side the chance to make an opening statement. Usually, the mediator then moves you to separate rooms, and acts as a go-between. This really helps to diffuse tense situations. The mediator also helps to sort out what the real issues are, and to focus on those. They are adept at finding creative solutions that can work for everyone.
8. It doesn’t take as long as a court case
Depending on the problem, generally half a day to a day is set aside for a mediation. Most problems can be resolved in just a few hours. It can feel like a long day in mediation, but it’s reasonable compared to the time a court case would take. 
As you can see, mediation has a lot going for it. If you have any questions or think you might have an employment problem that would benefit from mediation, please contact Geoff Bevan, Diccon Sim or Isabella Broadbent in our employment team.