Is there a right to accompaniment in workplace mediation? If you are planning a workplace mediation between two or more of your staff, you might have been asked if one of them can have someone in with them. The answer is far from straightforward.
There is no right to accompaniment in workplace mediation, unlike in a disciplinary or grievance process, where it is a statutory right.
Some mediators actively discourage it unless a disability or mental health issue renders it essential to the process.
What Is Workplace Mediation?
Workplace mediation is a way of settling workplace disputes. It is usually done before having to start the disciplinary or grievance process or instead of. However, it is not always appropriate and each case should be judged on its own merits.
It involves both sides talking openly in a constructive environment to reach a compromise and enable both parties to move on from a workplace dispute.
The process usually involves an external person finding out the details of the disagreement and working with both parties to find a solution. The solution is often a compromise that both sides commit to upholding.
You can read more about using an external workplace mediator here.
The process is designed to be non-confrontational and calm. A skilled mediator will facilitate an environment that enables this to be the case.
Can Someone Accompany Staff in Workplace Mediation?
There are no set statutory rules around workplace mediation. However, many mediators, including our resident mediator, Ali, have a very rigid process that is tried and tested.
In theory, your staff could be accompanied into the mediation.
However, many mediators find that this hinders the process. There would usually have to be a significant reason for an employee to be allowed accompaniment in workplace mediation. This might be a disability or mental health issue.
In these circumstances it would be acceptable for the mediator to question if workplace mediation was indeed the right course of action.
Workplace mediation is a voluntary process-it only works if all parties are committed to it, able to have open and frank discussions, and contribute to the resolution. If it is going to cause significant mental anguish to a participant, it is unlikely to have a positive outcome.
Why Accompaniment In Workplace Mediation Isn’t Appropriate
It is important to remember that this can be a sensitive and emotive process for everyone concerned. Everyone in the room needs to feel comfortable enough to speak freely. Having a third party in the room may well inhibit the process.
You might not like having an external person privy to these discussions, especially if the discussion is likely to contain sensitive information about the workplace, other colleagues, or clients.
There is a possibility that the companion accompanying your employee into a mediation workshop will be unduly or unconsciously influencing one or more of the people involved in the dispute. For this reason, many mediators don’t like having uninvolved people in the room during the process.
The mediation process is designed to be calm, supportive, and stress free environment. If one of your employees feels so nervous or unhappy about attending a mediation meeting that they require a companion, it is worth considering if mediation is the right approach.
Case For Taking Someone Into The Workplace Mediation Process
There are some circumstances in which having a companion in the mediation process is acceptable. These might be:
- English is a second language and an interpreter is needed
- An employee has impaired hearing and benefits from a British Sign Language interpreter
- A disability, such as Asperger’s, that makes it more difficult for the employee to interpret information.
Case For Not Taking Someone In With You
There are some very valid reasons for not letting your staff take someone into their mediation meeting:
- It could breach data protection
- It might inhibit the conversation
- Undue influence could be exerted
- The process should not be stressful or confusing to the participants
Workplace Mediation That You Can Trust
Our resident workplace mediator, Ali, has a wealth of experience in facilitating workplace mediation. She has demonstrated time and again that the process can run smoothly and result in a fair outcome for both parties.
Our mediation services are truly unbiased and confidential. We are there to ensure there is a resolution and we work with that aim.