I was asked this week about making changes to employment contracts and employment policies & procedures to introduce compulsory mediation. The company was delighted that a mediator (not me) had recently helped solve a long running and apparently intractable problem between two of their employees.
Workplace mediation has extremely high success rates, so it’s tempting to make it compulsory. However, those workplace disputes which currently go to mediation are not a random sample of workplace disputes: in each one of them, the parties have voluntarily agreed to try mediation. So the currently high success rates for voluntary workplace mediations are unlikely to apply to non-voluntary workplace mediations.
Nevertheless, there is every reason to strongly encourage employees and managers to try mediation where appropriate, and a good first step is to make provision for it in employment documentation. CEDR produce standard precedent clauses for use in employment documentation (available on their website). Their clauses for employment contracts provide that parties will ‘consider’ mediation if other procedures haven’t worked; and their clauses for grievance, disciplinary, capability and other procedures provide that an employee or manager can suggest mediation at any stage.