Time for a Mindful Response to Workplace Disputes

I was delighted to read that the regime of charging for lodging a claim with an Employment Tribunal was at last to be abolished.  The imposition of such charges always felt to be oppressive, and clearly limiting the opportunity for many disadvantaged workers from seeking access to fair and natural justice.  However, I do have a concern that by simply lifting the charging regime things will simply revert back to the unacceptable situation that previously existed, where the court system was almost paralysed – the time frame to address claims was excessive, adding further stress and anxiety for all parties concerned.

There is a real opportunity to take a step forward for the better, both for employers and employees, and learn from past experience.

Thankfully, employees  are now better informed of both their statutory and human rights, and are increasingly more willing to invoke them in the workplace at the earliest opportunity.

It is therefore more important than ever that leaders of people are confident and skilled to be able to address these challenges when they first arise.  All too often they are placed on the ‘too difficult’ pile, applying the ostrich strategy – stick your head in the sand and hope things will sort themselves out, which of course they never do, they generally mushroom out of control. All too often HR professionals hide behind the policy manual and fail to inform their business leaders that there is a better, and more cost effective, as well as emotionally beneficial solution available to everyone today – mediation.

I have been an advocate of workplace mediation for many years and have successfully implemented a number of workplace mediation schemes – to me it is a ‘no-brainer’. The process can literally change lives for the better and can impact positively on the organisation or business culture. In my 30 year career in Human Resources the establishment of the workplace mediation programmes that I have created have been my most singularly positive achievement.  This is to a large extent thanks to the full cooperation of the trade union colleagues who supported my vision that there must be a better way to address workplace conflict.

I trust that ACAS will be lobbying hard to bring about some major change to managing the future of workplace conflict and that business, professional associations, trade union bodies will unite in seeking a more effective solution. I am really puzzled to understand why, when an alternative approach is available, with clear evidence to demonstrate its success and effectiveness, there still appears to be so much apathy to change from a regime that is ineffective, expensive, destructive  and divisive.

However, I am an optimist, and happy to take up the challenge to continue to influence when and where I can and send out the offer to any business leader who is seeking a better way of working that a more mindful way to sort out workplace differences does exist and also, has brilliant financial benefits – I hope this is not an opportunity missed.