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Mediation ‘under-used’ in workplace disputes – MHC

16 Oct 2023 / employment Print

Mediation ‘under-used’ in workplace disputes – MHC

A survey carried out by law firm Mason Hayes & Curran (MHC) has found that just over 60% of firms that had carried out a workplace investigation did not use mediation services at any stage in the process. 

The survey was carried out at an MHC webinar on how to conduct an effective workplace investigation (12 October). 

MHC employment partner Ronnie Neville said that the mediation figure suggested “the potential under-use of what can be an effective, collaborative, and often less adversarial way of resolving workplace conflicts”.  

He added that employers could benefit from a greater awareness of mediation as a tool to repair and maintain a positive workplace environment, as well as to avoid what can be a costly process. 

“Particularly when a formal process has concluded, engaging in some form of remedial mediation can be very helpful in facilitating the resumption of normal working relationships.” 

Internal investigations 

Solicitor and workplace investigator Clara O’Sullivan told the webinar that mediation was particularly useful in bullying and harassment cases. 

She pointed out that it was difficult for normal working relationships to resume after formal workplace investigations. 

The survey also found that almost four-fifths of those attending the webinar had conducted a workplace investigation internally, rather than using an external investigator. 

MHC partner Melanie Crowley said: “The high percentage of internal investigations demonstrates the critical need for robust internal processes and protocols.” 

A disciplinary issue (44%) was the most common reason for an investigation, followed by:

  • A grievance (33%),
  • bullying (9%), and
  • Harassment (7%).

Terms of reference 

O’Sullivan (founder of Clara O’Sullivan Workplace Investigations) told the webinar that the person carrying out any investigation should be trained and experienced. 

She also stressed the importance for firms or employers of defining the scope of the investigation, and setting out terms of reference.  

The solicitor, who is also an internationally accredited workplace investigator from the Association of Workplace Investigators (AWI) in California, added that it was “very important” that the investigator should not draft the terms of reference.  

O’Sullivan described the qualities needed by investigators as an “interwoven bundle of personal and professional skills” – including an inquisitive nature, the ability to set aside any unconscious bias, people skills, project-management skills and “steeliness”. 

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