Staff Mediation Service
What is mediation?
Mediation is a process that supports people in a workplace ‘dispute’ attempt to find their own resolution to the problem.
Mediation is voluntary and requires a level of commitment from all parties involved; crucially for mediation to work the parties must be willing and ready to address the problem.
It is informal in that agreements reached are not binding and there is not normally a record kept of the discussions, unless all parties decide that there should be.
How does it work?
Mediation aims to get the parties to identify the main issues of importance to them. It provides a forum for a constructive and safe exchange of information. Each party has the opportunity to express how the dispute has arisen, how it has affected them and respond to the other party’s concerns.
Mediation will not prejudice any other form of action that may be taken to resolve a dispute. As it is confidential, details of the discussions held during the mediation meetings cannot normally be used as evidence in more formal procedures such as those under the Staff Grievance Procedure.
What is the role of the mediator?
The mediators are University of Bristol staff who have been fully trained in mediation skills and techniques.
The mediator(s) acts as a facilitator and does not offer solutions or provide advice, but supports parties to try to reach their own resolution within a safe environment.
What is the process?
The process begins with each party meeting with the mediator(s) individually. The mediator firstly provides detailed information about how mediation works and what is expected of the individuals involved.
If both parties agree they will be brought together for a facilitated joint meeting. Each stage is voluntary and any party can decide to withdraw at any time.
Mediation tends to follow a structure that will include:
1. Private meetings between the mediator and individual parties to explain the process, the role of the mediator and explore the situation from the individual perspectives as well as any questions or concerns they may have about the mediation process. Please note that the content of these meetings are confidential and will not be referred to in the joint meeting. The individual meeting provides the opportunity for parties to explore the mediation process and whether they would be happy to progress to a joint facilitated meeting.
2. A joint meeting - running as follows:
- An opening statement by the mediator explaining the structure of the meeting
- An opportunity for each party to relate their experience, how the dispute arose and their main issues
- An opportunity for the parties to communicate openly, exploring the dispute and responding to concerns
- Support from the mediator in identifying the main issues
- Identifying areas of agreement and checking their reality
- Writing an agreement (if required)
- Closing the meeting
Mediation may lead to:
- One party acting to sort out the situation
- An agreement being reached
- Increased communication and trust; parties able to sort out their own current and future problems
- Parties feeling listened to
- Partial agreement reached
- Increased understanding and sharing of information
What can it be used for?
Mediation is available for any kind of dispute between University staff members - even if the dispute is seemingly trivial, or conversely very complex, mediation might still be useful.
Although disputes are often between two people, mediation can also be used when a group of individuals are having difficulties working together – for example members of a team working together on a particular project, or a number of colleagues sharing communal working spaces.
In the context of the University, a ‘dispute’ may be an obvious disagreement over a specific issue, or alternatively it may be more general or on-going problems that would not necessary be easily described as a dispute. It may also be mixed-up with other staff issues such as concerns about staff performance or conduct.
Some issues that arise through mediation might be very complex and involve legal or complicated procedural issues. In such situations mediation can still be a beneficial method to reach agreement.
Usually mediation will always be available so long as all parties agree to it. A caveat to this is if the mediation may involve significant health and safety risks.
How does mediation fit with other staff support services?
Staff Mediation complements services that are already provided by Trade Unions, Personnel Services, and Staff Counselling. It is hoped that any mediation undertaken will have a positive outcome for all the individuals concerned and others, enabling the University to learn from difficulties and create a more positive work environment for all staff. Mediation may be used as part of the Staff Grievance Procedure or as a separate informal process discrete from the formal Grievance Procedure.