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Acas mediation questions and answers

We've put together a list of questions and answers about our mediation services to let you know more about how it all works.

Why should I choose mediation?

Because conflict can be costly:

If you are an employer, it can take up your valuable time. It distracts those directly in conflict and others around them from their jobs. All that means lost productivity and profit.

If you are an employee it takes up your valuable time too and the stress can affect your life at work and you and your family at home.

Mediation can help you resolve your disagreement so you can get on with 'normal' life again.

  • When you are involved in a conflict, talking to the person you are in disagreement with can seem impossible. Mediation can re-establish those channels of communication.
  • Any agreement is on terms agreed by you, not dictated by someone else. It leaves you in control of what is finally agreed.
  • Mediation is less stressful than formal company procedures or courts and tribunals - although it is not stress free!
  • Mediation can avoid people leaving which often happens when conflict is not dealt with or when more formal procedures are used.

What kinds of disagreement are suitable for mediation?

Mediation is about restoring or repairing a working relationship, so certain kinds of disputes cannot be mediated, such as disputes over pay or contractual terms for example. Workplace mediation can be used at any stage in a dispute but is often most effective if used early on.

Mediation is not suitable if you want to enforce a legal right or want someone to decide the 'rights and wrongs' of an issue for you.

What does the mediator do?

They are an impartial person who works with people who have a disagreement to help them to find their own solution and reach an agreement that will sort out their problem or improve the situation.

The mediator will support both parties and won't take sides or judge who is right or wrong.

What can I expect to happen in mediation?

The mediator will decide the best way to carry out the mediation. They start by talking to those involved separately, to find out about the situation, how you feel about it and the effects it is having. Then they will help you start thinking about what you want, what the other person might want, and how things might be improved.

The mediator won't take sides or judge who is right or wrong. Because the aim is to repair working relationships, they will help you focus on the future, not the past. Both sides can talk to the mediator openly because they will not pass on anything you say without your agreement. Once you have had the separate meeting, if everyone is in agreement then the next stage will be meeting all together.

During this joint meeting you will have a chance to say exactly how you feel without being interrupted and to listen to the other person without interrupting. The mediator will ask questions, help you look at the situation realistically and help you come up with ways to improve things.

Those involved in the mediation will usually be given a written copy of anything that is agreed. This can help as it can form a useful basis for informally reviewing progress later.

The commissioner will only be told whether a mediated agreement was reached or not. They will not be told what was discussed or the outcome.

Where will the mediation be held?

Mediation meetings are usually held on the employer's premises. There will need to be at least two private rooms for the mediation - one for each side in the dispute often somewhere away from the immediate workplace is preferable as people feel more comfortable and are not distracted. If rooms have to be hired or refreshments arranged, Acas cannot pay for this.

What does it cost and who pays?

Normally a charge is made for mediation which is usually paid for by the employer, but the employees may pay the cost or it can be shared.

The mediator will be impartial regardless of who makes the payment to Acas.

What if I don't want to be in the same room as the person I am in dispute with?

An open and frank discussion of the issues, controlled by the mediator to ensure fairness and appropriate behaviour is key to sorting out conflict. The mediator will agree rules with both sides about how everyone will behave in any joint meeting. You can ask that a joint meeting be suspended at any time.

I don't want to come to the mediation on my own. Can I bring a representative or friend?

Mediation is most successful when those actually in conflict work directly with the mediator to resolve it, especially if you will need to work together in the future. Experience shows that you are the best person to explain how you feel. An open and frank discussion of the issues, which is controlled by the mediator to ensure fairness and appropriate behaviour, can be key to sorting out conflict.

The mediator will discuss with you why you feel that you would like someone with you and it is sometimes possible to agree that they can come to part of the separate meeting. The joint meeting does not include representatives as mediation is an informal process, not part of the organisation's procedures. Occasionally, one or both may wish to discuss the possibility of having a friend/colleague available at the separate meetings, but experience shows that this is rarely necessary.

My employer has asked me to take part in mediation. Do I have to agree?

Mediation is entirely voluntary. The mediator will explain all about mediation to you so you can decide if it is for you. If, after the initial meeting with the mediator you decide you do not want to mediate they will simply tell your employer that mediation is not possible.

I'm a supervisor and one of my team has complained about me. My boss wants us to go to mediation. I don't want to. Do I have any choice?

Employers will often think that a supervisor or manager should be prepared to try mediation to resolve a problem but it's entirely voluntary. The mediator will explain all about it so you can decide if it is for you. If you decide you do not want to mediate, they will simply tell your employer that mediation is not possible.

Can I be made to keep to an agreement made in mediation?

You will not be forced into making an agreement against your wishes so you must be committed to sticking to what is finally agreed. You and the person you are in dispute with will both be asked to agree to stick to what is finally agreed - otherwise there is no point in going ahead.

Agreements reached in mediation relating to workplace relationships are not normally legally binding unless both sides specifically ask for this. You will be given the opportunity to take legal advice before a legally binding agreement is made.

Because the mediation is confidential, any outcomes and/or agreements can only be shared if everyone agrees.

What happens if we don't reach agreement?

You can still use any relevant workplace or legal procedures. However, we make a condition that the parties to the process maintain strict confidentiality and, in particular, undertake not to ask the Acas mediator to give evidence on the content of the meditation at a later date.

I am going to mediation. What should I do to prepare?

You'll get more information when the mediation is arranged. Sometimes you and the person you're in dispute with will be asked to write down:

  • the problem you want the mediator to help with
  • a short list of the main things that have happened.

This is to help the mediator understand the issue and save time on the day.

What if anyone involved has any particular requirements/needs?

If you have a disability, please let us know if we need to make any particular adjustments for you to use our service.

Why should I choose Acas?

Acas has an excellent reputation for professional integrity and a high standing with bodies representing employees and employers. Our mediators have a large and unique body of practical experience delivering employment-related mediation. Our services are quality assured through a programme of externally conducted customer satisfaction research.

How do I access Acas Mediation?

Contact the Acas Customer Services team by calling 0300 123 1150 or alternatively you can contact us through our Customer contact form.