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Acas urges small businesses to avoid tribunal costs with early mediation

Wednesday 16 July 2008

Acas, the employment relations service, is urging small businesses to avoid the risk of facing employment tribunals by considering mediation earlier when solving workplace disputes.

The advice comes off the back of new research, which revealed that most managers only see mediation – when an impartial party is brought in to help those in dispute to resolve their differences - as a last resort.

The study polled 500 decision makers from small businesses to assess their awareness of the use of mediation as a means of solving workplace disputes. The findings revealed only 7% of businesses had used mediation and that 52% of respondents thought mediation was only suited to large organisations.

Despite this, it was clear that respondents recognise the value of mediation, with nearly three-quarters (72%) of decision makers saying mediation sounds like a good tool for resolving workplace disputes, and almost two-thirds (63%) saying that a more widespread use of mediation would reduce the number of employment tribunal claims. Of the businesses that had used mediation, 82% said it had resolved the issues completely or partly.

Ed Sweeney, Chair of Acas commented: "Resolving an issue at an early stage instead of clearing up its eventual consequences saves money, time and grief. Mediation and dispute resolution are often associated with bigger businesses, but without in-house Human Resources and legal functions, some small businesses can be vulnerable to minor disputes escalating into something more serious and damaging."

Mediation was often used to address several issues at once. Of the organisations that had used mediation, 43% had used it for discipline issues, whilst 36% had used it for relationship breakdowns and 31% had used it for bullying and harassment.

For further information, visit our services page on Mediation.

Notes to editors

Acas' aim is to improve organisations and working life through better employment relations. It provides information, advice, training and a range of services working with employers and employees to prevent or resolve problems and improve performance. It is an independent statutory body governed by a Council consisting of the Acas Chair and employer, trade union and independent members.

About the research

"Knowledge and use of mediation in SMEs" was carried out in February 2008, surveying 500 decision makers and managers in SMEs. Acas commissioned GfK NOP to carry out the survey.

For more information on Acas research visit  .

For press enquiries please contact:

Alexis Molyneux-Brand: 020 7072 4111
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Will Spratt: 020 7072 4061
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