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Acas says mediation a winner in tackling disputes at work

Tuesday 31 January 2012

More employers should consider using mediation at work to help resolve disputes and avoid potentially costly and stressful employment tribunal claims, according to workplace relations expert Acas.

Mediation is an informal way of resolving disagreements or disputes in the workplace and can prevent disagreement escalating. However an Acas study carried out in 2011 found that just one in 20 employers (five per cent) have used mediation to solve a workplace dispute.

Last year the Government announced changes to how problems at work are addressed. At the time, Secretary of State for Business, Dr Vince Cable, said: "We know that disputes at work cost time and money, reduce productivity and can distract employers from the day-to-day running of their business. Tribunals should be a last resort for workplace problems which is why we want disputes to be solved in other ways."

A government funded-pilot scheme was announced last week which will help raise awareness of mediation among SMEs.

Andrew Wareing is the Director of the Acas service responsible for resolving disputes between individuals and their employers. He said:

"Workplace conflict can damage an organisation's effectiveness. Last week's announcement that the Government is funding a pilot scheme for two regional mediation networks, will help raise awareness among employers about how mediation can help benefit their business. Mediation helps resolve disputes quickly and effectively, minimising distress and cost as well as preserving workplace relationships. Acas successfully resolved 90 per cent of the mediation cases we were involved in over the last year alone."

The study also revealed that despite low take up by employers, 64 per cent had heard of mediation and around three quarters of businesses (74 per cent) agreed that mediation is a good tool for resolving disputes at work with half agreeing that mediation produces "win-win" solutions that leave both parties satisfied.

Acas has produced top tips for employers wanting to use mediation to help resolve a problem at work.

For more information about mediation and training services, including independent mediators, developing workplace mediation schemes and accredited training, visit

Notes for editors

  1. 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.
  2. Acas commissioned BDRC Continental to undertake telephone interviews with 1,001 managers in around 1,000 private sector businesses with a turnover of £50,000 or more in January and February 2011. Respondents were asked about awareness and use of mediation as a tool for resolving workplace disputes, and views on mediation, Workplace conflict management: awareness and use of the Acas Code of Practice and workplace mediation.
  3. Secretary of State for Business, Dr Cable, announced the results of a consultation on resolving workplace disputes and the Red Tape Challenge review of employment law during a speech to EEF, the manufacturers organisation in November 2011.
  4. Employment Relations Minister Ed Davey announced pilot scheme for two regional mediation networks for small and medium sized enterprises in January 2012

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