Resolving employment issues with mediation services

Even the smallest employer can experience employment relations issues – dealing with them early can help avoid issues escalating into large scale disputes.

If an issue arises, the best step you can take

If an issue arises, the best step you can take towards resolving it is to accept there’s a problem and to seek appropriate help to rectify the situation.

Failing to rectify issues can be expensive, distracting for other employees and potentially devastating for business.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), provide free mediation services for business of all shapes and sizes, through its employment mediation services.

Mediation can be very effective in assisting you to resolve issues with minimal disruption to business.

What does mediation involve?

Mediation is the use of an independent person to assist where a problem has emerged that employers and employees are unable to solve on their own.

Mediation helps parties to:

  • Clarify the issues
  • Understand each others point of view
  • Obtain skills in problem solving
  • Identify the options available to deal with the problem
  • Reach resolution that meets both their needs.

Mediators aren’t on the side of either party – they’re independent people committed to the process of problem resolution.

Contacting MBIE – employment mediation services to chat about mediation doesn’t commit you to taking any further action. In some cases, MBIE can provide enough guidance to help you resolve the issue over the telephone or through email. Both parties would need to agree to come to mediation.

Before mediation

Like most things in business, effective communication goes a long way.

Before accessing mediation, ensure the issue can’t be resolved by sitting down with your employee and genuinely listening to their concerns.

Rather than rushing to solve the problem, you must make any decisions fairly and consistently. This is usually not complicated – basically, employers should investigate, gather information and think before acting, as well as keeping the employee fully informed, and taking their views into account.

In all cases, employees should be treated with respect and consideration. Damages can be awarded against employers when they have caused distress to employees through unfair treatment.

An employee is entitled to have a support person, union delegate or other representative present at any meeting called to discuss issues affecting their employment. Both sides should keep notes of any meetings and any agreements reached.

What happens at mediation?

The focus of mediation is on assisting parties to reach resolution themselves.

If that proves difficult an option might be that the parties can together agree to either ask the mediator to make a recommendation, or to make a decision. This can help where everyone agrees on the facts but not on the best outcome, or where agreement is close but a stalemate is reached.

If you give written consent to the mediator then the mediator’s decision is final, binding and enforceable once it is given. You can’t appeal the outcome if you don’t like it.

A mediator’s recommendation becomes final and binding and enforceable if neither party rejects it within a specified timeframe.

Mediators can sign agreements that parties have reached themselves. The effect of this is that the agreement becomes final, binding and enforceable.

If you require further guidance about any matter covered here or to begin the mediation process:

  • Call the MBIE Contact Centre free on 0800 20 90 20.
  • Visit the MBIE website(external link) where you can also find easy-to-read information, publications, and fact sheets on employment issues to assist you to create and manage better workplace relationships.
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