More and more employers are choosing Mediation as early intervention when disputes arise in the workplace. Why? Well its cheaper, easier, can contribute to staff moral and avoid the risks of applications to the Workplace Relations Commission or the Labour Court. Workplace Mediation needs to be dealt with sensitivity and with knowledge of the legal position so the risk of legal action can be reduced.
In most workplace Meditations the Mediator is asked to work through the dispute with a view to getting everyone back to full productivity as fast as possible. Sometimes the relationship has broken down and an agreement is requested about the terms on which the employee leaves, this sometimes involves a settlement.
Common workplace disputes involve :
- Sexual harassment,
- Stressed workers,
- Unfair treatment within the organisation,
- Complaints regarding breach of terms of employment,
- Complaints regarding failures under the legislation,
- Workplace injury,
- Working time regulations,
- Threats with strike action or other industrial action such as work to rule,
- Breach of equality legislation,
- Contractual issues,
- Work Permits,
- Safety at work and safe systems of work,
The mediator will help the clients
- Isolate the disputed issues.
- Discuss the options open to the parties.
- Develop and explore the options and potential consequences for same.
- Deal with any imbalance of power between the parties
- Draft and agreement if one is reached.
As every experienced employer knows unhappy staff means less productivity and higher turnover of staff.
Employers should be aware of the legal obligation to provide terms of employment under the Terms of Employment (Information )Acts 1994-2014, the duties on employers include to provide employees with certain information relating issues such as rate of pay, job description, hours of work and a contract of employment.
Other relevant legislation is the National Minimum Wage Act 2000 and the Minimum Notice and Terms of Employment Acts 1973-2005. In terms of Industrial Relations there is The Industrial Relations (Amendment )Act 2015. This deals with issues such as REAs or Registered Employment Agreements and Sectoral Employment, Orders or SEOs. The Organisation of Working time (Records) (prescribed form and Exemptions )Regulations 2001 deal with issues such as annual leave,maximum working hours, hours worked, public holidays. Then there is Maternity Leave Protection (Amendment Act) 2004 and the Paternity Leave and Benefit Act 2016
Additional pieces of legislation are the Carer’s Leave Act 2001, the Safety, Heath and Welfare at work Act 2005 and the Employment Equality Acts 1998-2015, the Redundancy Payments Acts 1967-2014 and the Unfair Dismissal Acts 1977-2015. Now there is the Irish Human Right and equality Commission who provide information in this area.
In relation to work permits the Department of Business Enterprise and Innovation provides information in Employment Permits under the Employment Permits(Amendment)Regulations 2018. The Workplace Relations Act 2015 established the Workplace Relations Commission.
Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) can have more difficulties with the legislation since there is so much employment legislation and they are less probable to have a Human Resource or HR person or department to manage these issues.
Susan Appelbe works solely as a Mediator now however worked as a solicitor for many years so has a unique insight into conflict management in the workplace and the laws surrounding employment.
Susan when working as a solicitor represented clients at Employment Appeals Tribunals and worked extensively with issue such as unfair dismissal, constructive dismissal and redundancy payments and all manner of contractual issues that arise under employment. Susan also has been an employer herself so has an insight into the management of staff along with the legislation surrounding the subject.