It’s good to talk: Why are more businesses harnessing mediation to resolve disputes?

There is increasing evidence that mediation works. A recent report by the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development highlighted that almost 60 per cent of companies using mediation had witnessed a significant reduction in formal grievances and 50 per cent saw a drop in tribunal claims. Yet there remains some lingering scepticism about its ‘touchy feely’ nature. 
Here are the facts that businesses need to know about the mediation process.
What is mediation?
Mediation is a consensual, voluntary and confidential process for settling a dispute. It can be used to avoid court proceedings altogether or to reach agreement once court proceedings have been issued, without having to resort to a judge’s decision. In a nutshell, it can save time, money and ill feeling.
What does a mediator do?
A trained mediator will explore the middle ground that might be made on both sides of a dispute – sometimes by telephone but usually by face-to-face meetings between the two parties involved. It is a mutual process that can be abandoned at any time if either side becomes disillusioned. It is entirely ‘without prejudice’ so any concessions made in the course of the mediation process cannot be used against the party concerned at a later stage if the dispute can’t be resolved at the mediation. If an agreement is reached, the decision is binding upon both parties and is also enforceable by a court. Mediation can be a win-win process insofar as it achieves a settlement but, even if it does not, both parties will have a clearer idea of the issues in dispute.  
When should I mediate?
If you are considering taking your dispute to court, you can avoid incurring potentially high legal fees by suggesting mediation before the legal process gets underway. Court cases can take months or years to conclude at significant cost and risk to both parties.  
Mediation is a good option when trying to preserve a relationship with the other participant and can prevent the ill will that often accompanies going to court.
The process can also be productive in on-going court cases. Mediation can be used to avoid the risk of the judge deciding the outcome at a trial which may reduce the likelihood of a successful party finding that it has won a pyrrhic victory because the cost of litigation has exhausted the other side’s assets. 
How much does it cost?
Although mediation is not free of charge, the sums involved simply cover the mediator’s daily fee, any legal representative you are paying to be with you, along with travel or incidental costs. The combined fees and expenses would be considerably less expensive than a trial at Court. 
Is it worth it?
Several organisations offer trained and accredited mediators with specialisations in different areas. Trained mediators are experienced in dealing with parties who find the process difficult – opening up lines of discussion between them and helping them to help themselves.
They facilitate the mutual creation of an agreement, keeping people at the table and keeping them talking – and ultimately helping to save time, money and frayed nerves all round.