The Government today announced the latest step in its attempts to reform the employment tribunal system - a pilot scheme for two regional mediation networks for small businesses.
The pilot networks will be located in Cambridge and Manchester, where employees from a group of 24 small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) will be able to receive government-funded mediation training. The businesses will be chosen later in the year when contracts have been awarded to the chosen mediation-training providers.
The aim is that a network of trained mediators will be available to provide mediation to other organisations in the network. The Government says that this will help to achieve its goal of resolving workplace disputes before they reach the employment tribunal stage.
The intention to pilot the two regional networks was published in November 2011, as part of the Government's response to the Resolving Workplace Disputes consultation. The Cambridge and Manchester pilots will run for 12 months and, if successful, the Government will consider introducing them into other areas of England, Scotland and Wales.
Today's announcement was made by employment relations minister Edward Davey, who said: "We have always said that employment tribunals should be a last resort for resolving workplace disputes. That is why last year we announced a series of measures which offer alternatives when dealing with such problems.
"Mediation offers an informal method of dispute resolution and can be used at the point when problems first arise in the workplace. For both employers and employees, it can mean avoiding the need for formal discipline and grievance procedures. And it can also mean avoiding the time-consuming, complex and often stressful employment tribunal process.
"We want to help employers and employees to help themselves. In particular, our consultations showed SMEs are often not aware of the benefits that mediation can bring for both parties. This pilot will directly target this group, help to raise awareness of the benefits and reduce the burden on the tribunal system."