Council mediation initiative cuts cost of work disputes

A new initiative to combat harassment, discrimination, victimisation and
bullying at Bradford Metropolitan District Council has seen a dramatic fall in
formal complaints and tribunal applications.

Bradford MDC HR director Vanda Rodgers and head of service Val Grant, have
introduced a mediation scheme which focuses on resolution rather than
complaints.

The Employee Advisory and Mediation Service uses fully trained and
accredited advisers to listen to employees and help them explore the available
options and possible consequences. Advisers can also help employees identify
where to get specific advice on these options.

It offers employees the option of mediation as an informal alternative for
resolving conflicts. Mediation relies on all those involved being willing to
participate and to acknowledge that a solution is required.

Importantly, neither advisers nor mediators ever make recommendations; the
solution is reached by the parties themselves.

Rodgers said: "We want to create a resolution culture instead of a
complaints culture. With the bureaucratic procedures, control is taken away
from the employee and an investigation can take a long time and involve many
people."

She pointed out that the operating costs of investigating a complaint can
mount up. "The employer is expected to get on a white charger, save the
victim and punish the perpetrator. But this doesn’t always happen and then
everyone loses," she said.

Rodgers said the scheme has proved "very successful". In the first
six months 28 employees used it and, of those, 26 employees resolved their
problems without needing to proceed down a formal complaints route.

There are currently six advisers. Each has had six-weeks’ training to gain a
qualification accredited by the Open College Network. A new recruitment
campaign is aimed at increasing this number and is attracting a lot of interest
from employees.

By Michael Millar

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