Compulsory mediation looks set to become part of the rules for handling employment disputes.
Rita Donaghy, chair of conciliation service Acas, said that despite repeated calls from employers for less onerous rules, the government was considering adding another step to statutory procedures.
Donaghy said pressure to cut public expenditure was driving the move, which would create an extra hurdle for staff and employers before getting to a tribunal.
The DTI confirmed that compulsory mediation was being considered, just as chief secretary to the Treasury, Stephen Timms MP, said the government was looking to save money as part of next year’s comprehensive spending review.
If the move goes ahead, it will enrage employers, who claim too much emphasis is placed on the procedure rather than the substance of grievance claims.
Donaghy told HR directors at an event in London last week: “Making mediation a compulsory part of conflict management is a mistake. It would bring mediation into disrepute at the very time we were beginning to get companies to realise that it has benefits.”
Guy Hollebon, head of employment at Bevans Solicitors, said if mediation became part of statutory grievance procedures, it would be perceived by employers as just another hoop to jump through.
“If mediation became part of procedures, people would no longer go to meetings with a problem to solve, they would just be going to try and push through their tribunal claim,” he said.