A scheme designed to resolve work-related disputes internally and reduce tribunal claims across central government has saved millions of pounds in litigation costs.
The alternative disputes resolution (ADR) initiative has contributed to savings in excess of £6m across all departments, according to figures for the financial year to March 2003.
The figures also show that 90 per cent of the 617 cases brought under ADR were successfully resolved.
ADR has been gradually introduced across central government departments since March 2001 when Lord Irvine, the previous Lord Chancellor, announced the ADR pledge.
Under the pledge, all Government departments and agencies committed to considering ADR for all suitable cases wherever the other party accepts it.
Dorothy Brown, head of HR service delivery at the Department for Constitutional Affairs (DCA), which has been piloting ADR since June, said the new approach has already transformed the way workplace disputes are resolved.
"The results are really promising and have surpassed our expectations," said Brown. "It shows there is a real willingness to settle rather than litigate."
She said ADR has cut the time for complaints to be processed from 12 weeks for tribunal investigations, to just two days.
The DCA pilot scheme, which runs until December, currently has a 100 per cent success rate in settling disputes internally.
Under the new system, formal complaints are taken to a central casework team made up of HR advisers. They decide whether ADR is appropriate in the circumstances and if so, refer it to a 'gate keeper', who chooses two people from a list of trained mediators to oversee the case. These are members of staff who have been trained in interviewing, facilitating and communicating skills.
Brown added that the mediators felt the skills they had learned would be beneficial in other areas of their work.
By Michael Millar