Recently we undertook a successful mediation for a member who was having protracted issues with an employee. As is often the case the employee had chosen to go on to sick leave and had claimed ‘stress’ due to workplace harassment.
This is an increasingly regular issue for employers who – in many cases – are legitimately endeavouring to resolve a workplace issue and performance manage an employee. One of the chief issues for employers is that the act of proceeding on sick leave will stop any form of performance management in its tracks as you cannot direct or compel an employee to a meeting. In addition being ‘out’ of the workplace affords an employee the opportunity to fixate on the subject and, often, blow the issue up out of all proportion to the matters in hand. In many cases a whole ‘grab bag’ of allegations against the employer result and a buildup in all manner of tactics to avoid a genuine resolution.
In this case we were able to convince the employee to voluntarily engage in mediation to try to resolve matters. Whilst we cannot compel an employee to engage, the circumstances surrounding this particular matter were conducive to the employee voluntarily attending. The end result was that we were able to broker an agreement which saw the employee come off sick leave and return to the workplace.
In other cases we have been able to facilitate amicable outcomes including moving employees on successfully with the nett result that fallout and exposure to the employer from litigation is hugely reduced.
The trouble with protracted employee issues for employers is that they are frequently multi layered and cost employers not only financially, but also in terms of personal stress and frustration. Throw in a Workers Compensation claim and allegations of harassment and bullying and you can end up with a claim that can literally cost tens of thousands of dollars and take extensive time to resolve.
Unlike interviewing employees during formal investigations where employees can be directed to attend, ‘Mediation’ is a voluntary process between two parties seeking to agree on a document called a ‘Heads of Agreement’. As many workplace issues concern communication breakdown the success rate of mediation as an alternative dispute process is relatively high at around 75%.
Compare the costs of mediation to the costs of litigation and endeavouring to achieve a resolution via this process is self evident.
Our mediators are highly experienced and qualified, so if you have a current issue that might benefit from this approach then call us to discuss, it may be one of the best calls you ever make.
The information contained in this article does not constitute and should not be relied upon as ‘legal advice’. Workwise recommends that legal advice be sought from a suitably qualified legal practitioner prior to any action being taken. Such advice may be accessed via Workwise.