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Q. Do I have to agree to take part in mediation?

No. Mediation is entirely voluntary and needs the agreement of both parties. If you agree to take part you are also free to leave or withdraw at any time. This allows you and the other party to drive the process yourselves and come to your own agreement rather than having an outcome imposed upon you. It is hoped that this will make you both feel more committed to what you agree.

Although Mediation is an informal alternative to formal procedures, you retain the right to raise a grievance or dignity at work complaint under the University's formal procedures should you choose to do so.

Q. How confidential is mediation?

The process of mediation is entirely confidential. Any notes or records made by the mediator during the process will be destroyed within three months of the mediation process concluding. The mediator will not divulge any confidences that are shared unless given permission to do so. The one exception to this is where the mediator reasonably considers that the life or safety of any person is or may be at serious risk. Should this happen the mediation process will be stopped and Mediators will alert the appropriate HR adviser.

Q. By taking part in mediation will I give up my right to raise a formal grievance or complaint?

No. Mediation is ‘without prejudice’, and if you agree to try mediation you reserve your right to pursue formal procedures. However the mediation process is entirely confidential and mediators cannot be called as witnesses at any subsequent proceeding, whether internal (e.g. grievance or disciplinary hearings), or external (e.g. employment tribunals). Furthermore both the University and the employment tribunal service take the view that ‘one party can disclose the content of earlier negotiations and/or mediations only with the express permission of the other’.

Q. What if I am unhappy with the mediation process?

Should you feel uncomfortable or unhappy with any aspect of the mediation process itself you should raise this with the mediator or mediation coordinator. If your concerns cannot be resolved the mediation will have to be abandoned. Since the mediation process is confidential it would not be appropriate for you to raise a formal grievance in relation to the mediation itself, as there can be no meaningful investigation.

You will also be given the opportunity to complete an anonymous mediation evaluation form at the end of the process to provide feedback on what we are doing well and where we need to improve. It also lets us know how you are getting on after mediation and your views on the mediation process as a whole. Your response will be treated confidentially.

Q. Who are the internal mediators and what is their role?

The internal mediators are experienced volunteers from within the University who have received formal mediation training from ACAS and receive regular refresher training to enhance their mediation skills.

The mediators are neutral and impartial; they have no vested interest in the outcome and will not impose an agreement. The mediators are only interested in helping you reach a mutually acceptable solution. They will manage the mediation process, creating a safe and supportive environment so that you can talk honestly and openly about what has happened and how it has affected you. In particular, the mediators will help you to:

  • Clarify the problem and identify a path to resolution.
  • Identify and acknowledge each other's needs and interests.
  • Move toward an improved relationship.
  • Make informed, considered and balanced decisions.

Q. Why are there two mediators?

Cambridge University's mediation services uses co-mediation whereby two mediators work together as a team. Neither mediator supports any particular participant, they simply work together. The advantages of this approach are that you can benefit from the more diverse characteristics of the two mediators (gender, age etc) and their combined skills which usually enhance and complement each other. The mediators themselves benefit from joint debriefing, reflection and encouragement.

Q. What can I expect to happen in mediation?

Once you and the other party have agreed to take part, the mediation coordinator will contact you both to discuss initial arrangements and allocate two mediators to deal with your case. The mediators will then be in touch to arrange a date to suit you both.

The mediators will initially arrange to meet with each of you separately to find out more about the situation from your own perspectives before bringing you both together in a joint meeting. At the joint meeting your mediators will encourage you both to participate. They will work with you to ensure you each have the same opportunity to express your feelings and concerns, look at the problems in turn and move towards a mutual solution. Your mediators will support and encourage you to generate ideas for this solution but will not tell you what you should do.

Q. When can I ask for mediation?

You can request mediation at any time and both before, during or after any formal proceedings as long as you genuinely want to see an end to the dispute.

Q. Where will the mediation take place?

Mediation is arranged by the mediator at a neutral location convenient to both parties.

Q. How long does mediation take?

Most mediations do not last for more than a few hours. Please see the mediation process flowchart.

Q. Is a mediation agreement binding?

During the final stage of the mediation, you will be encouraged to agree a way forward and formulate a plan of action. This may be in the form of a written agreement, informal statement or verbal understanding, but what is important is that you have both been involved in its development, have a clear understanding of what you want to achieve, and have agreed to abide by it. Any agreement reached is not legally binding but is covered by the confidentiality of the mediation.

Q. What if I don't like the mediated agreement?

There can only be a mediated agreement when all parties agree. If you feel you are being asked to agree to something which you are not genuinely in favour of you should speak to the mediator to explain your objections. You and the other party are responsible for defining the problem, deciding the content and terms of the agreement. No agreement can be imposed through mediation.

Q. Can I be made to keep an agreement reached in mediation?

Parties who agree take part in mediation do so on the understanding that they intend to keep to any agreement reached. Whilst the agreement is not legally binding, it is hoped that individuals will follow the agreement.

Q. What if we do not have the authority to resolve the dispute?

Then you will be asked if you wish to involve those people who do hold the necessary authority. This might be your line manager for example, but they will only be contacted with the agreement of both parties.

Q. Will mediation work?

Mediation has a high success rate but of course there can be no guaranteed outcome. The mediator is there to help but it is up to the parties involved to reach their own agreement.

Q. What happens if there are more than two parties in dispute?

Mediation is a very flexible process and can be adapted to multi-party disputes. By bringing all of the parties together there is an opportunity to reach a mutually satisfactory resolution. These situations do however require particular mediation skills so please advise the mediation coordinator if there are more than two parties to a dispute when requesting mediation.

Q. What if I'm not ready to be in the same room as the person I am having the disagreement or dispute with?

Your Mediators will take this into account and will not make you meet with the other party if you do not agree. However, for mediation to stand a chance of success all parties will eventually have to meet around the table.

Q. What is my role in mediation?

Mediation is only as successful as you make it. Your responsibilities are to:

  • Decide what the issues are for you in the dispute.
  • Come to the meeting with an open mind.
  • Listen respectfully to the other party's point of view.
  • Look for solutions.
  • Work with the other party to determine which solution is best for both of you.

Q. What do I need to do before the mediation begins?

In preparing for any mediation meeting it may be helpful to think about how you can clearly describe the situation or issues that have brought you to mediation in the first place. In this way the other party can better understand your point of view. Think about what is important to you, what you need from the other party and from your perspective what you believe is the best possible outcome.

Q. Do I need to speak to my manager if I have an issue or wish to request mediation?

There is no need to speak to your manager although you may choose to do so in the first instance to try and resolve any workplace issues or to gain the other parties agreement to take part in mediation. You can request mediation through your line manager, HR advisor or directly through the mediation coordinator.

Q. Will any information be disclosed to my manager?

Only if you and the other party agree for this information to be shared. Your mediators will not disclose any information to your line manager. Whilst it can be helpful for your line manager to understand how the mediation went and if a resolution has been reached, any feedback will be a matter for you and the other party to agree.

Q. Am I allowed time off to attend mediation meetings?

If you require time off during work to attend a mediation meeting, this should be agreed with your line manager.

Q. What is the difference between mediation and arbitration?

Mediation is quite different from arbitration.

Arbitration involves an impartial outsider making a firm decision on a dispute, based on the evidence presented by the parties. In arbitration both parties must agree in advance that they will abide by the arbitrator's decision.

In contrast, a mediator assists the parties in reaching a solution that is acceptable to each of them without imposing a decision. A mediator will not make judgments or determine outcomes—they simply ask questions that help to uncover underlying problems, assist the parties to understand the issues and help them to clarify the options for resolving their conflict.