End of Furlough and beginning of the 'New Normal': what role Mediation and Dispute Resolution

Furlough has gone, employees are returning to their workplaces, life is back to normal.  Or is it?

Sadly, there will continue to be issued at work. If employees have worked productively from home and want to continue, what is the legal position? and How do you negotiate?

There is a right to request flexible working but not to demand it.  There are health and safety issues, particularly for those who are vulnerable or living with someone deemed vulnerable. 

And then there is the knotty problem about whether the employer can say ‘no jab, no job’ – or ask employees if they have been jabbed and how many times.  How do you balance the ‘anti vaxxers’ demands and those who are covid vulnerable?

A plea from me: don’t reach for the grievance procedure, often followed by the litigation stick. Think mediation and dispute resolution

Constructive dialogue between employer and employee, aided (sometimes) by an experienced mediator, can solve the issue. This can leave the employee in their job and avoid the uncertainty, stress, time, costs, the reputational damage of litigation.

A lawyer’s first question to a client should be: What do you want?  The second: Let’s discuss how to achieve your aims? Too often, the focus is on the tribunal claim, the merits, the remedy.  A cynic may say, ‘but you don’t make money out of settlement’. BUT it is clearly in the interests of employers and employees to avoid litigation, so resolution lawyers will find clients returning time and time again.

As Abraham Lincoln said: Discourage litigation. Persuade your neighbours to compromise whenever you can. Point out to them how the nominal winner is often the real loser – in fees, expenses and waste of time. As a peace-maker, the lawyer has a superior opportunity of being a good man [woman]. There will still be business enough.

Such sentiment is echoed by the Master of the Rolls, Sir Geoffrey Vos:

ADR should no longer be viewed as an “alternative” but as an integral part of the dispute resolution process; that process should focus on “resolution” rather than “dispute”.

His report on mandatory mediation opens the door to a significant shift towards earlier resolution in the future.

So here is to navigating the ‘New Normal’ and creating a valued place for mediation and conflict resolution.

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