What happens at a mediation meeting
When you arrive the mediator will brief you on the process, and you are able to ask any questions or comment if any part of that process makes you uncomfortable.
The mediator will:
- introduce all the people involved
- ask each party to outline their understanding of the problem
- invite them to describe the outcome they wish to see from the meeting.
You will each be given a chance to explain your view and make any supporting documents or information available to the mediator and each other.
Be truthful about the outcome you really want. For example, if an employee believes the working relationship is beyond repair, they might ask for a good reference and compensation for their upset and costs. If an employer is considering reinstatement, it’s best to say so at the start. Clearly stating your goals will not disadvantage you.
The mediator may:
- seek additional information
- question either side further
- ask whether particular responses to the problem have been considered
- help interpret a document or legal issue
- discuss the potential risks to each party (costs, injury to reputation, reduced employee productivity, further legal action, and so on).
The mediator’s role includes:
- providing a fair process that allows parties to participate fully
- managing the group’s expectations and emotions
- focusing their attention on reaching a successful outcome.
This is not a court of law. You are not under oath and you will not be cross-examined, but you will need to explain your point of view. Information and comment exchanged during the meeting are “without prejudice” and cannot be used later in discussions about this or any other problem.
If proceedings become tense, it’s the mediator’s job to make sure things keep going smoothly.
It’s common to take a break to:
- consider how things are going
- confirm things that have been said
- consider your responses
- gather further information.
The mediator will be available to both parties to talk issues through or explain the process. Mediators are experienced in showing differences in a new light and identifying possible solutions.
The mediator will ensure that momentum is not lost, and will encourage both parties to take a new look at their situation.
Decisions remain in your hands but the mediator will support you by:
- recording areas of basic agreement
- identifying and working through areas of disagreement
- proposing ways to resolve the issues.
Mediation meetings vary in duration, depending on the issues and the attitudes of the parties, with an average mediation meeting taking about four hours. Where the issues are complex, more time may be needed so that all the facts and potential solutions can be canvassed.