LRC announces new ‘Early Resolution’ (mediation) pilot scheme

(This is the statement from the LRC, slightly edited)

The Labour Relations Commission is offering a new pilot Early Resolution Service to employers and employees to assist them in resolving issues in dispute without the need for a formal adjudication or inspection.   This is a voluntary, conciliation/mediation type service which will be provided by Case Resolution Officers.

Currently all claims/referrals to the Rights Commissioner Service, to the EAT, or to NERA, are centrally logged in a Central Portal Unit. It is the intention during the pilot phase of ERS to offer an early intervention in a representative selection of these claims/referrals. When the pilot scheme gets underway cases will be forwarded to the ERS and cases considered suitable for early intervention will be allocated to a Case Resolution Officer. Where the parties decline to use the service or where the attempt at settlement is unsuccessful within an agreed period of time, the claim/referral will be forwarded to the relevant service to arrange a formal hearing or inspection.

The Case Resolution Officer will:

  • Contact the claimant  in the first instance, explain the process leading, hopefully, to agreement by both sides to become involved.
  • Help establish the facts at issue and discuss the options open.
  • Help each party to understand how the other side views the case and explore with them how it might be resolved without a formal hearing/inspection.
  • Explore the issues involved and try to help settle differences in a way that is acceptable to all parties concerned but will not impose solutions.
  • Discuss any proposals that either side has for a settlement.

The Case Resolution officer will not:

  • Represent either the employer or the employee, take sides or help either side prepare their case.
  • Give legal advice.
  • Give an explicit opinion on the merits of a claim or advise on tactics, or how to win at a formal hearing.
  • Make a judgement on the case, or the likely outcome of a formal hearing/inspection.
  • Advise on whether or not to accept any proposals for settlement.
  • Pressurise people to settle or abandon a case.

Key Features of the service

The service is confidential.

  • Information will not be passed to other parties without your agreement.
  • What you say during discussions with the Case Resolution Officer cannot be used or referenced as evidence at a hearing.

The service is independent.

  • It is entirely separate from the Rights Commissioner Service, the EAT and NERA and if a settlement is not reached, a claim/referral can still be pursued.
  • The service does not delay the EAT, Rights Commissioner or Inspection processes.

The service is free.

  • Saves time and money.  Preparing or responding to a formal hearing can take a great deal of time, and could have associated representational costs.
  • Minimises stress.  Almost everyone finds the process of pursuing or defending a case difficult, and appearing at a formal hearing can be a stressful experience.
  • Quick Solution.  Cases can be dealt with in a few telephone calls or in exceptional cases via tripartite meetings with agreed settlements implemented very soon afterwards.
  • Win-Win Outcome.  In a formal hearing situation one party usually loses and even the ‘winner’ will not always get what he or she wants from the process. The singular advantage of the ERS is that it can achieve a “win-win” situation if the parties wish to reach a settlement.
  • Control.  Settlements are reached by agreement on terms that suit the parties.  Innovative and creative solutions are possible which will allow the parties to reach a settlement that meets their particular needs.
  • Avoids Formality.  Although any of  EAT or Rights Commissioner hearing processes are somewhat less ‘formal ’ and legalistic than most court processes they contain standard procedures with which most people are unfamiliar and uncomfortable.
  • What happens if I settle the claim through the ERS?
  • If you settle the claim through the ERS, the terms of the agreement will be recorded on an agreed form to be signed by both sides as proof of the agreement.
  • What happens if something is agreed but one party reneges on agreement terms?
  • Where parties do reach a settlement via the ERS process, they will be deemed to be ethically bound by participation in the process. However, where agreements are not honoured within a specific timeframe, the case/referral may be re-introduced to the relevant adjudicative hearing or inspection processes without delay.
  • How long does the early resolution process take?
  • It is envisaged that where the parties agree to become involved the attempt at early resolution will be completed over a maximum period of 6 weeks. The process is likely to involve a number of relatively short telephone or e-mail interventions with both sides.
  • Will participating in the Early Resolution Process affect the formal adjudicative /inspection processes if the outcome is unsuccessful?
  • No.  If the early resolution intervention is not successful cases can be slotted back in to the relevant adjudicative or inspection process without any undue time delays.
  • What if I have a representative?
  • If you appoint a representative to act for you the Case Resolution Officer will engage through that representative.  It is important to ensure that your representative is fully aware of your requirements.

If you have a dispute and you need advice or representation contact to discuss your needs.