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The University of Southampton


Commonly asked questions and answers about mediation

How do you know if or when mediation is appropriate?

In general most cases of discrimination, allegations of bullying or harrassment should be suitable for mediation.  Any working relationship which has broken down where the parties themselves are unable to find a way forward is very suitable for mediation. It may be that a recommendation for mediation has come as a result of a formal process ie grievance in an effort to encourage all parties concerned to draw a line under the past and seek a workable relationship that suits them both.

Can you refer yourself for mediation or do you need to go through HR/Line Manager/SUSU/Tutor?

You can make a self-referral to the mediation service or if you prefer you can ask your line manager/HR (for staff) or SUSU advisor/Lead Tutor (for students).

If you self refer who will contact the other party?

The Mediation Services Manager will approach the other party following a self-referral to mediation as we recognise that this may be a difficult thing to do if you have been in conflict with that person and communication has broken down.

If you agree to mediation, can you still pursue more formal procedures like a grievance or make a complaint?

Yes, by agreeing to mediation this does not alter your rights to pursue your differences with another party by more formal means at any time.  In addition, mediation may be used alongside formal processes which can be 'paused' whilst mediation takes place and then continued if no resolution is reached. However, most mediations result in an agreement and resolution.  As mediation is conducted 'without prejudice' and is an informal process, the contents of the discussions within all of the mediation meetings cannot be used in future procedures (by either party) or in a court of law.

How confidential is the process?

Very. Parties sign a confidentiality agreement at the outset. Mediators will not disclose anything that has been said during mediation without the permission of the parties. A copy of the final agreement signed by both parties may only be shared in whole or in part with another if both parties agree to it.  All notes from mediation will be destroyed at the end of the process and mediators will not provide evidence at any formal process or employment tribunal.

Do you have to take part in mediation?

No, mediation is voluntary.  You should not feel coerced into doing it and if you did agree initially, you can stop mediation at any time.

Does your Line Manager/Head of Service or (for students) Lead Tutur have/need to know you are using mediation?

No, you can inform them if you want, but it is your choice.

What if the person you are in conflict with does not wish to participate in mediation?

The Mediation Services Manager will speak to the other party to explain to them that a request has been made for them to go to mediation, a full explanation of mediation will be given and they will have the opportunity to ask any questions, after which they will then be able to decide if they wish to go ahead. If they really do not wish to take part, we cannot proceed with the mediation.

Where does the mediation take place?

The mediation always takes place in a neutral venue in rooms that are quiet, and discreet. Each part has their own separate room and a third room is used for the joint mediation meeting.

Who are the mediators?

The mediators within the Mediation Service are mostly existing university employees from a variety of different areas of the university who volunteered to undergo formal mediation training. They will be completely impartial and independent of any parties involved in the mediation. They all have formal mediation training and hold a recognised qualification in mediation, accredited by the Open College Network and are committed to up-dating their skills through continuous professional development. All are members of the Professional Mediators Association.

How long does it take to set up a mediation from date of referral?

For full mediation it usually it takes about 2-3 weeks but it can be less or more depending on the availability of both of the parties. For the shorter facilitated discussion option, this can often be arranged within 1-2 weeks.

What is the difference between a facilitated discussion and full mediation?

A facilitated discussion is a type of mini-mediation using just one mediator and is suitable if a conflict is relatively new and not too complicated and is often centred around a particular issue. It usually takes between 2 -4 hours. Full mediation is the norm and is very effective for the more embedded conflicts which have been present for months if not years where the  relationship between the parties has broken down completely. It usually takes a whole day and is co-mediated.

Why does a full mediation take a whole day?

It may seem like a long time to commit to mediation but the process allows for the mediators and the parties involved to explore fully where and how the conflict developed, to have a full understanding of all the factors from both parties perspective and to work through the process to unravel the history eventually leading to the parties being able to come to some sort of resolution that works for them. When compared to the time a formal grievance takes which can go on over weeks and months and the on-going stress and anxiety this brings, having the opportunity to resolve the conflict in a day can be preferable.

Do mediators tell people what to do?

No. Mediators do not tell parties what to do nor do they impose a settlement or solution. They do not judge who is right of wrong not criticise past behaviours. They are there to facilitate an honest and frank discussion between the parties and to help them seek a resolution that works for them.

Can you take someone with you during mediation?

Whilst we recognise that mediation can be a daunting process and therefore parties may feel they would like someone with them, the mediators will create an atmosphere of trust and a 'safe space' where parties feel able to have frank and honest discussions. It may well be counter-productive to have a third party there as mediation relies on the two parties taking responsibility for their conflict and working through their difficulties with each other.

What happens at the end of the mediation?

By the end of mediation hopefully both parties will have reached a resolution that they are both happy with and may have a number of points of agreement. Depending on their wishes these may be typed up and a copy given to both parties or it may simply be a verbal agreement that satisfies both. Parties will be asked to complete an evaluation form which will be anonymous and sent direct to the Mediation Services Manager.

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