If you are a manger thinking about hiring a mediator or if you are a workplace party who is about to participate in a workplace mediation, this article is for you. Knowing about the confidentiality of workplace mediation helps you know what to expect from the mediation process.
Is workplace mediation confidential?
Workplace parties involved in a workplace mediation normally have a good reason to want their privacy respected. Since mediators are typically hired by the company to work with the parties who are both employees, mediations are not secret. The employer and at least some members of management will know they are occurring. As a mediator, I normally work with the human resources department to keep the circle of people who know that a mediation is happening as tight as possible. Depending on the organization, its policies, and whether or not the participants are in a union, different people may need know about the mediation.
What information gets shared during a workplace mediation?
Well mediators may differ with exactly what information they are willing to mandate be shared with the employer at Wakely Mediation our view is that what substantive information is shared with the employer should be decided by the parties at the conclusion of the mediation. During the course of the mediation, the mediator keeps the employer contact apprised of scheduled meetings and of the attendance of the parties.
Does the employer get to know what is said during mediation?
The employer does not find out what it said during mediation. The parties to the mediation agree at the outset about confidentiality. In our workplace mediation agreement, the employer agrees at the outset to respect his confidentiality. Typically, parties who reach a resolution will agree to share some or all of the plan with the company. One of the jobs of the mediator is working with the parties to agree on how their progress on the issue should be described and who should make the company aware.
Sometimes the parties was a very generic high level message shared by the mediator and sometimes the parties ask the mediator to facilitate a conversation with organizational leadership. One of the reasons mediation is so effective is because it gives the parties involved in the conflict control over the conflict. Removing managers and HR staff from the process and working with a workplace mediator helps the parties understand that the process is a way of resolving the conflict not furthering it by presenting their “evidence” to decision makers.
Are support people bound by the confidentiality of workplace mediation?
Sometimes mediation participants will be entitled to bring support people into a workplace mediation. This can be because of workplace policies, collective agreements or the duty to accommodate require it. Generally participants are bound by a confidentiality. In my practice, I ask support people and union representatives to sign confidentiality agreements.
Is there anyone who can’t act as a support person due to confidentiality?
Generally leaders who may be called to deal with further interpersonal issues and have decision making authority should be excluded. They are usually the people who participants want to keep information from. Aside from taking the value away from confidentiality, having decision makers attend can risk the mediation turning to a power based process.
There are exceptions to this. Workplace mediations to support human rights accommodations frequently include decision makers. Part of the mediator’s job is to ensure that the people attending to support the process will do so and that their presence won’t hurt the process.
Workplace mediation is a good option for solving problems quickly and discretely. The confidentiality of workplace mediations can give participants the peice of mind to participate in an interest based process. If you want to learn more about how workplace mediation can help your organization deal with interpersonal conflict, harassment investigation postvention, or team discord, contact us for a no obligation conversation.