“Avoidance and Resolution of Boardroom and Employment Disputes in the “new normal”

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“Avoidance and Resolution of Boardroom and Employment Disputes in the “new normal”

Featuring: Anthony Fincham, Jane Gunn and Sheila Bates

Transcript

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The avoidance and resolution of boardroom and employment disputes in the new normal. This topic comes into focus, particularly as we head out of the furlough scheme, and businesses adjust to the current economic climate. We have three mediators to speak this morning who are very experienced in the field to explore different aspects of this topic. Before introducing our speakers, a couple of admin points if I may. We are keen for your participation in the webinar. There will be 15 minutes for questions and answers at the end. And you can raise these by chat, Q and A's or raised hand features on zoo. We will also be running polls with a couple of questions to you so please do join in. Our first speaker this morning is chambers member Anthony Fincham. Anthony is a highly experienced mediator who was until recently, a partner is a leading London author. Anthony specialises in workplace dispute resolution, and has mediated in a range of other types of disputes. He is going to tackle the issue of how to go about making redundancies and will also give some guidance on workplace mediation. So Anthony, over to you.

 

Thank you, Tony. Good morning, everybody mad this word of welcome to the webinar. As Tony said, for all obvious reasons, we thought it'd be helpful to start with a short recap on making redundancies. And that really comes down to two things. One is to need to engage in collective consultation with employee representatives being recognised union or elected representatives? And the answer is yes. Where the employer proposes to make 20 or more people redundant, within a space of 90 days at one establishment. And the obligation is to consult in good time, and at least 30 days before the first termination 45 days. If the number is 100 100 people being made redundant. The penalty for failure to consult is a protective award of up to 90 days actual paid for each affected employee at all sounds very straightforward. Just one or two cautionary notes. Affected employees is very widely defined. I had a case where 70 people were made redundant, was a claim that the consultation was flawed because the information given was inaccurate. And the claim was bought total was about 1200 employees who said were affected by the data and see it actually failed in the court of appeal. So that quite wasn't tested. A second cautionary note is you have to consult in good time and not less than the 30 or 45 days.

 

So you can't sit on a proposal and wait for the 30 or 45 day period. And then a final one is you can give notice before a consultation notice to employees for the consultation has expired, and that runs the risk of undermining the consultation. So the other half, you need to think about individual rights of employees. Anybody with two years service I'm sure you all know can be an unfair dismissal claim. somebody the other day said, asked if I can point him to the relevant legislation on this well, there isn't any in case law. And when it comes down to is you need to engage in discussions with the individuals concern. You need to have first selection criteria which are fairly applied, and you need to make a search for suitable alternative employment within the employers group. The award for unfair dismissal is now capped at 88,519 pounds. A few misconceptions I think about the individual rights and individually individual consultation. One is that you must have three consultation meetings. Other people recommend that there's no legal requirement. The second is that the employees in touch with their company. That's not the case. That's fairly common practice. Third one is you must give an employee a right of appeal. There's no overriding legal entitlement to an appeal and a cast recommend one against application selection criteria limited to that. That said, of course, you may have a contract of employment or staff Handbook, which affords employees the right of appeal against any termination in which case will need to be respected. Now there is a joker in the pack, but that's not an apt description is discrimination and whistleblowing any redundancy can give rise to discrimination claim or claim that the decision to make somebody redundant has been wholly or mainly because he or she has blown the whistle made a protected disclosure. And there's First of all, no to qualifying service. So these rights live from day one. Secondly, the compensations uncapped. And just to illustrate that I dealt with one redundancy, whistleblowing camera succeeded, and the individual bought about 4 million pounds.

 

Okay, so happy, obviously, to pick up any questions on that, that at the end sides of it negative talking about redundancies, I'll now move to the second half of my few words, which are some observations on workplace mediations to maybe use or might give rise to some debate. The first completely obvious point I would like to put out there is that any commercial mediations, once one is used to dealing with representatives only get a representative of the company, you'll get generally, a couple of lawyer representatives for each party. And of course, in a workplace mediation, you get the actual party present, and the mediator needs subhead. And it'll be sensitive to that. And I attach particular importance to the opening session. I'm not particularly keen on opening sessions in commercial mediations, I often suggest for parties, they might prefer to dispense with them. Who know one of the issues are from the submissions, a position papers that are lodged. And I think they can be a waste of time. But I contrast with workplace employee mediations, I think they are important. So the individual is able to say what he wants to say. Most mediation agreements, give the mediator the right to call off the mediation, he thinks it's going nowhere. Do you think that's widely invoked? But I think it's something you may need to think about. In an employment situation. I have one, actually the punch dispute where one party asked me to convey to the other that if they didn't settle the dispute, he take out a contract and have the chat noted. Well, we won't be surprised to hear that I refused to pass on that message. But I think, looking back, I probably should have called off mediation at that point. I was interested in observations made by Michael Cover in the first of this series of webinars and webinars. With zoom, you can very easily postpone a mediation and reconvene it maybe a day later and perhaps half a day later or a week later. That's much more difficult. When the parties all meet together, I think that's something that is well worth considering in workplace mediations and kind of cooling off period within the process.

 

Another point I'm conscious of is possible conflict for the mediator. If you are appointed by an employer, in a number of mediations, you may feel your position is hard to maintain and continue trying to maybe hoping for further referrals and as an employee, something I would inquire is whether the mediator has done any mediations before for a particular company or other employer and then the other side situation I decided to address I think I've got a few minutes to go his way I have a situation where an employer appoints a mediator or case manager and says, Can you help resolve issues between employees, where you have perhaps senior people in fall and out, employee doesn't want to lose, either than it matters aren't resolved, he may lose both. And then a third party neutral is, is instructed to see if he can help broker some sort of way forward, or help a guide is concerned, maybe more than two and maybe a group to find a way forward, whereby they can remain in employment and work carefully together. So you've got to ask yourself, who are the parties? Do you need a tripartite agreement between the employer and the two employees? Or as I say, it may be more? Do you necessarily need an agreement with the employees may phase have too much legality? Maybe you can just be appointed by the employer. And you don't absolutely have to have a document to which the employees are a party? Does the employer needs to be present at the

 

mediation? Will that inhibit the assistance or mediator between the warring parties and the employers and present? What are the parameters within which the mediator operates? I mean, obviously, you couldn't have the employees clean between sales and double net pay or something like that, and then they live happily ever after. So clearly, there's got to be some limit on what the mediator can help them to agree. And then linked with that. To whom? Do I have a duty of confidence? And I think this needs to be addressed in the agreement. Or if there isn't an agreement, which the employees are a party, you've got to deal with it. At the start of the mediation, can they talk to you confident that whatever they say, will not go back to the employer? Are there any limits to that? Is the employer happy with that? Will that breached the terms of your retainer by the employer? So I'm throwing those points out there without offering one size fits all answers. And, as I say, happy to pick them up with any observations or questions at the end of the when we get on to that section of the webinar. So that's what I'm going to say for now. And I can pass over, I think, to Jane or do we get back to the person I come in?

 

Thank you very much, gentlemen, for that short address. Our second speaker is Jane Gunn, also a member of our chambers RPB. Jane has built an international reputation as mediator, conflict management consultant and speaker working with businesses and business leaders around the world. Jane has mediated hundreds of disputes and is frequently chosen for her extensive mediation experience, as well as their ability to handle complex or emotive cases. Jane will be will look at the timing for dealing with difficult employment issues, for reasons which perhaps she will explain she is now the Barefoot mediator. Okay, over to you.

 

What's getting around about this barefoot mediation? Tony, thank you. Thank you very much. And very nice to address everybody, although I can't see you. So I just wanted to start by saying I wonder if you remember when you were a child, being on an escalator or perhaps trying to run up an escalator that was going down. And I want to talk a little bit about how we might de escalate disputes, because sometimes it feels like running up an escalator that's going down. And I also want to talk about something I call the window of opportunity. Because what we talk about as new normal, which is kind of people going back to work at the moment seems to be bringing more conflict. But businesses have got fewer resources, probably to waste, less time to waste than ever. And so I think, you know, we all need to rethink different ways to resolve conflict quickly. So I've been talking to a number of businesses and clients And a call from a CEO this week who's trying to get his office back up and running again and bringing stuff back to work. And these are just some of the issues that he's got, which are some redundancies to consider some staff resistant, coming back to the office naturally. But how do you manage that, and then actually, within the directors failing to agree about some of those things, so actually a conflict if you like, or some tension at board level. And, you know, I think trying to get to grips with this new normal means that there are multiple layers of issues going on, that many businesses try to manage as the lockdown easily eases. And these tensions are arising, as I said, all these levels, you know, among staff, among partners, and in the boardroom. So I wanted to start by asking you, and I know I can't see you putting your hands over anything. But how many of you have avoided conflict and hoped it would go away? And how many of you perhaps have wished you could resolve an issue that you've got in the workplace today? Have it resolved, as I sometimes say, by midnight, so I know that we've got a quick poll for you there that could pop up now to ask you your own responses on that. So here's the poll, would you rather parachute jump for the first time eat bush-tucker bugs or taffet? tackle a difficult conflict issue or conversation? so quick? A quick note that I know it's first thing in the morning to be thinking about eating bush talking about, or in fact, jumping out of an aeroplane, but

 

see what people vote. So do we have any? Do we have any skills on that?

 

We'll wait for that to pop back up. But so we'll wait for that to pop up. But the answer is to pop that up. But what I want to talk about is this window of opportunities. So when conflict arises, sometimes we think that you know, it's going to take a long time to resolve but actually what we have is this thing called a window of opportunity from the moment the conflict first arises, which I talk about is something like a tension, there's some kind of tension in the air, some kind of tension in the relationship. Moving on, you know, that then develops into some kind of conflict, there are definitely some conflict behaviours and some issues. And then finally, a disputed, deadlocked situation, which ends up going, perhaps in an employment case into a grievance process, or it ends up perhaps in some kind of litigation. So what I really want to talk about this morning is, you know, why do we avoid the early warning signs of conflict, how this conflict escalates rapidly, and then why mediation can help and perhaps why being barefoot mediator can help as well. So avoidance, I again, I haven't seen the results of the poll yet. But what what I find in my work is that most people in the workplace, including leaders have a tendency to ignore and avoid conflict, there might be early warning signs like breakdowns and conversations. And some of the other warning signs might be things like silence, staff, starting to talk behind other people's back withholding information sabotage. And then you can get some sort of type sometimes of sort of verbal assaults and so on. But if conflicts not caught early, it escalates so that this avoidance thing tends to lead on to a process which I call escalation. And I do have a slide here for the escalation process, if it's possible to put that back up on the screen.

 

So I talked about being on the escalator of conflict. And I wonder how often you in a conflict yourself, I've found that it's escalated rapidly. And I was thinking of a partnership dispute, for example, where it might start with one of the partners feeling sidelined or ignored by fellow partners. But once and the ability to have the conversation is broken down. So right at the beginning of the escalation process, here you can see what happens is that people stop talking. So they stop talking or they stop having an effective conversation. And then the second stage is that you get what's called forming groups. So that could be you just get you just go and have a chat with a colleague, but you might get a number of other people on your side so they could be colleagues could be people at home but you tend to form a group Round, you have people who agree with your perspective with you with your point of view, then the next stage in his escalation process is starting to create stories. So obviously, you know, when we form a group, we create a story amongst us about what this conflict is about what's right and what's wrong. And those stories can sometimes get embroiled. And then the next stage on the escalation ladder is what I call threats or actions, actually taking some action, having some behaviour which escalates the conflict. And sometimes that can be lodging a grievance sending a letter, which you might regret later, or starting some kind of formal process, maybe litigation. Now, what's interesting as you get further down the ladder of escalation is that the final two stages end up being not very much about what the original issue was about. And as a mediator, I see this often it's about saving face. And the final step is called into the abyss together. So the parties or the people involved, have forgotten what the original issues are. And now it's much more about, I don't mind if I go down as long as you go down with me. So you can see from this escalation process that right at the top, it's green, as it's an easy to manage the conflict at that stage, we might say you're still in a win win zone. But as you move down, it becomes much more win lose. And finally at the bottom, everybody's going to lose. So this is why it's so important to catch conflict and really early stage, or in both someone who can help de escalate the conflict. So that's great, we can stop sharing the screen now. Thank you.

 

So that's the process of conflict escalation. And the problem with that, of course, in today's world is that it's going to increase the time it takes you have something called cost control and cycle time. So it's going to increase the amount it costs, the cycle time, the total time that it takes to resolve the conflict is going to be much longer. And you both parties lose control over that. So they don't have as much control over the outcome. So the question then is, at what stage could mediation or the skills of mediation help some people with some of these sort of post COVID issues, resolve conflict? And the answer is actually, the sooner the better, you don't really need to wait to use mediation or mediation skills to be able to solve this kind of these kind of issues, that the sooner you start that process, the better. So conflict is seen as a process, it's it is the process by which people express their unhappiness with the situation or with other people. And if you see it as a process, you need to have a different process to be able to start the process of resolution. And my advice to businesses whizzes have a conflict resolution process built into your business and make it part of your business processes. So I've got three steps here, which I would advise businesses to have. One is to have a plan or a brute blueprint, which sits within your business strategy and your processes, but effective conflict resolution. And that should allow you to have several stages that people know they can access, which are one early and effective conversation, second, some kind of facilitated dialogue. And thirdly, mediation where you need that. And it should be very clearly delineated where you can have face to face conversations, and perhaps staff needs some skills or some effective training to be able to have those conversations. facilitated dialogue, again, can be using a third party, but perhaps someone from within the organisation or again, perhaps a mediator, but who's coming in on a less formal basis does do some conflict coaching or to help facilitate the dialogue. And finally have a much more formal mediation, which is the kind of thing that the mediators who are on the screen today do. And then the final step of those three is to make conflict part of your corporate culture.

 

And then the question is sort of where does mediation fit now that we're not face to face? Where does it fit in the new normal? Well, most of us in rvb, chambers have become very familiar with zoom mediations. And the reason I'm called the Barefoot mediator is that I mediated a case this week. And of course, you know, we're only from the top, aren't we, when we're mediating. So I haven't been wearing shoes for most of lockdown. So I've become the Barefoot mediator. You can go to mediation without your shoes on if you're a mediator, but the point about that is is that what I found is that being on screen, whilst you're not face to face in a room does offer some advantages and some of the advantages for clients are that they can be a bit more relaxed, they can be at home, they can be have their favourite sort of coffee mug with them, they don't need to sort of dress up in a suit and go to a lawyer's office. So the lack of formality. And the fact that they don't have to feel that tension of being in the same physical space is someone that perhaps they've not getting on very well with can really help the process and the mediations that I've done online so far, I found to be really, really effective. So and the other thing about that is that instead of having to set aside a whole day for mediation, you can do things in smaller chunks, smaller spaces of time, because you're not having to set aside time and rented some office space and, and or give up a day. So that gives you more flexibility. And an a more relaxed atmosphere, and I'm finding it to be very effective. So really, then I just like to summarise what I've said, instead of avoiding conflict, which is our natural tendency. For many of us, it's important to catch it early. See, as a process, see, remember that escalation model and see it as a process and catch it really early. Remember, then how quickly conflict escalates and know when and how you could use mediation, and also mediation skills. And all of many of us in mediation chambers can help with that process of conflict resolution skills as well as actually mediation. So my final comment is mediation really is, I believe, the best business tool for the 21st century. And it's a process that makes really great sense from not only a business perspective, but also a social and human perspective. So as you get back to work, and post COVID, in what we call new normal, I'd really advise you to think about having some kind of mediation process built into your organisation. Thank you.

 

Thank you very much, Jane. Now we go to feeler Bates, who is also chambers member, feeler is a senior accredited mediator, and is an international dispute resolution professional facilitator and trainer. Sheila is particularly interested in cross cultural and workplace and employment disputes. Sheila will be looking at handling the emotional side of employment disputes. So Sheila, over to you.

 

Thank you. So good morning, everyone. So just building on what Jane was saying about the the opportunity to mediate up in that escalation, when you're at the green point, when it's easy to engage and have a conversation. Often people don't. And the reason that they don't is because of their emotions. And if we think about what's going on at the moment, with COVID, with black lives matter with the questions, democracy. In Hong Kong, we living in a very emotional world. And those emotions may be fear, uncertainty, what's going to happen in the future, it could be hope, could be great. Yeah, we've finally got to do something about climate change, great possibilities. It could be a feeling of gratefulness, the kindness of people, simple acts of kindness, or, indeed, gratitude to the government for having had this, this photo funding, and probably for the scientists is really exhilarating chance to shine to do something fantastic in terms of creating that vaccine. So there's a lot of emotion around, we've probably been a lot more aware of it recently. And it's been legitimised in a way because we're all feeling a lot of those emotions. So when we look at the business scenario, Jane was referring to bringing people back to work. How are people feeling about coming back to work? Maybe they're frightened?

 

From a commercial perspective, looking at the time and the resources that you have? How are you going to keep your business afloat? Does that mean that you may need to make people redundant? Does that mean that you're going to have to cancel some pupilage training contracts? Are you going to going to have to, you know, make long standing employees redundant? And how do you feel about that? And those are business imperatives now. And yet, there's this gnawing feeling? Oh, my God, how will I deal with those emotions? So motions are there and they are important. They're important for all of us. And I think you probably ignore them at your peril. You often hear people saying, Let's leave emotion out of it. Well, guess what? You probably can't, so far better to recognise it and embrace it. And there's the emotion that you feel as an integrator. And there's the emotion on the other side. And both can be causes for concern. So when you think about emotion, there's a nice little definition of it, which I really like. It's called energy in motion. And it's really interesting to be able to, to harness that, and to harness joy, to harness relief, to harness anger, to harness frustration for better outcomes. So used effectively, and engaging with emotions can really help creativity and can help find better solutions. Now,

 

there are three important thing is I think about emotions, and that is that you kind of feel it in your tummy, there's this physiological thing in your tummy, you feel it. And you can hear it in the words that you say, I'm really frightened, I'm really happy. What will happen if we have to close? And also things that you're thinking? Because a lot of the time there's this internal dialogue going on? Oh, my God, if I actually make that person redundant, what they're going to think about me, they're not going to like me anymore. And, you know, if I have to tackle that business issue, am I going to be credible? Am I seen as credible at the board? So there are a lot of core concerns behind emotions that make us that, you know, that are really important indicators of what's going on for people. So you really would should ignore them at your eye, don't ignore them, ignore them at your peril. And the other thing about them is that they drive behaviours. So if you all have the experience, or many of you had the experience of your stroppy teenagers slamming the door and leaving the room, because they can't go to that party, or because they're sick of being in lockdown, or they're sick of you nagging them about cleaning their room, you probably don't appreciate them banging the door. But as a parent, you'll be aware that Guess what, there's a lot of emotion going on. There's a lot of frustration. And generally, as parents, you try not to rise to it, we don't always succeed. But generally, you have some understanding of the situation. And recognising emotions in ourselves, and in those that we're dialoguing with, is really important. So how am I feeling? You know, right now, I've had a lot of problems getting my zoom up this morning. How's that making me feel inside? How is that going to affect the way that I'm going to present? how other people on the other side, looking at this either zoom screen, oh my god, here we go again. So what are people feeling on both sides. So recognise that in any conversation difficult or otherwise, that there's your emotions, and the other person's emotions, and often, it's our own emotions, our own fears, our own concerns that block us. And so one of the things that mediators do is, is to recognise those emotions. And they're skilled at doing that.

 

And to respect those emotions, you don't have to agree with the way somebody behaves. But that behaviour is driven by an underlying concern. And right now, actually, they feel the way they feel, and you can't judge that feeling, it just is. So take a step back, and then respond to it. And a really good way to respond to the emotion is to actually name it, and actually say, I get the sense, you're really disappointed, we're going to have to cut that programme because we don't have the funds. Or I see that you're really worried about having that conversation with that staff member might even share your own vulnerabilities. And by actually labelling that emotion, you legitimise it, because that's the way the person feels. But you also gain a better rapport with them, they see you as a human being. And at the end of the day, we are all human beings. And you have to deal with the emotion before you can deal with the facts. Because emotion is really a flag for something deeply important, that often hasn't been attended to. So if you look at some of the stuff that's going on at the moment, Why are people so outraged? Because black lives do matter that I need to be included in society. That's important. Why is Boris Johnson calling on his experts so much at the moment because Boris really wants to be liked, and if there's any hard decisions, well, it's really the science that's deciding that not him. And so these are core concerns that we all have as human beings and understanding That those exist and recognising them, and playing with them in a in a supportive way can really help move things forward. Now, I'm just going to tell you a very brief story. It's a real life story.

 

And it's iconic, smelly feet. And it's a story. It's a real life story. And it happened in an office, that I was responsible for big office in a very big capital city in a major European country. Fabulous office, really, really hot, about 35 degrees. And you get a knock on your door from your staff member. And they say,

 

you know, I'm pregnant.

 

Yeah, no, you're pregnant. That's great. When's the baby jus? Well, let's not worry about that right now. But let's worry about the fact that I am feeling absolutely nauseas. Because Tom's foot oza is so noxious that I just can't come to the office anymore. I'm going to have to work from home. So you're landed with that plate? And you have to deal with that situation. And I'm going to ask Martin to just put up a little poll and ask you how you feel about that. So would you feel comfortable in having that conversation? No problem, I'll tell Tom, he's got to wash his feet. It's got to be done. God, it's so embarrassing. Where do I even start, or let's be smart, let's delegate it to HR. Or to be quite honest, just like Jane, I'd rather parachute for the first time, it's less square, scary than having that conversation. So we'll see what the results and bolts are on that. But I would hazard a guess that many of you might be trying to delegate it elsewhere. Perhaps you've got a manager who could really do with with a bit of practice on difficult conversations. And the difficulty and the issue that this manager had in communication, this was they knew that there was an underlying medical problem, they felt deeply embarrassed about it. This was a key person, they didn't want to upset them. And so it took a lot of effort to have that conversation. It was hard in the end, and a resolution was banned. However, the majority of people I see on the polls say it's really embarrassing, where do you start, and that's about your own emotions, much more than the other individuals. So I think recognising emotions on both sides of the table, really, really important. And in terms of the world that we're living in at the moment, and what needs to be done, I think it's really important to understand that emotion is there. And that mediators and conflict coaches can help you intervene early. So right at the early stages of the escalation, that you can actually have those conversations, call in a mediator to help you with process, calling the mediator to give you some coaching around how to have that difficult conversation, it can be done. And, you know, think about also in the final analysis, if there is a requirement for a mediation, if there's really a dispute, that a mediator, one of their skills is being able to recognise the emotion and, to work with it for better outcomes. So I think it's over to Tony.

 

Thank you very much, Sheila, for that talk. Some interesting issues there. I want to first of all pick up on poll number one. The results of that poll, if you remember, the question was about any increase in new employment disputes during the pandemic? And the answer to your poll was the majority of people have not seen any increase in new employment disputes. So Anthony, I'm coming back to you. Do you think that surprising, or do you think that's to be expected? And what would you say about what's happening

 

there? And I, I don't find that surprising, because, you know, most people have been away from work. And my general impression is, although I'm a talker, talk, obviously, limited numbers and probably limited types of employment or or workers that works reasonably well. But what I do think is likely is when furlough comes to an end or as people go back to work, and the will be maybe a rise in disputes. Things have been piling up, I'll give them in a way so i i would imagine And might see a different answer in two or three months time.

 

I mean, we've seen them snare quite a few large scale redundancies announced in the papers in the last two weeks. So how long do you think that? I mean, will that start to cause all sorts of disputes you were talking about?

 

coca well, and that will be a little bit down the track, because most of those will now be in the process of consultation. Yeah. That will run its course. And then we, we could see claims in this type of conversation, but I explained at the beginning for technical awards possible, are not that common, I think it implies a relatively well schooled and collective consultation, and it's probably not that difficult to get it right. More likely, I would think would be individual claims, among employees, for example, saying they've been unfairly selected, or they've been put in the wrong pool, or this pin some floor and the engagement with them. And then that would be an unfair dismissal claim, or perhaps a discrimination claim or, or whistleblowing.

 

Okay. Thank you, Anthony. Kane, the result of your poll. We didn't manage to get it during your. But the vast majority surprisingly, said they would tackle a difficult conversation 40% parachute jump and 10% he thought? I mean, do you want to comment on that?

 

Well, it's less usually it may just reflect you we've got on the call today. So what I usually find is that the majority would rather avoid the conversation. Some people don't mind jumping out a plane. Most people don't want to eat bush soccer bucks. That's for sure. But it is usually the case that the majority would rather avoid having to deal with conflict.

 

Do you think people are being honest? And so perhaps we shouldn't, we shouldn't cast aspersions. But any Well,

 

no, I'm sure our audience are being honest. But yeah, it most most, most business people say that they'd rather put it off talk tomorrow, frankly. Yes.

 

Yeah. Now, picking up on that. I mean, picking up on your talk about the various phases of escalation. From my perspective, I think it's very difficult to having managed a group of advisors in the firm, to see when the stage changes from your first stage to your second stage. I mean, how do you how do you recognise you, you talk about the window of opportunity, but very soon, do you not get into that second stage of stories and so on? And how do you how do

 

you do and that's the point about having this sort of conflict resolution process built into your organisation. Because if there's an understanding that conflicts something, which is normal and natural man is going to happen, and that everybody at every level of the organisation has a responsibility to manage it early, they're all accountable for that, then instead of them all, taking it down that stage, instead of starting to form those groups, and so on their responsibility, and actually, their natural tendency, then would be to say, to take it to the stage and take it to somebody to have a conflict to have an issue. And to know what that would mean. And it would generally mean, you know, some kind of early intervention, some kind of conversation, but they should then have the competence and the skills to do that. And that's why that process is so important.

 

When you say they I mean, that was usually in a fairly large organisation or you medium would be the HR department, but it

 

would, it would, but I'm talking about every level. So even sort of unit, more junior members of staff should have an awareness that conflict is accepted around here, it's normal, and that if I have an issue, you know, not not to be not to be what you saw quarterly sort of continuous complaints, but if I have a genuine issue, I should have the confidence that it's okay to raise this issue and that I know what the process is. That doesn't mean I have to go straight to lodging a complaint or grievance. So I think sometimes in organisations, what I've seen is that people collect their issues, they collect them in a sort of little black book, and they wait till they've got enough to say, now I've got a great big complaint. And it's it's much better to tackle these things early than say, Well, now I've got something that can be taken to HR can form a complaint or a grievance. And that's part of the problem with that with the mindset we have in many organisations.

 

Right. Thank you. Thank you, Jay. We have a question for Sheila. from Michael covr. shoe that Michael says we begin to understand that modern slavery is much closer to us than we in UK thought. How might mediation work in these rather extreme cases, that's a difficult one for you. So like to comment on that.

 

Thank you. Thank you very much. You're absolutely right. It is very close to us. And mediation can absolutely help. One of the key concerns of people who are victims of modern slavery is fear of retribution. They are frightened, they are very, very, very scared. And so having some remedy for those victims can really you can use the mediation skills to to have some almost restorative justice. And it's very important to do that, with respect to tackling modern slavery. If you look at the recent Lester case, cases, there have been many of them, and for those of us who work in modern slavery, is not surprising very sadly, is that very often, the suppliers of the product to the next person up in the supply chain, are very frightened to engage in conversation, because they may lose the business. They may be delisted, we've seen what's happened to boohoo in terms of their share price. So there are real concerns about what will happen if you whistle blow and raise the issue of modern slavery. In any long run, we all have to deal with the modern slavery, and actually working together using the facilitation skills and mediation skills, making people feel safe helping to communicate the difficult messages that actually the supplier is going to there probably will be slaves in the in their supply chain, you know, how do we deal with that? How do we work together and helping the retailers the people further up the supply chain, to actually partner and engage to find creative solutions to what is really a hideous and egregious crime that is very much alive and, and kicking. So those skills are absolutely vital. And very recently, I had an example related to actually a farm, a large farm. And on this occasion, it wasn't actually so much about one slavery, that wasn't the problem. The problem was that COVID-19 was introduced by seasonal workers. And the net result was that that organised that that potential farm could have been delisted as a supplier taking the business down completely, with massive reputation risks. And in fact, the opportunity to get in there and have a facilitated conversation has really helped the situation. And hopefully things will go forward positively. So actually getting in there recognising the conflict, the concerns, the fears that people have, and using the skills of mediation are really, really helpful and productive.

 

Do you have anything? Thank you, Sheila? Jane, do you want to add anything to that?

 

It's not particularly my area of expertise. But I mean, I think what Sheila's highlighting is, you know, is very relevant, that there are opportunities, and certainly no, and these are things that we're seeing in the in the newspaper here, you know, actually these kinds of stories, but there are still opportunities in the background. For us, you know, it's not not what we would think of as conventional employment mediation, but there are still opportunities for us to use our skills to help people have the conversations and, you know, businesses are at risk there. You know, as Sheila says, of being delisted, so important areas of work for us. All.

 

Right. Going, we've got a question here from Nigel Campbell. The question is, if a company embeds a process of conflict resolution in its culture, yes. Might it not encourage employees to resort to the process rather than resolving disputes between themselves? So going into a mechanistic, low and mechanical sort of process?

 

Yes, I understand that. And I think, yes, within the culture, there should be it shouldn't be a culture of whining. So you don't want to sort of encourage a culture where everybody's complaining about everything. But hopefully, if the organisation has the right approach and culture, that wouldn't happen, but the first step should generally be that you would expect the employees to, to be able to perhaps have a difficult conversation with the other person that they had an issue with, so to perhaps have their own skill set or to be able to have some coaching from an HR person that to have a face to face conversation. So that should be the first step of that process is a face to face dialogue between two people who have an issue with each other rather than it being escalated to someone else. And HR should be within that process able to support that process and perhaps support the skills that are needed.

 

Thank you. One, I don't think we have any more questions from our attendees. Just going back to the whole question of redundancies, there is going to be in first in firms that are quite small, leaving barristers, chambers and so on where redundancies are May, there's quite a emotional problem, not just for the employer making the redundancy and employee but there is maybe feelings among the continuing employees. Is that one that Sheila could call Jane, you could comment on how you cope with that.

 

And I'll go first, absolutely. They, you know, the way that you, you say goodbye to people, and the way that you handle redundancy, can have a massive impact on your organisation. So you may work with colleagues for a long time, the smaller the organisation, the greater the sense of loss, in terms of if you're 10 people and you lose a couple of people, well, effectively, you've lost 20% of your resource. So the impact is on the practical level. It's also with with colleagues, you know, that they feel sad. And their work is disrupted. So actually, as an employer, and being a good employer, handling the redundancies with with care and with compassion will be seen by the other employees. As as making the best of something, which is not a wonderful situation, making somebody redundant, is not you know, it's not a thing that we all wake up in the morning, you know, dying to do. So I think it's, it's really important, and I think it's about about engaging with with staff also in terms of the fears and the questions that they may raise, and maybe thinking, well, it's me next. So there will be fair. So Jay wants to add to that, or perhaps,

 

yes, I agree with Sheila that, you know, it will in many workplaces, even if you're in a larger workplace, the smaller team may feel as though there are families in a sense. So you've got to understand the emotions that may be going on within the team as a whole, not just the person who may be made redundant, but as Shiva says, the people who may be left behind and dealing with the whole of that, not just the difficult conversation with the person who's to be made redundant. I think sometimes if that is an awkward conversation, and if it's got over too quickly, then you haven't dealt with how could you help the person who's being made redundant? How can you help everybody to deal with that situation without creating more tension, if you like, which often is the is the unexpected result. And make you want to add to that,

 

I very much agree with what Sheila said, it's something which I've talked to fans, but quite often times over the years making redundancies impact the way they handle the process will have not only on the people who are going to be again ago, but the people who stay behind this issue comes up with enhanced redundancy, payments, essentially schemes and generous. I think the cap on a week's pay is now 538 pounds, had it kept up with inflation was originally set way in excess of that might be 2000. So large employers will often have enhanced redundancies schemes, but smaller employers will sometimes make enhanced payments, in part because of the message that since so people who remain

 

and to me another questions come up from Davao and he would like some comments about voluntary redundancy and how that works.

 

Well, yeah, thanks for that, Dave. I mean, a lot of redundant, you don't have to have announced volunteers. It's not a necessary ingredient of a fair redundancy scheme. It's an advisable step in the process. And the important thing is that the key thing is that the employer doesn't hand over the decision to the workforce. So if you allow people to volunteer, it needs to be on the basis that they applied be made redundant. You may or may not accept them but in practice, of course, on someone's volunteer for redundancy in knows that person wants to go or is happy to go provided he gets paid the money. And normally, in my experience volunteers are set within being reasonable not not always.

 

Okay. Peter or Thank you want to comment on voluntary redundancy, though?

 

My only comment is that very often the you know, the best the best people will they often offer to volunteer to leave and from an employer perspective and in training talent, that's that is something definitely to think about. Because, yeah, people, often your best people who may be easily employable elsewhere may be the ones who put their hands up, and that may be the talent you want to retain.

 

Good point. Thank you. Well, on that note, we're approaching 10 o'clock. We don't have any more questions at the moment. So I'm going to draw proceedings to close. Thank you all for attending and thank you to our three speakers. Thank you