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New employment mediation pilot scheme for SMEs

The Government has launched its regional mediation pilot scheme for small and medium-sized businesses, as part of a major overhaul of the employment tribunals system.

Cambridge and Manchester have been named as the first regions to try the new mediation training for employees, which is aimed at helping to resolve workplace disputes before they reach the tribunal stage.

Launching the scheme, employment relations minister Edward Davey commented, ‘We have always said that employment tribunals should be a last resort for resolving workplace disputes. Mediation offers an informal method of dispute resolution and can be used at the point when problems first arise in the workplace’.

The Government believes that the new scheme will help to avoid the need for formal disciplinary procedures, and reduce the number of employment tribunal claims.

However, the TUC has criticised the Government’s plans to double the qualification period for making an unfair dismissal claim, from one to two years, and its proposals to introduce new fees for individuals who wish to raise a tribunal claim, arguing that the most vulnerable workers will be hit the hardest by the new regime.

The pilot scheme will initially run for 12 months, and if successful the Government will consider rolling it out to other areas of the UK.