The management of workplace conflict in Ireland is changing, with significant moves towards alternative resolution processes to litigation. In this change process, mediation is becoming increasingly popular.

At the institutional level, recent reform of industrial relations structures under the Workplace Relations Commission (soon to be enshrined in law by the enactment of the current Workplace Relations Bill) have placed the spotlight firmly on improved efficiency and cost-effectiveness of the system, and on the early resolution of disputes as close as possible to source. Richard Bruton, Minister for Jobs Enterprise and Innovation, is quoted as saying;

Reform of the State’s employment rights and industrial relations bodies has two principal goals: to deliver a better service for employers and employees, and to deliver savings for the taxpayer, businesses and workers.

At the micro level, there is some evidence that individual firms are increasingly resorting to less formal dispute resolution methods (e.g. mediation) than the traditional, formal, linear process typical of grievance and disciplinary procedures.

A joint CIPD/ACAS (UK-based) research report entitled ‘Workplace Trends 2015’ concluded that mediation provides a ‘powerful tool’ for the early resolution of workplace conflict in an informal way and without resort to formal procedures.

Part of the motivation for such changes in dispute resolution processes is an increasing recognition of the extensive costs associated with unresolved conflict in terms of work performance, financial costs and employee well-being.