Mediation is commonly used in the corporate setting to resolve employee disputes, develop operating agreements and other types of contracts, and to resolve disputes among partners, shareholders, and other key members of an organization. While mediation can be highly effective for workplace conflicts, one often overlooked use of this process is to add it as an Employee Assistance Program (EAP).

Mediation Services as an Employee Benefit

In the past few decades, one of the major concerns among employers has become the health and wellness of their employees. Numerous studies have been conducted highlighting the benefits of workplace wellness programs. Most experts agree that Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) that emphasize wellness produce a positive return on investment, perhaps as high as $2.50 to $4 for every dollar invested.

Typically, EAPs include healthy living incentives, telehealth services, counseling, and access to financial and legal assistance, among other services. Implementation of these programs has been shown to lower absenteeism, increase employee productivity and job satisfaction, reduce turnover, and foster a happier and healthier overall work environment.

Adding mediation as an EAP can enhance the positive affects of these programs by giving employees access to a solution for personal conflicts. We all know that it can be difficult to concentrate on work when you are struggling with personal issues. These struggles can have a negative effect on employee attitudes and cause them to take out their frustrations on co-workers.

When mediation services are added to the list of EAPs, employees with personal conflicts have access to a service that allows them to resolve their conflict rather than just cope with it. Oftentimes, the average person is not aware of solutions such as mediation, and when they have a serious conflict in their personal lives, they often believe that the only option they have is to take legal action.

What is Mediation?

Mediation is a form of dispute resolution that can often be used as a viable alternative to litigation. The process is facilitated by a neutral, third-party mediator whose job is to guide the discussion toward a mutually beneficial resolution. Mediation is voluntary and non-binding, and although the mediator is in charge of the process, participants control the outcome. The mediator has no authority to impose a resolution that is not agreed upon by all participants.

The Advantages of Mediation

Employees can use mediation to resolve virtually any personal conflict they are dealing with. This process is often used successfully for divorces, separations, estate settlement, elder care, and other family legal matters.

There are several ways employees can benefit from mediation as an alternative to going to court. These include:

Saves Money: Legal battles can become expensive very quickly. A case that goes to court can cost participants thousands of dollars, putting a major strain on their finances. Mediation can typically be completed at a fraction of the cost, which is highly beneficial for all parties involved.

Saves Time: A court case can take months or even years to resolve. Mediation can be over in just a handful of sessions. It should also be noted that even the most complex issues, including high net worth divorces, can be resolved with minimal time and cost using mediation.

Process is Confidential: Litigation becomes part of the public court records, which can be another source of stress in the age of Facebook, Twitter, and other social media channels. With mediation, the process is kept private and confidential, and there is never any worry that the words of the participants will be used against them in the future.

Promotes Amicable Resolutions: Mediation is conducted in a cooperative rather than combative setting, which promotes more peaceful settlements. The ability of employees to resolve issues quickly, amicably, and cost-efficiently makes them happier and more productive at work.

When HR departments consider Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), mediation is not usually the first thing that comes to mind. Offering access to this service can be a major benefit for employees, however. And since this would usually be offered as a voluntary benefit in which the employee would cover most or all of the cost, employers can provide this benefit with very little extra expense for the organization.