Disputes at the Workplace

The number of employee complaints about their treatment at work is ever growing  but the central question now is how these cases are dealt with outside before the application to a tribunal or labour court.  The Alternative Disputes Resolution or ADR uses well known processes of resolving conflicts such as mediation and arbitration but they also help with complaints from individuals. The main types of ADRs are as follows:


Arbitration is when a third party hears the case presented by each party and makes a ruling on the outcome.


In this situation, the third party only acts as a facilitator by initiating communication between conflicting parties and encouraging the reconciliation between parties. The third party will listen to each side and works to find a solution which is acceptable to both parties. If the conciliator is able to find an acceptable outcome, then the case need not go to the tribunal court and will then be classified as settled.


During mediation an impartial third party helps two or more people who are in dispute and attempts to reach an agreement with them. The process of mediation focuses on the future and building relationships, as well as finding a solution.  During mediation, mediators can suggest possible solutions and he can also guide the parties to finding solutions.

Other ADR innovations

Aside from arbitration, mediation and conciliation, there are also other ADR innovations, which can be used to find solutions, such as employing a fact-finder to report to the parties so they can find solutions.  In recent years, there has been an increase in the use of ADR mechanisms for resolving disputes between individuals outside the existing DR institutions. ADR is voluntary in Ireland  and there is a perception among many of the country’s industrial relations community that the current resolution system is still bogged down by historical adversarial legacy.

In Ireland, ADR is provided to individuals and companies in three main ways. More formal dispute institutions have paid more attention to ADR and are offering more services lately. The use of private individuals has also grown. Most of these independent parties offer their mediation or arbitration services on a consultancy basis.  Some of the people who worked in this area are retirees from their former jobs and because of their strong problem-solving skills, they have more to offer and help out in dispute resolution once in a while.

Employers in Ireland are also introducing their own ADR mechanisms instead of hiring third parties to perform the job. They want to nip conflicts in the bud instead of letting them grow bigger that individuals will seek resolution outside the company. This is also to avoid external legal wrangling. Some of the few forms of ADR which employers have put in place in recent years are peer review, mediation, management review board, ombudsman and arbitration.

Some of the categories of individual workplace disputes dealt with by ADR are related to bullying, employee grievances, discrimination on various grounds and harassment. Aggrieved workers get access to ADR depending on the situation. Some may get access via their unions and their employers.