Free mediation advice for employees and small employers experiencing work issues due to COVID-19

DRAW (Dispute Resolution Assistance and Mediation in the Workplace) is a free online mediation service provided by Your Employment Settlement Service, through ELAN (Employment Law Advice Network), and funded by Trust for London. Camilla Palmer, Solicitor at Your Employment Settlement Service, outlines how employees and small employers can benefit from DRAW.

The COVID-19 virus has disrupted our working lives - creating uncertainty, job losses, poverty and fragility for everyone.

In the legal world it has left unresolved many disputes as full tribunal hearings are in abeyance. When/if normality returns we will be left with huge backlogs so there will be even more waiting and uncertainty. One area that is not in abeyance is Judicial Mediation. This is when an Employment Judge/Mediator helps the parties resolve the legal dispute to avoid a tribunal hearing.

But mediation is not just for tribunal cases. It should be used to avoid litigation; and the sooner it takes place the better – which is why we have set up an online free mediation service for COVID-19 issues.

We have a raft of new law and guidance about furloughing, health and safety, returning to work. Weekly developments appear on a Friday afternoon. Keeping up with this avalanche is a challenge for lawyers but impossible for workers and small employers. Take the following examples:

A carer cannot work because she is looking after a very vulnerable family member and/or young children. She was furloughed but is now being asked to return to the nursery, where social distancing is impossible.

What can she do?

A worker with diabetes is told he cannot continue to be furloughed and must return to work in a supermarket where there should be social distancing but there isn’t.

Can he refuse to go to work?

Chances are that neither employer or employee know what to do. Lawyers are used to reaching for the law and litigation but will this help the employee keep their job or resolve things quickly? It won’t.

Mediation is the obvious alternative to a complaint, a grievance, a tribunal claim – all of which are stressful, time-consuming, uncertain, costly and adversarial.

Mediation is solutions based. It can help maintain the working relationship. It is about constructive dialogue. The mediator helps the parties work together to reach agreement.

How do the parties get to mediation? It is simple: explain your concern to your employer (e.g. I cannot work because I care for my child/vulnerable adult and there is no-one else to care) and if this is not sorted quickly, suggest mediation.

Benefits of DRAW

  • It is free – for up to 6 hours – for employees and small employers based in Greater London;
  • it can be arranged quickly as it is online – so no travelling or mediation rooms to find;
  • no need to provide many documents: just a summary of the issues and your objectives;
  • you will have an experienced mediator who is familiar with COVID-19 law;
  • litigants in person may get free legal support during the time of the mediation;
  • you may solve the problem quickly and easily and it may save jobs.

For more information, visit the YESS website or contact Lavinia at mediation@yesslaw.org.uk.
Take a look at our page on ELAN here.