New business and family mediation service offered

Workplace Solutions announced that it is offering a new mediation and facilitation service in addition to its existing counselling and consultation services for the workplace.

Mediator Julie McLaughlin joined Workplace Solutions in August to expand the company’s services to businesses and families in Cayman. ‘We are dedicated to facilitating constructive forms of conflict resolution in the workplace, at home and in the community,’ Mrs McLaughlin said.

‘We do this by assisting our clients in exploring creative options not only to resolve conflicts, but also to positively redefine ongoing relationships.’

Workplace Solutions has offered counselling services to the corporate sector for employees and their family members since 2005 and during this time discovered a gap in the market for mediation services. In the past Workplace Solutions’ director and therapist Dee Duggan found that some of the referrals she received would be best served by a mediator.

Mediators do not represent a specific side of a dispute or pass a judgement. They rather assist the parties in coming to a mutually agreeable settlement by facilitating the negotiation process and helping the parties identify their interests and needs.

Julie McLaughlin explained that although there are some overlaps between counselling and mediation, counselling is an ongoing relationship, whereas the mediator’s role is to resolve specific issues.

‘These could for example be disputes between colleagues, problems with a parenting plan for a teenager or elder care issues, where we bring all the stakeholders together and work towards a resolution,’ she said.

The mediation services are based on Alternative Dispute Resolution techniques, which can also be used as an alternative to judicial processes. Victim offender mediation is one of the areas, in which Workplace Solutions plans to work with the courts, to decrease their case load with regard to misdemeanours or petty crimes. Mrs McLaughlin, who was certified as a mediator in 1995, has experience in working in similar programmes in the UK and with the US Attorney’s Office in Washington, DC.

The company also expects to receive referrals for the new service from Human Resources departments to facilitate organisational change or to resolve tension in the workplace that can arise from disputes between employees, harassment complaints or discrimination.

‘The cost of conflict to businesses is very high in terms of the management time that needs to be dedicated to it and the decreased productivity due to lack of motivation, sick leave or stress leave,’ Mrs McLaughlin said.

‘Mediation can help to alleviate some of these costs.’

Mediation can also be more economical in a divorce, where a contested divorce proceeding can lead to costs that are many times higher than what would be required for mediation, she explained.

Through mediation an efficient resolution can be reached in just a few hours over a period of two to three weeks. It leads to a mutually beneficial resolution, in contrast to litigation, where generally a ruling is passed in favour of one of the parties. The parties that are part of a mediation process have much greater control over the outcome of their dispute than they would in a court case, Mrs McLaughlin said. They also benefit from the confidentiality of the process.

She expects the main challenge for providing the service is going to be the raising of awareness of mediation and its benefits in general. Workplace Solutions therefore seeks to establish relationships with attorneys and the courts and will speak directly with Human Resources Departments and schools.