Tribunals pilot ADR
On April 3rd 2006 the new Tribunals Service was launched. Over the next few years all tribunals will move into this single service. Last year's White Paper proposed a greater role for ADR in the tribunals process.
Here is a summary of articles on this topic from 'Tribunals' (Summer 2006) a journal published by the Judicial Studies Board.
Quick, cheap and satisfying?
Professor Hazel Genn gives an overview of 'proportionate dispute resolution' (the White Paper terminology). She identifies the benefits of mediation (the most common ADR method) as informality, speed, compromise, creative settlements, preserving relationships, cost and customer satisfaction. She also points out the risks – parties feeling pressured into inappropriate settlements; inequality of bargaining power, especially in citizen v state disputes; additional cost and delay, in cases where mediation is unsuccessful. She argues that it is important to achieve a 'good fit' between the type of case, the people involved in the dispute, and the dispute resolution process selected.
The Appeals Service
The Appeals Tribunal is running a year's pilot of early neutral evaluation starting this summer. It will cover attendance allowance and disability living allowance appeals. These constitute the largest area of the Appeals Service’s work: 77,000 appeals a year. They involve making judgements on a wide range of facts, rather than a strict interpretation of regulations.
The pilot will monitor the proportion of appeals in which the DWP revises its decision in the light of the evaluation. Judge Michael Harris, the president of the Appeals Tribunal, believes that the system will only work as part of a package of measures, including better initial decision making at the DWP, and good, independent advice to appellants early in the process.
The employment tribunal service is working with staff, tribunal chairs and Acas to develop a mediation pilot in discrimination cases in Newcastle, Birmingham and London. The parties will be offered mediation, conducted by a tribunal chair who is also an experienced and trained mediator. If the mediation is unsuccessful the chair will play no further part in a hearing. The pilot will work alongside the Acas conciliation service, and will be independently researched.
Judge Goolam Meeran, president of the Employment Tribunals, suggests that mediation has 'greater potential to tackle some of the underlying issues which affect the dynamics of the workplace', but points out that a judicial determination remains an 'important safeguard for the rights and duties of both employees and employers'.
The Residential Property Tribunals Service (RPTS)
The RPTS has been running a pilot mediation scheme for disputes about service charges since 2004. Siobhan McGrath, senior president of the RPTS, believes that mediation works so long as the 'adjudication process remains accessible and effective when mediation fails.'
Read the Summer 2006 edition of Tribunals