Mediating Salary Disputes: Is Mediation Appropriate?

Scott McIver Articles

Mediation is an extremely effective way of resolving a wide range of disputes and can avoid the need in many cases to go to court or to the employment tribunal.

But how about disputes involving people’s salary? Can we expect to successfully mediate where someone claims that they have not been paid correctly, or alleges that there have been unauthorised deductions from what they are owed?

The tricky aspect of this is question is that, as we know, mediation is not a way to enforce legal rights or to determine the rights and wrongs of a case. So, if this is the intention of a claimant in such a dispute, then mediation will probably not be suitable.

However, a lot of salary-related disputes that we come across at UK Mediation are in situations where there is an ongoing working relationship. Therefore, it is in both parties’ interests to resolve matters positively and by mutual agreement, so that the employer-employee relationship can continue.

In fact, the importance of this has been recognised in an initiative in Singapore, where a mandatory mediation programme has been set up for salary disputes. It claims a 90% success rate in gaining a mediated settlement, meaning that the delay, expense, and stress of fighting a tribunal case are avoided.

So where will it work and where may it not?

Well, one consideration in the minds of employers can be that of setting an undesirable precedent: they may be concerned that settling an individual case, for example with a back payment or a deal on bonus payments, might lead to others wanting to receive the same benefits. Despite the confidentiality of mediation, once a settlement figure were to become public knowledge, there would soon be a queue forming!

But a lot of the time it can be that an employer has not paid you correctly simply because of a technical or other error, and things can be rectified quite quickly. If the matter cannot be rectified with a quick informal approach, mediation could come into play as a way to prevent the inevitable disaffection that an employee might feel, and which could well lead to that employee leaving. Mediation could open up discussions in such a way that the employer would not be in a position of having to replace people.

And, where the contractual arrangement is one involving a freelancer, or a self-employed contractor or consultant, although the relationship may not be ongoing, there is still the benefit of avoiding the delay and hassle of the tribunal.

You have rights to be paid your full wage or salary, on time as agreed in your contract of employment. The great majority of the time, employers may not deduct from or refuse to pay your wages, or any part of them. And, thanks to the Equality Act (2010), women and men also have a right not just to equal pay for equal work, but also in all other contractual terms: something we have heard quite a lot about over recent months, especially in relation to the BBC!

Could this be a suitable case for mediation, or is it more about female workers taking their employer to task for being in breach of the law?

Our CEO, Dr Mike Talbot, will be talking more about these and some other related issues in our free webinar on Friday 11th May at 12:00.

We hope to see you then!

Register for our upcoming free webinar, ‘Mediating Salary Disputes
Train to be an accredited mediator with our Interpersonal Mediation Practitioner’s Certificate
Train your team in dispute resolution with our in-house mediation training courses