Arbitration is a process that calls on an independent third party – known as an arbitrator – to resolve a dispute outside of court.

The process is entirely voluntary and requires agreement from both sides that they will accept the arbitrator’s final decision. It involves many of the same protocol associated with a court of law, such as disclosure of evidence and legal procedure, though it is conducted privately rather than in public.

Arbitration is often used to settle claims centred on unfair dismissal or flexible working legislation; though there are a range of cases whereby arbitration may be considered a valid option. Whether it concerns an individual or collective dispute, avoiding the cost of time and money involved with an employment tribunal can be hugely beneficial to all parties involved.

Is arbitration the right process for you?

The Acas arbitration guidelines provide a good starting point for employers or employees that are seeking to find out more about alternatives to court action, and the necessary steps they must follow to start the arbitration process.

All parties must first be aware of the arbitration terms of reference before they start the process. The main consideration is that they are effectively relaying their power to settle the dispute to an arbitrator as soon as they sign the arbitration form. In most cases, further legal action may not be pursued to overturn a decision.

Conciliation and mediation

Conciliation and mediation differ from arbitration in that the parties involved retain their power to settle on an agreeable outcome either partly (mediation) or entirely (conciliation). In effect, there is no arbitrator tasked with making a final decision, and so the eventual outcome must be agreeable to both sides.

The most effective form of dispute resolution differs from case to case, but it always pays to seek the advice of an experienced employment law professional before pursuing a tribunal. If you are looking to find out more about arbitration, or any other form of dispute resolution, our HR and employment law experts can help to pinpoint the best course of action.

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