Alternative dispute resolution

  • Dispute Resolution
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Peninsula Group, HR and Health & Safety Experts

(Last updated )

Your business can effectively resolve workplace conflicts with an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) process. Read this guide for full details on the right approach to take.

Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) can be an effective and confidential way of resolving disputes between you and members of your staff. The term describes a broad range of techniques that you can use to negotiate a favourable solution and prevent disputes from reaching an employment tribunal stage. There are various types of alternative dispute resolution to keep in mind. This guide explains all of them and which may work best for your business.

The types of ADR

There are three main types to consider:

  1. Mediation.
  2. Conciliation.
  3. Arbitration.

Sometimes you may come across different names for the above processes. They still follow the same process. Some business owners also wonder about ADR law—remember, there are rules to follow for each process, but no specific legal procedures that exist as part of employment laws. The main goal is always, of course, to resolve a dispute in an appropriate manner. And to help you choose which option is best for your business, you can refer to the below overviews of the different types of dispute resolution.


Generally thought of as the first step in resolving workplace disputes. While you can opt to bring in outside help in the form of third-party ADR mediation, it’s an option many choose to carry out themselves. It allows employees to hold an open and honest discussion about issues they may be having in the workplace, offering them the platform to find a resolution between themselves. This can be effective dealing with conflict at an early stage. However, don’t use it if one party has clearly acted in the wrong, as this is where you should follow disciplinary or grievance procedures instead. It’s well used when employees simply don’t get on due to personality clashes—this is affecting their overall productivity or performance. This is often called the “talking method” of dispute resolution because it puts the parties involved in a room to exchange their personal viewpoints and find a way through the issues. The mediator does not impose a resolution. They facilitate its identification from the parties.


This is a compulsory process before an individual wishes to bring a claim to an employment tribunal. The Advisory Conciliation Arbitration Service (Acas) is in place to offer conciliation (ADR) services. This is once an employee has officially registered their intention to take you to tribunal. Its duty is to help find an amicable solution for both parties. Through early conciliation, Acas will have one month (extendable by up to two weeks) to negotiate a settlement between both parties and have the authority to suggest potential solutions, including a monetary settlement. As with mediation and alternative dispute resolution, conciliation is refusable by either party, at any time, at which point Acas will issue a certificate to the employee allowing them to submit an official claim to the employment tribunal.


More formal than mediation, it involves an impartial third party. It must make a decision on a dispute. This is another service from Acas—the arbitrator is responsible for reviewing evidence and making a final decision on the outcome. This process is voluntary, so both sides must agree to go to arbitration and commit to abide by the arbitrator’s decision in advance.  The process will be private, rather than public and no cross-examination or swearing of oaths will take place. Arbitration is often used in collective employment-related disputes. It can also be put in use to settle individual disputes where parties may wish to avoid the stress and expense of an employment tribunal.

A few extras

There are less common forms of ADR dispute resolution, too, such as:

  • Mini Trial: Think of this as more of a settlement process. At the end of each case, a representative will try to resolve the issue.
  • Summary Jury Trail (SJT): Similar to the above point, but works through a mock jury. They’ll then provides a verdict—that’s advisory.
  • Negotiation: Finally, this option requires no third-party involvement. It is a case of trying to work out a compromise, which can save a lot of time and remove the need for costly legal procedures.
  • Tax disputes: To resolve a tax disagreement, it’s possible to go through alternative dispute resolution with the HMRC—you can use this online form.

Ultimately, an ADR resolution depends on each specific case and what’s the most suitable way to go about resolving the issue at hand. It can go through a process of several of the above instances, such as negotiation, mediation, and arbitration. So consider a dispute carefully before you follow a process, or you can contact a professional service for advice with alternative dispute resolution law.

Need our help with this issue?

Get in touch for assistance with any of your workplace disputes. We’re available with 24/7 advice all week long: 0800 028 2420.


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