Dispute Resolution Guide

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

(Last updated )

If you fail to handle disputes well internally, you can face lengthy and costly tribunal cases. Help avoid these with our expert advice.

From time to time, every employer will face issues in their workplace. It can come from their own employees or other people, like customers.

When conflicts arise, it's important to manage them properly. If you don't, you could end up making them worse. Not to mention, you could end up losing employees and facing legal charges.

In this guide, we'll look at what dispute resolution is, different types of methods, and how to resolve them.

What is dispute resolution?

A dispute resolution is a method used to fix conflict between two or more parties.

Some workplace conflicts are resolved in an informal manner. Others may need to go through legal court proceedings. The way you resolve a conflict will impact the outcome.

It's important to resolve all workplace disputes. A toxic workspace isn't healthy for anyone. It leads to high staff turnover, more sick days, and poor performance.

Different methods of dispute resolution processes

There are two methods used for resolving disputes: consensual and adjudication.

Consensual processes use methods like conciliation and mediation. It helps parties reach a mutual agreement.

Adjudication is a little stricter. It uses methods like litigation and arbitration. Parties must comply with a more formal legal process. They'll also sign a 'dispute resolution clause' - so must attend courts.

Let's look at the different methods in more detail:


Mediation is the most popular form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR).

An independent mediator will help parties reach a mutual outcome. They'll operate as a ‘go between’ either side and bring together shared ideas. A mediator usually has a greater influence for protecting relations. For example, between employees or consumers.

Mediation is cheaper and more private than court judgments. But their decisions aren't legally binding so can't be enforced. One party will always have more authority, so they could decide to be uncooperative.


Arbitration is used in a similar way to mediation.

An independent arbitrator listens to both sides involved, then follow one of two steps:

  • Binding arbitration: Arbitrator passes a final agreement that's legally binding.
  • Non-binding arbitration: Parties appeal the final settlement agreement in court.

Arbitration is a speedy resolution method compared to court. It is also thorough when it comes to collecting evidence.

But it's harder to appeal any arbitral awards. And parties end up paying fees for legal representatives (like lawyers).


This is often referred to as 'early conciliation' . Conciliation is often used with internal grievance procedures.

A conciliator reaches a mutual settlement that suits each party involved. However, they can't enforce this decision, only suggest it.

Conciliation allows you to keep positive work relations going. And the information provided is usually more proactive than passive.

But conciliation is the most informal ADR method. It's not legally bound, so it's often not taken too seriously.


Negotiation is the simplest form of ADR.

A negotiator will suggest a resolution for a dispute. If both parties agree to it, they will give mutual consent to follow it.

Negotiation helps protect work relations and is completely confidential. But one party usually receives a better outcome than the other. And it's not suitable for disputes that need a formal legal process.


You can use litigation to resolve a dispute in court. This is for cases where an alternative dispute resolution process is not suitable.

A litigation process follows three steps:

  • Proceedings: The dispute is presented, and investigation starts. 
  • Pre-trial: Courts review documents, evidence, and statements.
  • Trial: Hearings take place and parties (or lawyers) will present their case. A judge will pass the final decision at the end.

Litigation is a complex and expensive resolution form. Each party will pay admin and legal fees for dispute resolution solicitors.

How to manage dispute resolution processes in the workplace

From informal chats to litigation, there are a range of ways to resolve disputes.

Employers must follow the right steps during these times. That way, you'll be able to protect employee relations, morale, and retention.

Let's look at how best to manage disputes in the workplace:

Create a grievance policy

The first step to take is to create a grievance policy. The policy should present your rules on managing workplace disputes.

But if you can’t resolve it this way, you may need to follow alternative resolutions.

Outline alternative dispute resolution methods

If you couldn’t resolve the issue informally, you may need to follow alternative dispute resolution (ADR) methods.

Businesses need to outline details of their ADR methods. Provide this information to employees through handbooks or policies. Make sure you include them all; from litigation to mediation.

Employees must know their rights to representation. For example, a dispute resolution solicitor. By complying with this right, you’ll be able to protect yourself during future hearings and appeals.

Resolve the dispute professionally

It doesn't matter if you follow an informal or legal resolution process. At the end of the day, you don't want to lose employees over work issues.

That's why it's important to resolve disputes professionally. This means following steps that benefit the employee and your business.

Resolution is all about fixing problems. This leads to growing workplace morale, productivity, and engagement.

Get expert advice on dispute resolution with Peninsula

When workplace disputes arise, it's important to deal with them properly.

But if you neglect dispute resolution rules, you could end up losing talented employees. Not to mention, paying compensation and losing productivity.

Peninsula offers expert advice on dispute resolution processes. Our HR team offers unlimited 24/7 HR employment services which are available 365 days a year.

Want more information about the employment tribunal processes? Seek advice from one of our HR advisors. Contact us on 0800 028 2420 and book a free consultation with an HR consultant today.

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