Mediation is a process where an independent person (the mediator) works with two or more parties to help them resolve a dispute between them.
These disputes usually fall into 5 categories:
- Family mediation, which helps couples to make decisions about money, property, children and a host of other issues.
- Commercial mediation, which aims to resolve disputes between two companies where a transaction has gone wrong, at least in the eyes of one party.
- Consumer mediation is for end customers to resolve disputes with suppliers such as builders, plumbers or other tradespersons.
- Community mediation aims to resolve disputes between two parties in the community, such as neighbours or people living close to one another.
- Workplace mediation is used to resolve disputes between employees which aren’t easily resolved by traditional HR processes and procedures.
Although the types of mediation vary greatly in the types of people involved, the processes are broadly the same.
So how long does mediation take?
How Long Does Mediation Take?
It depends on the type of mediation case and if it is done online, by phone or face to face.
Historically, commercial mediations were held using face to face meetings with all parties present, which in most cases would last from 10am to 5pm but sometimes longer.
It was not unusual for a commercial mediation to last well into the evening if more than two parties are involved, where the issues were complicated, and where the parties would probably have legal representation, such as a solicitor, barrister, or both.
A mediator would expect and hope to complete mediation in one day and online mediations took place but in very limited circumstances.
However, since March 2020 mediations have largely moved online, and all parties have coped remarkably well.
Face to face mediations are returning but many mediations will continue to stay online, with all the savings regarding travel and costs. In terms of time, the same comment apply; a normal mediation day would be from 10am to 5pm but into the evening if the parties were close to a settlement.
Consumer mediations are a relatively new type of mediation and are well suited to being done online, particularly in the online age when a consumer may have a dispute with a supplier who is in a different part of the country, where a face to face meeting is neither necessary nor cost-effective for either party.
Also, the relatively low value of consumer disputes makes online mediations even more attractive.
Here the timing is much more flexible; a mediator often has a series of short meetings (less than one hour each) separately with each party, possibly with a joint meeting at the end if an agreement is reached, but face to face meetings is always available if requested.
Community mediation is similar to consumer mediation; a series of online meetings of up to one hour each work well, with separate meetings with each party, but face to face meetings are available if required.
Workplace mediations are more likely to be face to face meetings, though online meetings are possible.
This is because workplace mediations are often intense, personal situations where two people cannot work together, so it is important for the mediator to meet them in person.
Most workplace mediations last all day, so the mediator can meet each party separately, to give them enough time to explain what has happened and for the mediator to ask questions.
These are mostly separate meetings, maybe with a joint meeting at the end if an agreement has been reached.
A key advantage of mediation is that the mediator has a lot of discretion about how each mediation session works, across all types of mediation; even so, broadly the four types of mediation explained above will work in the same way, so a commercial case will work in a similar way to another mediation case, but the mediator will be able to change the format between or during meetings if he or she feels it is in the best interest of reaching an agreement.
How Long Will It Take To Reach An Agreement?
For all types of mediation, any mediator will answer ‘I wish I knew the answer to that question at the start of each mediation!’ It really is a ‘how long is a piece of string?’ question, where the answer depends on factors such as:
- How far apart or close together the parties are at the start of the mediation; if the parties have only one or two minor issues to resolve, an agreement will usually be reached much quicker than if they have twenty significant issues where they disagree.
- The relationship between the parties; if the relationship between the parties is poor, only communicating through their solicitors, agreement is likely to take much longer than if the parties were talking to each other.
- How much they want to avoid going to court; agreement will be reached more quickly if both parties have a strong incentive (adverse publicity, cost, wasting the valuable time of senior managers) to avoid going to court.
To answer the question directly:
- Commercial cases will ideally be resolved in one day, but can take longer in complex cases;
- Community and consumer cases usually consist of several conversations with both parties over several days;
- And workplace cases are ideally resolved in one day, but possibly longer in complex cases.
Can All Conflicts Be Resolved With Mediation?
All mediators will say that, ideally, all conflicts can be resolved by mediation, but the reality is that not all disputes will be settled by mediation.
A mediated agreement is only possible when enough common ground exists between parties for an agreement to be reached, and only if they genuinely want to reach a mediated agreement.
If mediation does not work there are other forms of dispute resolution, such as arbitration, adjudication, or expert determination, which can be used, otherwise the parties will end up in court or in another legal process such as an employment tribunal.
Why Choose Mediation?
Mediation works because the mediator works to reduce the stress being felt by the parties having the dispute, which is often underestimated as having a negative effect on parties, by moving the parties from a dispute to a conversation.
It differs from the legal process as mediation does not attribute blame between parties; the mediator is focused on discussing the issues in the dispute and the needs of the parties, to identify where common ground exists and how an agreement could be reached. Mediation is not a stress-free process, but it is widely agreed to involve much less stress compared to going to court.
Mediations main benefits are:
- Cost – it’s much cheaper than going to court.
- Confidentiality – the whole process is confidential, compared to a public court process.
- Speed – most mediation are completed in a week or two at most from being set up; it can take months for a court case to be heard.
- Mediation is a non-prejudicial process – this means what is discussed in mediation cannot be referred to if the mediation fails and the case ends up in court or at a tribunal. This allows all parties in the mediation to talk openly, without worrying that what they say will be referred to in court.
- Control – the parties control what happens. The mediator is there simply to guide them through the process. If you go to court the parties tend to lose control, to their legal team, the court or both.
If you’re interested in mediation services, or you have more questions, then please get in touch for a free consultation.