A Guide to Business Mediation, Arbitration and Conciliation

In many cases conflicts can be managed internally, but for cases where you need external help, it’s important to quickly decide whether you need someone to work with you to solve the issues, advise you on the issues or tell you what to do about the issues. In this guide we’ll present the different options available so you can identify which method will be best for the conflicts and problems you are trying to solve.

Business Mediation

Business mediation is the most common form of conflict resolution. It is a process involving an independent and impartial person helping two parties resolving a conflict, but it is not prescriptive and does not determine the outcome. It is used when no claim has been made to an employment tribunal.

Typically, a mediator will meet the two parties, separately at first then together, in order to grasp a good understanding of the situation and help identify the underlying causes of issues.

A mediator should not:

  • Offer any kind of therapy. A therapist or counsellor would take a deeper look at personalities but a mediator should focus on a specific work setting.
  • Defend legal rights. It is not the mediator’s role to help individuals assert employment rights.
  • Focus too much on past events related to the dispute. The mediator should try to focus on a positive outcome and future for the dispute.

Overall, business mediation should focus on investigating the matter at hand in a calm and collected way.


The process of conciliation is the same as business mediation but occurs when there is an actual or potential claim to an employment tribunal.

Conciliation is a process that can save money and time to employers and can help quickly find a solution that suits both employer and employee.

A conciliation should be impartial, independent and confidential. For face-to-face meetings it is generally good to lay down some ground rules on behaviour, so that things don’t get out of hand. You may appoint a representative, as you cannot be forced to attend the same meetings as the other party, but it may be better to express concerns in person.

Although the outcomes of conciliation (or business mediation) are not legally binding, both parties should agree to stick to any joint agreement.


Arbitration occurs when a dispute needs to be settled by an independent party. In this case the arbitrator looks at everyone’s point of view and issues a decision that is legally binding.

The table below sums up the different types of conflict resolution and their differences.

Business Mediation



Mutually Agreed Solution



Recommendations made by expert

No, but can be requested


Legally Binding Solutions



Key features

Tackles conflict early

Maintain relationships

Often conducted on the phone, parties do not have to meet

Simpler & faster than tribunal

Available for cases of unfair dismissal or flexible working

Establishing processes, rules and guidelines for employees is a great way to prevent conflicts. We can help with all aspects of HR including business mediation, so if you’re looking to get some support for your business, get in touch!

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