On 23 January 2012 the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) announced a pilot scheme for two regional mediation networks for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). This is the latest step in the reforms to the employment tribunal system. The pilots will operate in Cambridge and Manchester where BIS will fund mediation training for employees from a group of 24 SMEs in each of the pilot areas. A network of trained mediators will be available to offer mediation to other organisations in their respective networks. It is expected that this will help resolve workplace disputes as early as possible before they reach the employment tribunal stage.The Employment Relations Minister Edward Davey commented: “Mediation offers an informal method of dispute resolution and can be used at the point when problems first arise in the workplace.  For both employers and employees it can mean avoiding the need for formal discipline and grievance procedures. And it can also mean avoiding the time-consuming, complex and often stressful employment tribunal process”.

The pilots will run for 12 months and if they are successful the government may consider introducing them to other areas of England, Scotland and Wales.