Regional Mediation Training Scheme for employment disputes launched in Cambridge and Manchester

On 21 June 2012 the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) announced that Consensio, a member of the Civil Mediation Council (CMC), will conduct training in mediation for employees from a group of 24 small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in Cambridge and Manchester. BIS has determined that both Manchester and Cambridge have a suitable concentration of SMEs and comparable levels of economic activity against their pre-defined control regions, to support the pilot networks. Continue reading

HMRC embraces ADR in relation to full gamut of tax disputes

The UK’s HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) is now supporting ADR in the resolution of a wide range of tax disputes. ADR trials are live in relation to large commercial cases, SMEs and individuals whereby an independent HMRC facilitator may assist the parties in resolving their disputes without recourse to the tribunal. The large and complex pilot is being extended for 2012/13 and looks to include around 50 cases.  The SME and individual pilot are open to customers nationwide and applications for ADR will continue to be considered until 30 November 2012. According to HMRC this pilot has attracted over 100 applications. Nearly 70 per cent of the applications reviewed by the ADR team have been accepted into the trial and many issues are being resolved.  For more information see the HMRC website.

HMRC’s commitment to expanding the use of ADR in tax disputes builds upon two initial ADR pilots (in relation to SMEs and large and complex cases) run in 2011/2012, and the publication in April 2012 of HMRC’s ADR guidance for large and complex cases.

Court of Appeal pilot mediation scheme started April 2012

A new Court of Appeal mediation pilot started on 2 April 2012 and will run for a year. It will be managed by the Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution (CEDR), which already administers the Court of Appeal Mediation Scheme (CAMS). Under the pilot, unless a judge exceptionally directs otherwise, every personal injury, clinical negligence and contractual claim worth £100,000 or less, and in which permission to appeal has been granted, will automatically be recommended for mediation to CEDR. If the parties agree to mediate, a panel of accredited CAMS mediators will be nominated by CEDR. The selected mediator will bring the parties together to try to reach a settlement, and if this is achieved, the case will not go back to the Court of Appeal. Litigants in person who qualify for free legal help will be provided with a pro bono legal adviser for the mediation and, if necessary, a pro bono mediation.

Whilst this scheme still relies on the parties agreeing to mediate, the degree of judicial encouragement is such that a refusal by one party to mediate could be clear evidence of unreasonableness, attracting cost sanctions.

Regional mediation pilot scheme launched for employment disputes

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. Continue reading

Growing role of ADR in South Africa

ADR, in particular mediation, is set to take a central role in the litigation landscape in South Africa.  New court rules make mediation a compulsory step for all civil and commercial litigation, and a pilot project is due to be introduced in the second quarter of 2012 in all high courts and in nine regional civil courts.  The Department of Justice has given a clear indication that the government intends to use mediation to reduce the backlogs in courts.

In addition, the King III Report on corporate governance places a fiduciary duty on management to consider the use of ADR, in particular mediation, before deciding to litigate.

In response to these developments, an African Commercial Dispute Settlement Centre opened on 16 March in South Africa to give organisations across the Continent the chance to make use of alternative forms of dispute resolution (primarily mediation and arbitration) to resolve disputes quickly and more cheaply.

Responses to government’s consultation on solving disputes in the County Courts

The new Dispute Resolution Commitment is the latest in a series of government moves to encourage the use of ADR mechanisms, including negotiation, mediation and neutral evaluation. The government’s consultation “Solving disputes in the County Courts: creating a simpler, quicker and more proportionate system”, asked for views on compulsory mediation information sessions, automatic referral to mediation, and extension of the provisions in the Mediation Directive to domestic disputes. Herbert Smith responded to the consultation on 29 June 2011.

Lord Justice Jackson has also provided a response to the consultation, as have the Lord Chief Justice and Master of the Rolls on behalf of the judiciary as a whole. These can be viewed here. Continue reading