A conciliation conference occurs when parties to a dispute meet to try and
settle the issues they are in disagreement about. It can also be referred
to as mediation.
A conciliation conference is usually run by an independent person, often
known as a conciliator or mediator. This person will run the conciliation
conference and assist the parties in their attempt to reach an agreement.
The conciliator does not decide who is right or wrong and does not tell
either side what they must do. Conciliation conferences can take place face
to face or over the telephone.
If you find yourself in the position of having to be involved in a
conciliation conference, here are 5 things you should do to prepare:
1. Know your
case.Review what happened and
be clear about what you want. You could perhaps prepare a summary of the
key events and dates that relate to the issue in dispute.
2. Get a preliminary assessment of the merits of your legal
position.This can be achieved
by consulting with your own in-house experts or external advisors, such as
employment lawyers or industry associations.
3. Arrange for someone to take notes of everything that is said at
ideally be taken by someone who is not speaking at the conference.
4. Ensure that you bring any relevant documents with
you.These may include medical
certificates, prior warnings, company policies or any material that sets
out the terms of employment.
5. If you are being externally represented, get the best possible
estimate of the costs this will
incur.Make sure you find out
how much representation will cost if the matter ends up proceeding to a
At the Conciliation
Listen carefully to what is presented by (or for) the employee. When it is
your turn to present, you or your representative should answer the
employee's best points directly (if you can!). Emphasise your best points.
Understand the employee's claim the best you can. Take careful notes of the
employee's presentation. Consider these carefully during the conference and
decide if you should reassess your prospects of winning. Discuss these
issues with your representative (if you have one).
Obtain the best possible settlement offer from the employee that you can -
(the best from your perspective!). Determine a reasonable offer (for
example, providing the employee with a number of weeks' pay and a statement
of service). Stick to it for as long as possible.
Do your best to achieve a fair, cost-effective and reasonable settlement
for your business. By doing so, you will avoid the costs and disruption to your
business a hearing would cause. And make sure that the employee doesn't leave
the conference optimistic about the prospects of winning the claim.
By Charles Power
Editor-in-Chief, Employment Law Practical Handbook