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Exceptions to Confidentiality

Exceptions to Confidentiality

Do you explain the exceptions to confidentiality in workplace mediation to the parties?



Full Transcript

Yeah. I very much prefer to have that as a written confidentiality and liability agreement. It’s a single page. It’s not as long as the agreement to mediate we might have in commercials. And it’s basically there to protect the clients and to protect the organisation and to protect the other party. So, it’s about disclosure, note-keeping, confidentiality and liability of the mediator.


So, its intention is, and I think it’s important always to remind ourself with the purpose of having these boundaries is. The intention of having that agreement is so that you can speak freely. That’s the top and tail of it. We want parties to be able to feel they can say anything they like to the mediator. Obviously, it’s one or two provisos, such as child protection or fraud, but, essentially, they can say what they like. So, yes. We have a written confidentiality and liability agreement.


When starting workplace mediation, I don’t tend to make those exception explicit. Because you can end up sounding like a police caution if you’re not careful. So, I’d say, ‘Aled, thank you for coming along for the workplace mediation and my name’s Mike, mediator. And I just want you to know everything you say here is private. Except if you’re telling me anything that bumps up against the Children’s Act 2000 or the Proceeds of Crime Act, or if I hear anything that suggests you’re misusing drugs or alcohol in the workplace or der, der, der.’ You’d be gone. And I wouldn’t blame you.


So, I’d say ‘Look, let’s keep it private. If there’s anything I absolutely have to disclose, the first thing is, I’ll try to step you telling me so then I don’t have to anything with it. But if you do tell me, we’ll need a conversation about what we can do with that information. And probably either you or I will meet and make some kind of disclosure. But if we get close to that, I’ll tell you. Apart from that, it’s private. I don’t keep notes. And der der der’. We’re into the spiel.


And essentially, an hour and a half with each of the parties in the morning. And then we get them together in the afternoon and we do most of the work in the joint session. We have an option for, we usually have a separate room available. So, if you need to break out into a side meeting. If the parties want to go into a side-room and speak privately with the mediator or if the mediator wants to have a word with one of the parties privately, you can do that. But, essentially, the work is done in a joint session.


So, I see that as sort of the mirror image to commercials. You start with individual meetings in a workplace mediation and then you get together for a joint session which forms the body of the work. It’s because it’s about the relationship. It’s not about any exchange of goods or anything of value, any money or services. It’s about how you and I get on. And that’s much more effectively done face to face.


And then the outcome from the mediation if it’s successful, there will be some kind of a statement of understanding which might be an action plan. Or it might just be a paragraph that gets the parties to choose to write between them, which indicates that they’ve now moved their disputes on and they don’t feel any further need for any intervention. Or it might be a statement that they make at the end to the tune that they’ve not actually reached an agreement.


But it’s non-binding. It’s entered into in good faith and it couldn’t be enforced on the parties if anything happened.

About the mediator

Mike Talbot Profile Pic

Mike began his career researching the use of new technology in the workplace. At British Telecom’s research labs he worked on using voice control to work computers, and co-authored a book on the subject. He became interested in the use of computer speech technology for people with disabilities, especially looking at using technology to help speech-impaired people to communicate better. Communication then became something of a theme for Mike, wh... View Mediator