ASM Plus’s workplace and employment services

How we can help you as an employee with your dispute as follows.

 

  1. We offer a comprehensive personalised service.
     
  2. ASM Plus’s very competitive fee structure means that our services are accessible to all who instruct us.  Our focus is on responding promptly, addressing issues at the first available opportunity and giving the best possible advice to facilitate an early, cost-effective and time-saving resolution of individual complaints and disputes. This means a more harmonious working environment in which employees will be happier, work more effectively and further their careers and future prospects.
     
  3. The ASM Plus 1-hour independent triage service prevents disputes that could be quite simply addressed at an early stage from spiralling and possibly resulting in loss of salary, disciplinary proceedings or even loss of employment.
     
  4. Particularly at a time when organising face to face meetings or training sessions is very difficult and the UK employment tribunal and is operating well below full capacity, employment and work-related issues that might have otherwise gone unaddressed can be resolved in a matter of days or weeks. A report prepared in July 2020 by the Law Society, the governing body for solicitors in England and Wales in July 2020 mentions an Employment Tribunal backlog of 40,000 cases. The subsequent impact of Covid-19 has made this already very unsatisfactory position even worse.
     
  5. Apart from long delays, the true cost of a case that goes to a court or tribunal, could cost many thousands of pounds which many people will simply not be able to afford.  An early-stage mediation or facilitated meeting means that aggrieved employees and their employers get to speak face-to-face, or indeed on-line, before they become too entrenched. This goes a long way to helping you as an employee to resolve maters promptly and confidentially.
  6. ASM Plus’s mediations and facilitated meetings have an excellent success rate which is consistent with a 2018 report that identified a 90% success rate. Not all our cases resolve but the vast majority do. In practical terms this amounts to significant savings of time and money.
     
     
  7. Our team members are strictly impartial. Rather than tell employees and their employers what to do or what to think, they guide and help the channels of communication to remain open. People get to both listen and be listened to, something that helps to ensure that long lasting, viable settlements are achieved.
     
  8. ASM Plus provides services that are completely confidential.  This means that anything that is said during a mediation or facilitated meeting cannot later be used in evidence without the agreement of all concerned. Accordingly, there is ample opportunity for employees to be frank and open about matters and to voice concerns about work issues, working relationships, behaviours and conduct.
     
  9. To help employees decide if a mediation or a facilitated meeting is suitable for them, we offer the option of an initial free, without obligation telephone discussion to consider suitability for mediation and to answer any questions they may have. No case is considered to be too big, too small or too complicated’.
     
  10. We at ASM Plus are not in the business of making work for ourselves. In our experience, in the vast majority of instances, workplace and employment related concerns and complaints can and should be dealt with internally. However, members of staff such as Mangers or HR personnel may not be seen as truly independent.  Using a competitively priced and cost-effective external ASM Plus associate will often be the difference between matters being promptly and satisfactorily addressed not being resolved at all.
     
  11. ASM Plus’s associates are experienced and accomplished people managers and have backgrounds in law, human resources, business consultancy, education, engineering, training, internal auditing, coaching and counselling. Accordingly, they are very well placed to assist with the whole variety of issues and difficulties that employees experience.
     

Case Studies

Case Study 1 – An Internal Staff Dispute resolved via an ASM Plus convened facilitated meeting.

The Situation:

The scenario outlined below is quite a common one.  It concerns a personality clash between two employees with very different points of view working on the same team.  The mediation process outlined below was instigated by the employees’ HR manager who was very concerned because the ongoing dispute between her two colleagues was impacting on the effectiveness of their team and had resulted in other members of staff expressing concern and threatening to lodge formal complaints.  

 

The Outcome:

Following the facilitated meeting, matters are resolved to the satisfaction of both the employees and pertinently, their managers.  The rifts in the team are healed resulting in a happier, more productive working environment which leads to an improved turnover of individual cases and an increased level of client satisfaction.  

How a facilitated meeting changed the outcome:

The effects of a potentially very divisive dispute that might otherwise have caused irreparable damage both to the team in question and the charity’s reputation are mitigated. The considerable amounts of management time that would otherwise have been put into disciplinary proceedings are put to better use. The charity’s employees’ contracts are amended so as to allow for disagreements and disputes that arise to be addressed through mediation or facilitated meetings. 

 

Read more to learn exactly what happened and how ASM Plus helped.

Scenario:

Veronica and Victoria are two capable, very well motivated welfare rights advisors. They both work on the same team for an advisory service although at times they work on different shifts. They each have separate caseloads but because of the shift system there is some overlap and on innumerable occasions they have had to provide advice and assistance to each other’s clients. 

Veronica who is ex-homeless and for many years was a benefits claimant herself, is much older than most of her colleagues. She is highly experienced but has no formal qualifications. She meticulously adheres to stipulated procedures and although her managers have had no grounds for complaining about the standard of her work, she is seen as being a little “old school” and on occasion has been guilty of not thinking things through. 

Victoria who is considerably younger than Veronica has an impressive array of qualifications on paper but has little in the way of work experience. However, she is well-regarded by her managers and has achieved quite a lot in a short space of time. In contrast to Veronica, she is rather more upfront with clients and outwardly appears to interact much better. She also has a number of what she terms “new ideas” that she is very keen to implement and considers herself to be much more proactive. 

Because Veronica and Victoria work in different ways, conflict has arisen. Victoria considers that Veronica is old fashioned. Veronica considers that Victoria is “all ideas and no substance” and they have clashed at team meetings. Difficulties have arisen because individual clients feel that Veronica and Victoria are giving them conflicting advice. This has led to further arguments, some in the service’s reception area in front of clients. Attempts by the charity’s management and human resources (HR) departments to try and help Veronica and Victoria to work together more effectively have failed and because it now appears that other members of the team have been taking sides the situation has become critical. 

Management advises Veronica and Victoria that if they do not resolve their differences the first stage of the charity’s lengthy, quite complicated disciplinary process will be instigated and it is strongly suggested that they go to mediation.  The ASM director suggests that the best way forward would be a facilitated meeting.  The parties agree and the HR director who makes it abundantly clear that they should take the opportunity to resolve their differences without managerial input, makes the arrangements. 

During the facilitated meeting, although Veronica initially appears to be indifferent, both she and Victoria separately inform the facilitator that they acknowledge that the current state of affairs cannot continue and are concerned that their clients may suffer. Equally both are very mindful that they run the risk of formal disciplinary proceedings with all the attendant uncertainty. 

During an initial hour-long session with the facilitator Veronica and Victoria remain civil but express themselves quite candidly and simply restate their previous quite different positions.  They agree to a time out which lasts around 45 minutes.  During this period the facilitator has a private discussion with each party and he encourages them both to carefully consider not only their own positions and viewpoints but also each other’s.  

When the meeting is reconvened, although Veronica and Victoria are initially reluctant to make any concessions, the facilitator notes that gradually they have become more relaxed and appear to be listening to one another.  They begin to agree that they have things in common and, in particular, both stress their commitment to doing the best possible for their clients.  Later in, in the discussion, each concedes that the other is well motivated and that there are strengths and weaknesses in their respective approaches. 

Resolution:

After two hours or so of by no means unhelpful dialogue the lunchtime break is taken.  Immediately after and much to Victoria’s pleasant surprise, Veronica acknowledges that her colleague’s approach to her work has “quite a lot of merit”. In turn, Victoria concedes that she has allowed her personal view of Veronica to cloud her judgement and suggests that they agree to disagree, go back to work and over time discuss how they can reconcile their approaches to ensure that they give their clients the excellent service that they deserve.

Although they enthusiastically shake hands, both parties feel that at this stage it would be premature to enter into a written agreement. They agree to “give it six months” with the proviso that if they cannot resolve their day-to-day issues, a further mediation can be convened. One year later, one of their managers anecdotally mentions during a senior management meeting that things between Veronica and Victoria have been quite harmonious and that it is unlikely that a further facilitated meeting or indeed any formal disciplinary process will be required.

The charity is very relieved that it will not have to instigate disciplinary proceedings.  Its management is also very pleased to note the overall performance improvements achieved by Veronica and Victoria’s team.

The ASM Plus facilitator helped Veronica and Victoria come to the realisation that it was in their best interests to resolve matters and that they had much more in common than they had supposed. As regards disciplinary proceedings they came to appreciate that even if no action was subsequently taken their mangers would view them in a less than positive light and that their career prospects might be damaged. Their stress levels have decreased   and they have regained the trust and respect of their fellow team members.

Case Study 2 - A case where an employee who is wrongly accused of theft is exonerated following an ASM Plus mediation

The situation:

In this case study an employee who might otherwise have been unfairly dismissed keeps his job.  His employers who might otherwise have found themselves having to fund very costly employment tribunal proceedings and, to rather embarrassingly, justify the workings of a deficient investigation process, are ultimately able to resolve matters quickly, fairly and cost effectively. 

 

Outcome:

In this instance, the confidential and neutral process provided by an ASM Plus mediator ensures that all the interested parties have an opportunity to speak, to listen to others and to be listened to themselves.  A wrongly accused employee is exonerated.  Costly Employment Tribunal proceedings and possibly even a criminal investigation are avoided.

How mediation changed the outcome:

The effect of this is that one of the parties with responsibility for making important decisions is able to take a first-hand view on the all-important matter of credibility.  In consequence, he makes a fair and balanced decision that might not otherwise have been made.  

In some workplace situations, it is by no means uncommon for employees to find themselves wrongly accused of dishonesty following deficient investigations by their managers and employers.  This can not only lead to considerable injustice for employees but also to difficulties for employers who might find themselves having to unnecessarily spend considerable amounts of time and money and in some instances being very heavily criticised.

 

Read more to learn exactly what happened and how ASM Plus helped:

Anton works as a cashier in a petrol filling station which is operated on behalf of a large corporate franchise by his boss, Dorothy.  He is one of a number of employees who works shifts and is regarded as a rather surly, uncommunicative individual who has been reprimanded both for lateness and for being rude to customers. 

The franchise is heavily profit driven and rigorously scrutinises the performance of individual filling stations and their operatives who are under constant pressure to maintain standards and improve takings.

Last year, over a three-month period the franchise’s accounts department identified a number of financial irregularities at Dorothy’s petrol station. What are termed “significant amounts of money” appear to have gone missing and Dorothy is directed to the franchises’ director of finance to investigate and “find the culprit or culprits.”  

Ignoring the fact that Dorothy has previously reported to him that the electronic equipment and financial recording software that she and her staff are expected to use have significant shortcomings, this finance director suggests that Anton “might be a good starting point” for the investigation.

Considerably under pressure, Dorothy looks through her records and notes that money appears to have gone missing in the course of late-night shifts during which Anton was working alone.  In the course of questioning him, Dorothy effectively accuses Anton of stealing the money. She concludes that his initial refusal to respond to her questions is indicative of dishonesty and suspends him on the spot without pay, pending further investigation.  She brushes aside his protestations about the deficient software and escorts him off the premises. 

Anton subsequently speaks to some of his colleagues and is able to make contact with cashiers in other petrol stations.  It transpires that there have been innumerable complaints and expressions of concern about the software system and previous investigations into three other employees came to nothing.  

With some difficulty, Anton is able to access a free legal advice service that operates in his area.  Representations that are made by one of the service’s volunteers are passed to the director of finance who rejects them out of hand.  Anton perseveres and manages to speak to the franchise’s Director of HR.  Recognising that Dorothy’s investigation had probably not been very thorough and that it is not in the franchise’s best interests to become involved in a potentially protracted, costly dispute, the HR director manages to persuade the director of finance to agree to a meeting being arranged, facilitated by an independent ASM Plus mediator. 

This meeting is attended by Anton, Dorothy, the HR director and the finance director.  Because it is independently facilitated Anton is able to get his point across.  He recounts what his fellow employees have told him about the software system and highlights the sequence of inconclusive investigations.  

Resolution:

Initially, although during the process the director of finance refuses to alter his position, his HR colleague concludes that in all probability, Anton’s protestations of innocence are genuine.  The finance director reluctantly agrees to the meeting being adjourned and undertakes a more thorough investigation.  Subsequently, Anton’s innocence is acknowledged and he is reinstated.  Although he does not receive the full apology that he deserves, all the entries in his staff file relating to his alleged wrongdoing are removed, Anton is paid in full for the period of his suspension and in a relatively short space of time, the deficient software system is upgraded. 

Case Study 3 - The case of Hannah, an employee, and Andrew, chair of directors - a classic case of missed opportunities because of an unreasonable refusal to mediate. It also considers the role played in some cases by insurance companies who provide legal insurance cover and demonstrates how an individual company can find itself having to pay out quite considerable sums of money.

The Situation: 

This is an account of what quite routinely happens in unfair dismissal cases where one of the parties acts hastily and ill-advisedly refuses mediation or is incorrectly advised. The events recounted below took place quite some time ago, prior to the Covid-19 emergency. Given the 11-month ET delay referred to below which would now be much longer and because over time memories fade, Hannah and Andrew’s case might never receive the fair hearing that it deserves. This is something that mediation could very simply address.

 

Outcome:

Because of Andrew’s refusal to consider mediation, Hannah received a higher compensation award from the Employment Tribunal than might otherwise have been the case.  A spate of resignations from Andrew’s company follows and he himself is effectively forced to leave HIS prestigious and lucrative post. 

The scenario:

Hannah was a senior financial manager in a large company with 25 years loyal and unblemished service.  She started as an office junior, is well thought of by colleagues and until her dismissal two years ago was seen as a company institution. She was regarded by many as having more experience than her whole board of directors many of whom are much younger than her.  In particular, although Andrew had received a very good academic qualification from a top university, the chair of directors, he was perceived as having little or no practical experience or people skills.

A little over two years ago, Hannah made a one-off but nonetheless very bad mistake which cost the company something in excess of £50,000.  The full and frank report that she subsequently gave to her board of directors was not well received.  Without properly consulting his board members but confident that he had their full support, Andrew dismissed Hannah with immediate effect and she was not even given any time to clear her desk or say her goodbyes.  The one-paragraph letter of dismissal that Andrew drafted was very aggressively phrased and much to her dismay, Hannah’s 25 years of good service were not even mentioned. 

Notwithstanding her mistake, Hannah was advised by solicitors that she had a good case, arranged a legal insurance policy and issued proceedings in the Employment Tribunal (ET).  Amongst other things, her statement of claim alleged that although Hannah’s mistake was not insignificant, there were strong mitigating factors and her past excellent work record was highlighted.  Additionally, it was alleged that Andrew had flagrantly ignored company disciplinary procedures and that in failing even to consult with board members he had acted unlawfully.  

Shortly after the proceedings were issued, Hannah’s friend, John, who was giving her moral support, suggested mediation.  Initially her solicitors advised strongly against this but, after John wrote to them in quite forceful terms, they relented and contacted the company’s solicitors.  Andrew made it abundantly clear that he thought the company had a good case and was not prepared to even consider mediation. He ignored legal advice to the effect that his decision to dismiss Hannah would be seen as heavy handed and that he could be very heavily criticised for refusing to mediate. In similar vein, Andrew refused to listen to either a number of board members who were not wholly supportive of him or the company’s very experienced head of human resources.

Eleven months after her ET proceedings were issued, Hannah’s case was listed for a three-day tribunal hearing.  As the hearing progressed it became apparent that the tribunal panel was not altogether impressed with Andrew and that it took a dim view of his past conduct, not least his refusal to mediate.  A day and a half into the proceedings, during a lunchtime adjournment, a settlement was reached.  Although the decision to dismiss Hannah was not reversed, under-pressure Andrew was forced to concede that he had acted “hastily”. Greatly under pressure from the directors who had recommended mediation and taking into account Hannah’s length of service and her previously unblemished record, he agreed £30,000 compensation.

Ironically, Hannah’s solicitors had initially advised her that if successful she could expect to receive compensation in the order of £20,000 and, in a sense by taking the case as far as she did, she received more money.  However, all this came at a cost.  Hannah was absolutely drained.  Her career was in tatters and she was even more distraught than she had been at the time of her dismissal, she had 12 sessions with a therapist.  It took her two years to come to terms with what had happened and even though she subsequently received two very lucrative job offers she felt unable to accept them and effectively resigned herself to doing poorly paid, low grade, temporary office work. 

Andrew’s actions cost the company dear.  Aside from incurring a £60,000 legal bill and a £30,000 compensation pay out, two key senior managers resigned and took up posts elsewhere.  Andrew narrowly survived a vote of no confidence, but a few months later resigned “for personal reasons” and in the wake of a lot of adverse publicity, faces the prospect of a lengthy period without work.  Given that Andrew’s salary package was worth something in excess of £100,000, his financial losses are very considerable and, in a sense, he lost even more than Hannah. The insurance company paid Hannah’s solicitors around £30,000, another substantial payment that could largely have been avoided.

 

Why was mediation a much better option? 

Employment mediation does not guarantee a “happy ending”.  However, because in many cases it is arranged early and is very successful, outcomes such as those experienced by Hannah and Andrew are avoided, confidentiality is maintained and those affected can generally pick up the pieces and move on. Early settlement in this case could easily have saved at least £70,000, Andrew would probably have kept his job and, Hannah may well have been able to resurrect her career. 

ASM Plus offers two core/primary services which will assist in the resolution of workplace and employment disputes – mediation and facilitated meetings.  

Mediation is very effective, particularly in cases where the parties are a long way apart, where there is a perception that a settlement offer that has been made is too low or where there are workplace issues that need to be resolved promptly.   It can be used very effectively in the context of workplace or unfair dismissal and redundancy disputes.  Because it has a high success rate and the parties themselves are in ultimate control of the process, mediation tends to bring out the best in people.  Accordingly, parties to settlement and agreements are much more likely to adhere to them.

Facilitated meetings can be used where there may already be some level of agreement or for instance where an employer may not have been afforded an opportunity to provide a proper explanation. They can also be utilised very effectively where there is concern that a possibly misinformed party is not in full command of the facts or has unrealistic expectations.

The online facility that ASM Plus offers means that mediations and facilitated meetings can be convened at very short notice, including weekends, using software such as Zoom. This option is particularly suited to cases where an individual claim is modest and it is in the interests of all parties to resolve matters before views become too entrenched. At the very least it ensures that considerable amounts of travel time and any incidental expense is avoided.

Particularly in the context of the current health emergency the ASM Plus online service also provides a safe and secure means of resolving matters.

The 1-hour online mediation/facilitated meeting service that we offer is an excellent option for preventing a dispute from spiralling into something that can impact wider departmental or organisational performance.

 

More ways we can help

As well as mediation and facilitated meetings ASM plus offers a range of services that will be of interest to both employees and their employers, namely workplace investigations neutral evaluations, training, coaching and a critical thinking service. For more information about these options visit.