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Can Mediation Save The BBC?

Tuesday November 13, 2012 at 9:36am

With the fall out from the BBC's decision to run a Newsnight report on care homes in north Wales continuing and the organisation beginning to take disciplinary action against a number of staff, it is perhaps worth considering how far the fall out can become and what can be done to remedy the problem from a workplace relations point of views.

1. It is clear that this is a legal minefield with a  number of  people having lost or are at risk of losing their jobs. This includes George Entwistle(resigned/consstructively dismissed?) and Lord Patten.(talk of being sacked ?). Furthermore, the Corporation's director of news, Helen Boaden, and her deputy, Steve Mitchell, have been asked to "step aside" pending an internal review into the way claims. Both the latter have instructed lawyers which clearly indicates where this may be going. Despite Mr. Entwistle having agreed to resign in return for one year's salary, already pressure is being brought to be bear for him to forego half of thus pay-off. Generally, this is just the start and a number of staff will instruct lawyers and a consistent theme will be whether they have been constructively dismissed and fairly treated. 

2. Compensation Culture/Lack of deference is underpinning stance of employees. Whether this is a good thing or not is a moot point but individuals are far more likely now  to make a claim, or challenge if they feel their rights have been infringed. As a consequence, if a number of employees are in line for alleged misconduct, you can be assured that the bulk of them will legally challenge. This did not always happen in the "good old days."

3 Mediation can work but will be influenced by the timing and the level of expectations of the parties. Frankly at this point it is far too early to mediate because it is not entirely clear what has been done wrong by any of the parties. Nevertheless once it is clear what is being alleged and the level of possible sanction, we may have more scope to mediate. However, there may be a fundamental barrier to a successful mediation namely the stance of the parties. If disgruntled BBC employee is looking for a two year pay off and a nice penion top up, that can be a barrier. Alternatively the initial generosity of giving a one year pay off to a BBC executive may subside`and the BBC may prefer to make no offers and let the disciplinary/Tribunal process take its course.  

Justin Patten, Mediator   

» Categories: Mediation
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