How to develop an internal dispute resolution process?

If you want to develop an internal dispute resolution process, the following tips can help you plan and implement it effectively.

Identify the needs of your employees.

You must know the needs of your employees to develop an effective internal dispute resolution process. Factors such as the resources you have available can help you decide what kind of process makes sense for your organization and how long it will take to develop.

Input from employees and visible support from your organization’s leadership will also help build a successful internal dispute resolution process.

Make the process simple, informal and flexible.

If the process is simple there will be less delays and costs. Internal dispute resolution processes should be less formal than law courts and offer participants different ways to resolve disputes. This means being flexible enough to respond to different people’s needs.

Be inclusive from the start.

Make sure you consider all of your employees from the very beginning. Try to include people from diverse backgrounds in the development of your process.

Train the people who will be involved.

Training should be provided to all persons involved in managing or advising about dispute resolution. This can include your organization’s leadership, managers, directors, and human resources and legal staff. Training should include information about human rights and how the internal dispute resolution process will work.

Communicate with your employees.

Your employees need to know your organization has a dispute resolution process available. Tell people about the process at a special launch; put information on your website; write about it in your newsletter; and post information in places where people get together. Make sure you also include information about the process in your daily operations.

Monitor and evaluate how the process is working.

Monitor and evaluate the process to see if people are having problems accessing or using it. Evaluation processes should be voluntary and confidential. Evaluation helps you identify how confident people are that the process will help resolve disputes. It also tells you how satisfied people are with the results.

You can evaluate your process by asking questions like:

  • Has the process been implemented as designed? 
  • What are the results? (For example, number of complaints and whether issues were resolved) 
  • Is the process fair? 
  • What do people involved have to say about the process?
  • Are there changes that would improve how the process works?

Adjust the process as needed.

Include instructions about how to make changes to the process if evaluations reveal that it is not meeting your organization’s needs.

Guiding Principles for addressing disputes within your organization

Make the process accessible.

A process is accessible when employees can easily use it. It should not have barriers, like the need for a lawyer. All documents that explain the process should be in clear language. Make sure any timelines are fair so that they do not become a barrier or a source of frustration.

Obtain employee feedback about the process.

Organizational acceptance is important if you want your process to be successful and accountable. Encourage input from all employees.

Make sure the decision-maker knows about human rights.

The decision-maker should be trained in human rights principles and laws; or be able to easily access human rights advice from someone who is trained in human rights principles and laws.

Examples of potential decision-makers include:

  • a committee made up of staff and managers
  • a lawyer or judge
  • an impartial third party (i.e. professional arbitrator/mediator)

Ensure impartiality and independence.

The decision-maker must not be biased. This means they should have no personal, political, business or other reason to favour one side over the other. The decision-maker should be able to make an independent decision. This means they should not be influenced improperly by anyone involved in the dispute. 

Allow people to bring a representative.

In some instances, mediation or a similar option may be offered. When this happens, both sides should be allowed to bring a person of their choice, including a family member, a union representative or a lawyer.

Give people the opportunity to be heard.

All of the people involved in the dispute should be allowed to have their say and tell their side of the story. This can be done orally, or in writing, as long as both sides have enough time to prepare and present their case.

Encourage people involved to share information.

The people involved in the dispute should share information with each other. They must understand each other’s side of the story to be able to respond effectively.

Keep information confidential.

Always keep information that is shared confidential. This shows that everyone involved respects the process and the other people involved.

Give reasons for decisions.

The decision-maker should give detailed reasons for their decision, either orally or in writing.

Ensure the process is acceptable to everyone involved in the dispute. 

Remember to consider your process from a human rights perspective. This means making sure the dispute resolution process treats everyone involved with equality, dignity and respect.

Make your process fair by ensuring that there are ways to balance the power of the people involved. Find ways to provide support to people who might be intimidated by the process or afraid of retaliation from the other side. If a settlement is reached, both sides of the dispute should agree to the terms.

No retaliation.

An internal dispute resolution process should clearly forbid any form of retaliation for filing a complaint, being a witness, or accompanying or representing an individual.