2 May 2024

Frustration at delays to mediation

From Nine To Noon, 9:30 am on 2 May 2024

Rising unemployment is seeing more people in mediation - putting pressure on already stretched services. In an ironic twist, Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) mediators are among staff taking voluntary redundancy in the government cutbacks.

According to MBIE, around half of mediations involved dismissals, with demand for the service up 23 per cent on the same time a year ago. Wait times for mediation services can be as long as seven weeks and employment lawyers are concerned this could get worse. 

Bronwyn Heenan - a partner at Simpson Grierson's employment law group - says mediation is highly successful when it is used and the structure of the Employment Relations Act (ERA) means "all roads lead to mediation". Heenan says the benefit of solving disputes through mediation means parties involved can avoid publicity or a drawn out, expensive, court process. But the backlog of applications caused by covid has "gone into a tailspin" this year with increasing redundancies - including with the mediators themselves. 

MBIE said it is currently not advertising for more mediators. 

Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment

Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas