Arbitration is a means of settling disputes via an impartial outsider, rather than through a court or employment tribunal. At an arbitration hearing, both parties present their case and evidence, and the arbitrator then asks any relevant questions and makes a firm decision based on the information given. In this sense it is similar to a hearing at a court or tribunal but without the need for oaths or formal cross-examination. The hearing will generally last roughly half a day, but the arbitrator has the authority to adjourn if they deem it necessary, as well as the power to call for a preliminary hearing, again if they deem it necessary.
Arbitration is beneficial for both parties in as much as any expenses and stress associated with taking a case to an employment tribunal are avoided. As with any dispute though, arbitration should not be the first port of call but rather something to resort to after any internal resolution procedures have failed.
Arbitration is a voluntary process, and as such both parties must agree to it, as well as agreeing (in advance) to abide by whatever decision is made by the arbitrator.
While arbitration is more commonly used in a collective dispute, such as one between a trade union and an employer, it is also often used to settle individual disputes for reasons stated above, namely avoiding the complications that tend to arise from taking a case to a court or tribunal.
Withdrawal from arbitration is permitted; both parties can agree to settle the case and either ask the arbitrator to decide on an appropriate settlement award, or can withdraw completely and arrange a settlement independently.
Witnesses are also permitted at an arbitration hearing, and it is worth bringing anyone who may, through personal experience or demonstrable knowledge of the relevant organisations, procedures and practises, be able to support your case. However, in some cases, a written, signed statement from the person in question may be sufficient without them having to attend the hearing in person.
Anyone taking part in an arbitration hearing may bring anyone they wish to represent them, but they will not be granted any special status. The arbitrator may direct questions to both the parties in dispute, as well as any representation they brought, but neither party nor their representation will be allowed to cross-examine the opposing party.
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