In the modern business environment, workplace disputes are becoming much more prevalent. Of course, these conflicts are not necessarily limited to merely an employer/employee context; they can take a number of forms. One in three UK employees, or 38 percent of staff, experienced some form of interpersonal conflict at work in 2014, according to data from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD). Though each dispute is unique, there can be little surprise that the number of workplace disputes have been on the up in recent years, as firms have faced increasing financial and regulatory difficulties.

The proliferation of employee/employer disputes has perhaps been one of the most damaging developments in recent years. Over the course of the last 40 years, there has been a significant rise in the volume of employment related litigation. Conflicts in the workplace can arise over any number of issues – employers failing to meet their workplace rights and obligations, failure to consider cultural differences, changes being made to unwritten workplace practices without consultation and discussion and even failure to instigate an appropriate dispute resolution procedure, can all serve as a catalyst. Accordingly, companies that neglect their workplace compliance obligations face a multitude of risks and potential costs associated with their actions.

Wally Oppal, QC, senior counsel at Boughton Law, believes that the increase in number of employment related litigations is no real surprise, particularly in Canada. “Canadians are now more aware of their rights than ever before and are better informed. We live in a rights society. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms has been instrumental in making us aware of our rights. I can think of no other area in which ADR is more suitable than in the area of employer/employee relations. The collective bargaining process is, in essence, a process of ADR in that the rights, responsibilities and obligations are set out in a collective bargaining agreement,” he says.

Jul-Sep 2015 issue

Richard Summerfield