It is common for people to represent themselves at mediation. If you feel confident, you can arrange mediation and prepare to explain the facts yourself at a mediation meeting.
You don’t need any technical knowledge, but you do need to be able to listen, respond and be open-minded about the options for resolving the problem.
The mediator’s role is to make sure that both parties are given the opportunity to reach an acceptable outcome. If you represent yourself, the mediator will make sure you’re not disadvantaged in the mediation process.
To help you, a mediator may:
- suggest adjournments to help you gather your thoughts
- explain legal concepts in plain English
- suggest that you ask for assistance if you’re out of your depth
- help you focus on the issues.
You can change your decision about having a representative at any stage in the process.
Using an advisor or representative
If you’re not sure about representing yourself you can ask somebody for help. This can be a friend, whanau member, experienced community leader or a professional advisor such as an employment advocate or a lawyer.
An advisor or representative can help you in preparing for the mediation and to help:
- gather important facts and set out the law
- decide what you’re going to say at mediation
- identify the most appropriate solution
- you to express your views at the meeting. A mediator will also help you with this but your advisor or representative will be solely focused on this task.
Cost of representation
Professional representation can be expensive. It’s important to consider this in advance, sometimes:
- the parties agree to share the costs of getting to mediation as part of a settlement reached,
- costs don’t form part of the settlement and the employer and employee meet their own costs
- an employer will agree to meet the employee’s costs (this may be part of the employer accepting that they played a part in the problem).
If you hire an employment advocate or lawyer you should be very clear in your brief to them, including:
- the work you want them to do
- the objective you are trying to achieve
- how much you are prepared to pay
- getting an estimate of likely costs upfront.
Even if you have representation, you need to stay involved in the process. It gives you a chance to voice your concerns and have them genuinely considered by the other party. Working through an issue and having a chance to say what you feel and to be heard by the other party, can be one of the most important parts of mediation.
In addition to an advisor or representative, you may bring a support person along to a mediation meeting. A support person does not usually actively participate in the mediation meeting. Their role is to support you emotionally.