What is mediation

Mediation is where an independent person called a mediator helps an employee and an employer resolve an employment relationship problem in a semi-formal and confidential environment.

The mediation process

An Employment New Zealand mediator speaks direct to camera.

So, you feel like there are problems at work, you've spoken to your employer, but you need some help to resolve the issue. If you can't fix a problem directly between yourselves, our free mediation service can help resolve the dispute in a way that is straightforward and informal. Both parties need to agree to come to mediation.

A mediator and two other people are shown in a room during mediation, taking turns to speak.

Mediation is about discussing an issue openly with the other party, usually in person, but sometimes online or by telephone. An experienced and impartial mediator will guide you through the process, and help you find a resolution that is agreed by all parties. Mediators will help the parties feel comfortable and at ease during a process that can sometimes be difficult.

When you agree to attend mediation, we'll arrange a time that suits both parties. Everyone can then send in any documents they have that relate to the issue, so that the mediator can read them before the mediation begins. 

When you come for your mediation, you can wear whatever you like, it's important that you feel comfortable. You can bring a support person with you, like a friend, family member or union representative. You can also bring an advocate or a lawyer, but you'll need to pay for any costs incurred by having them attend. For instance, you'll need to pay the legal fees for a lawyer.

At the start of the mediation, the mediator will introduce themselves to each party. The parties will usually get together in one room. The mediator will explain the process and what to expect from mediation. Both parties will have turned to speak during the mediation, and the mediator will make sure that breaks are held as needed.

It's important that parties have the chance to hear each other's point of view and to discuss issues to gain a better understanding. Mediation is a way to resolve issues quickly and soon after they arise, and often helps to maintain a relationship between the parties.

Mediation is confidential. This means that all the discussions and the details of any agreed resolution, if there is one, are private in most cases.

Visit www.employment.govt.nz for more about mediation.

Mediation is voluntary. However, participation in mediation can be seen as part of the good-faith duties of an employment relationship. If you choose not to take part, the other party might be able to take their complaint to the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) which can require you to attend mediation.

Each mediation is different and has its own format. It can involve different types of activities, such as:

  • Early assistance
    This may be through email and telephone conversations. A mediator will see if there’s a way of sorting out the problem without needing a mediation meeting.
  • A mediation meeting
    This is when parties meet with a mediator in a semi-formal environment.
  • A record of settlement
    If the parties agree to a solution this will be written down in a record of settlement. This is legally binding and the parties cannot come back to it, for example, once a record of settlement is signed by the parties and a mediator from the Employment Mediation Services, you may not take the other person to the ERA if it relates to the same issue.
  • Giving the mediator powers
    If both parties agree, you can give the mediator the power to either make a written recommendation or binding decision.

You may choose to have representation throughout the mediation process.

The mediators

Mediators are not on the side of either party. They are independent people committed to helping parties to resolve the problem. They must withdraw from any case if they think they might have a conflict of interest.

Mediators from the Employment Mediations Services are obliged to follow the Mediators’ Code of Ethics [PDF 889KB]. If you believe that your Employment Mediation Services mediator has acted unfairly and would like to make a complaint, contact us.

Mediators can come from a variety of different backgrounds and have:

  • extensive training in resolving disputes
  • an in depth understanding of employment law
  • a clear picture of current trends in workplaces.

A mediator’s role is to:

  • encourage parties to identify the real issues
  • help the parties explain those issues to each other
  • identify points of agreement between the two parties
  • help people find a way through their problem that may not seem immediately apparent
  • help parties to find a resolution that allows both parties to put the issues behind them
  • provide an assessment of the risks if the problem is not resolved and proceeds further.

A mediator may participate in workplace discussion and education activities.

Terms of engagement

The underlying principles of mediation are that it is voluntary, confidential, empowers parties to make their own decisions and is conducted by an impartial person.

Based on these principles, the mediator’s primary role is to provide a safe environment for parties to address their issues, understand each other’s perspectives and look at ways to reach a resolution which meets the needs and interests of both parties.

If the mediator feels the mediation process is being undermined in any way, or the safety of any of the participants is at risk, the mediator can bring the mediation to a close.

Find out how you achieve respectful mediation by reading the terms of engagement.

Terms of engagement for mediation [PDF 298KB]


All documents and any terms of settlement reached in mediation are confidential.

All information from mediation is confidential. This means it may not be shared with anyone outside of the mediation process. Because of this, what happens in mediation cannot be used as evidence in the Employment Relations Authority or Employment Court.

The parties can agree to waive the confidentiality. Mediation carried out by Employment Mediation Services in the course of collective bargaining may not be confidential.

Information that is shared during mediation but was created outside the mediation process is not confidential.


Requirement to report a dismissal or resignation to a professional body overrides the full and final nature of a record of settlement during mediation.

In these cases, the information disclosed about the mediation does not fall within the statutory definition of confidentiality in the Employment Relations Act. For teachers, nurses and similar professionals there is a requirement that the employer notifies the appropriate professional body following the resignation of an employee or their dismissal in some circumstances. The Education Act, for instance, makes such reports mandatory for teachers where misconduct or competence is being investigated at the time.

It is probably wise to address the need for notifications when negotiating a mediation settlement, rather than to surprise the former employee and risk a challenge to the settlement.

Employment Mediation Services

Employment Mediation Services within the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) is a free mediation service for any employee or employer with an employment relationship problem.

If you have a dispute that you’re unable to solve together, Employment Mediation Services can arrange a mediation to help you to sort out the problem.

To access Employment Mediation Services you can make a Request for Mediation.

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Page last revised: 22 November 2022

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