We have naturally had to become even more dependent on our smart phones, tablets, laptops, and computers with our adaption and response to COVID‑19. We have had to learn new ways and attitudes to working whilst staying safe, connected, entertained, but distanced.
Due to the increased and significant risk of infection when carrying out mediations with the lengthy periods required in a in-person mediation in person at this time, i.e. personal contact, coughing, sneezing, traveling on crowded public transport, etc. my default policy until a vaccine or treatment has been developed and shown to be effective is to recommend that all mediations be carried out remotely or online.
As restrictions begin to get lifted and we come out of lockdown with offices, hotels and meeting venues opening again, subject to geographical rules and procedures, it will become possible to hold in-person mediations.
The recommended social distancing guidance for indoor safety may not prove to be enough or be as effective, therefore, to minimise the risk to the health and safety of those attending the mediation, the risk needs to be managed.
My policy on reducing the transmission risk as we progress through the remaining phases is laid out below and will apply to all in-person mediations.
- Throughout the mediation, our individual meetings will be kept as short as possible, they will be little and often.
- Parties and parties representatives down to attend the mediation who develop symptoms; high temperature, dry cough, sore throat, loss of the sense of smell or taste prior to the day, including on the morning of the mediation are expected to behave in a responsible manner and where practical, inform me by telephone as soon as possible. If their involvement is deemed essential, joining by video or telephone may be an option.
- Social distancing will apply to all areas of the agreed mediation location; the meeting rooms, entrances and exits, toilets, reception areas, etc. some of which are the most challenging areas to maintain social distancing and keep control.
- Parties are to supply their own hand sanitising gel or wipes.
- Where possible, travelling to the mediation location on public transport is to be avoided. If it is necessary, then all government guidelines on the use of face coverings, etc. are to be followed.
- Consideration shall be given to start and finish times to avoid rush hour travel.
- Locations shall be large enough to comply with social distancing guidelines.
- Using the lifts in buildings should be avoided due to the risk of uncontrolled close contact with others unless their maximum occupancy has been reduced.
- Shaking hands or other forms of personal contact during the day is not permitted.
- Meeting rooms are to be well ventilated, if weather and/or noise conditions allow, windows can be opened.
- Meeting rooms will be set up in a side to side layout with the recommended distancing between the parties, not face to face across a table. This will help avoid the aerosol effect of expired breath and reduce transmission of the virus becoming airborne and directed towards another person.
- Hand sanitising gel or wipes must be available in all rooms.
- Parties are always to remain and adhere to the recommended social distancing guidance during refreshment, meeting, comfort, or toilet breaks.
- Case notes and your supporting documents are to be supplied in Word, Excel, PDF format.
- The use of papers, documents, notes are to be kept to a minimum. If used, they are to be for personal use only, not shared or passed around.
- Pens, tablets, mobile phones, etc. are for personal use only, they not shared or passed around.
- The use and acceptance of electronic signatures in the Mediation Agreement and the Mediation Settlement Agreement to be discussed and agreed 2 days prior the mediation taking place. If the use of electronic signatures has been agreed and accepted, the Mediation Agreement and Mediation Settlement Agreement will be presented electronically on my sanitised tablet, all parties will sign and initial them electronically with a sanitised pen or their finger. Where electronic signatures have not been agreed or accepted, printed versions are to be made available and, wearing protective gloves, the parties will sign them with their own pen.
- A scan or photo of the signed/initialled documents will then be emailed to the parties.
Should any party decline to accept or breech the conditions detailed above, I reserve the right to terminate the mediation.
More information on the COVID-19 Guidelines can be found here.