Mediation gives the parties in dispute the opportunity to reach a settlement without a court hearing and with the help of an independent third party, a mediator. This can provide cost-effective and quick extrajudicial resolution of disputes also in individual employment matters through informal processes tailored to the needs of the parties. The European Community institutions have made the promotion of mediation and other forms of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) a political priority: The commission presented a Green Paper on ADR in 2002 and the Directive on certain aspects of mediation in civil and commercial matters was adopted just recently in April 2008. Austria itself has passed an Act on Mediation in Civil Matters in 2003 providing a legal framework for the practise of mediation. In spite of all this efforts mediation is still used rarely in Austria to solve employment disputes though in theory most see it as a preferable alternative to lengthy and costly court procedures. Furthermore agreements resulting from mediation are more likely to be complied with voluntarily and help to preserve an ongoing employment relationship with the parties. In the outgoing phase the research will work out factors why and how mediation of individual employment disputes may be effective by analyzing the situation in New Zealand, one of the few countries worldwide which have established a compulsory system of mediation in employment matters. After establishing the legal and sociological framework, the research will analyse case data as well as conduct interviews with mediators and parties involved. The incoming phase will be dedicated to work out the commonalities and differences between the two systems of employment relations to provide a basis to transfer the findings of the outgoing phase to the Austrian environment and to put together recommendations for policy makers.
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