African arbitration practitioners are greatly under-represented in a number of arbitration matters in the African region. However, all is not lost, arbitration is undoubtedly growing as a mechanism for the resolution of domestic and cross-border commercial disputes in Africa. The process of dispute resolution outside the state-sponsored system of litigation is not new, and indeed was the norm in pre-colonial times. The modern-day arbitration regime is usually backed by the state through legislation and enforcement by national courts, and it is fair to state that there has been considerable growth in Africa’s arbitration industry.
In the workplace disputes are likely to arise between the employer and the employee, employees amongst themselves. In my experience as an arbitration practitioner, I have come to understand the benefits of utilising this mode of dispute resolution in the workplace.
The 2018 SOAS Arbitration in Africa Survey unveiled some of the key benefits of the practice in different environments. Solving disputes in the workplace by the use of attorneys and courts is not only time-consuming, but also very expensive, for both parties. The speed and informality of the arbitration process represent the key reasons, by businesses, for selecting arbitration over litigation. In many cases, arbitration is far shorter a process, and without the use of attorneys, generally less costly.
The two parties involved in the dispute have control over the selection of the arbiter – this is a different case altogether when dealing with a court case where the judge and jury selection is out of the hands of the parties involved. Arbitration hearings are private, and the results are not part of the public record, which is beneficial for both parties (especially with regard to future employment as public records of such a matter could negatively influence some employers).
Emotional intelligence has proven to be one of the vital ingredients for creating a healthy workplace. The term “emotional intelligence” was coined by Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer who described it as “a form of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them, and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and action”.
Within the profession of arbitration, this is the foundation upon which the approach is centred. It is with utmost importance that when resolving a dispute, the third-party person is in a position to empathise with both parties and yet remain impartial when it comes to the issue at hand. It has been proven that arbitration in the workplaces can be very successful given the environment is less formal compared to that of a court.
Famous Head of Human Resources, Laszlo Bock, stated that satisfied employees are 20 percent more productive, which is vital for the existence and growth of a business. Arbitration facilitates this process by getting to the root cause of the problem and solving it from an unbiased perspective without losing the empathetic view of things.
It is therefore important for employers to make use of arbitration in their respective work environments, in order to provide a safe space where disputes can be resolved in an affordable and timeous manner.
Ajibola Dalley is a Barrister and Solicitor of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (UK), a Notary Public, and Honourary Member of the Africa Committee of the Commercial Barristers Association (COMBAR) of England and Wales.