Post-lockdown dispute resolution

Salons may be open again, but the strain caused by Coronavirus is undeniable, and is likely to be felt for some time. With that in mind, some salon owners may be finding it difficult – or impossible – to meet financial obligations that they entered into before the pandemic.

From contracts with suppliers to leases, it is how salon owners handle these issues that will set them up to come out of the crisis with their business in tact.

“Resolving disputes can often come at a significant cost to small-business owners, not only in terms of legal services, but also surrounding time away from their business, lost productivity and income, and stress and emotional toll,” says barrister and mediator Claudia Kassel. “It is important that businesses understand their options for navigating dispute resolution – what is available and how accessible are these options?”

Direct negotiations between parties
In any contractual dispute, the first step should always be to try and resolve the dispute directly with the other party.

“To make the most of these negotiations, businesses should not think about ‘winning’ or ‘losing’, but about finding a solution they can both live with. If these discussions do not yield a result, businesses should consider dispute resolution processes via government agencies, state civil and administrative tribunals, or via private mediation,” says Claudia.

Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman
Small businesses are entitled to request support from the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, which provides guidance for direct negotiations and an online tool to identify specialist dispute resolution channels.

“The Ombudsman’s online tool and case-management support can connect businesses with dispute resolution channels across all states and territories, including their own internal dispute resolution service,” says Claudia. “Negotiation support and the online tool are free, however the costs of any dispute resolution processes are split evenly between parties.”

Private mediation
Private mediation is when both parties directly engage a mediator. The aim of mediation is to support parties to find common ground and a mutually agreeable outcome. The mediator uses various techniques to facilitate discussions and encourages parties to compromise.

“The benefit of private mediation is that sessions can be arranged at any time so that parties can quickly resolve disputes, maintain working relationships and move on with their lives. The mediation process is private and confidential, and anything said in mediation cannot be used in court proceedings,” says Claudia.

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