The Mediation Act 2017 (The “Act”) commenced on 1 January 2018 and applies to civil proceedings issued on or after this date. The key elements of the Act are as follows:-
- Solicitors now have a statutory obligation to advise their clients to consider mediation in advance of issuing legal proceedings. If the client chooses not to pursue mediation as a means of resolving the dispute and to continue with the court proceedings, a statutory declaration sworn by the solicitor stating that they have adhered to their obligations under the Act must accompany the originating document of the court proceedings.
- The Courts can now invite parties to consider mediation as an alternative to litigation and costs can be awarded against parties who unreasonably refuse to attend or engage in the mediation process.
- Mediation agreements can now be enforced by the Courts and the confidentiality of mediation agreements are now protected by the Act.
The Act will apply in respect of all civil disputes with the exception of proceedings issued in the Workplace Relations Commission, arbitration, judicial review proceedings and family law proceedings.
The key objective of the Act is to provide a more cost effective solution to dispute resolution and by doing so, improve access to justice. The Act aims to reduce any potential backlog in the system by eliminating unnecessary proceedings and encouraging mediation as a viable alternative form of dispute resolution.