Are you an electrician running your own business? Maybe you have one or two contractors that help you out. Or maybe you run an electrical empire and employ or contract a vast number of tradies. Unfortunately, not everyone sees eye to eye all the time, and it is almost an inevitability that parties will disagree. The list of business disputes that could arise is endless, but there are some that are peculiar to the electrical trade that we set out below.
Disputes with Employees
Disputes with employees can be wide-ranging and involve pay-rises, claims of unfair termination, or maybe even an ex-employee poaching clients.
Disputes with Contractors
Has a customer complained about a contractor providing a substandard service? Perhaps, for any number of reasons, you have failed to pay a contractor for work they have performed.
Disputes with Suppliers
Disputes with suppliers commonly involve goods delivered that are inadequate or defective. Failure to pay a supplier for their goods, for a whole host of reasons, is also common.
So You Have a Dispute. What Can You Do About It?
Whatever dispute you may be involved in, it is important to consider your options and take the right steps for your business.
Review your contract
The first step in resolving any business dispute is to review any written contract or agreement. You should pay careful consideration to any terms that outline both parties’ obligations. Have you fulfilled your obligations? After thoroughly reviewing your contract, you need to consider whether you believe there is an actual dispute or whether something has occurred that you simply don’t like. Legally, there is a difference!
As simple as it sounds, an informal discussion with your contractor or supplier can often lead to resolving your dispute. Many issues commonly arise because of misunderstandings, and if given the right amount of attention, parties can resolve them quickly. Some tips for getting the most out of your informal discussion include:
- Be prepared. What is it that you want to say? Make a list if you think this will help you to remain focused.
- Remain calm and non-accusatory. No one can win when you ‘play the blame game’.
- Listen. Let your contractor or supplier respond and allow them to convey their position.
- Negotiate. A resolution of the dispute at this early stage will substantially limit the negative impact on your business, both regarding your time and your money.
Dispute resolution clause
Written contracts commonly contain a dispute resolution clause. A dispute resolution clause will set out the process you must take to try and resolve your dispute before taking it further (for example, formal Court proceedings). Following the process in a dispute resolution clause can settle a lot of disputes quickly and cost effectively. Most dispute resolution clauses will require the parties to participate in some form of mediation.
A mediator is an independent person who assists the parties to identify the issues in a dispute and negotiate a resolution. There are many business advantages to participating in mediation. Mediation is private and confidential which can assist in limiting any negative attention your business could receive. Mediation is a good forum to resolve your dispute while trying to maintain a business relationship. Compared to litigation, mediation is a very time and cost effective option. However, it is important to understand that the terms of any resolution made during mediation are not legally binding. Both parties will then need to sign a Deed of Agreement to ensure its enforceability. We recommend seeking legal advice before signing a Deed of Agreement.
Unfortunately, a small number of disputes cannot be resolved between the parties. If you find that you have exhausted all other options, you may need to consider commencing formal proceedings in a Court with relevant jurisdiction. Court proceedings can be costly and time-consuming. It’s then important to note that if you are unsuccessful in your claim, you may be ordered to pay your opponent’s costs. It is important that you speak with a lawyer who will consider your prospects of success before commencing legal proceedings.
Importantly, if you are an employee or contractor who is a member of a Union, you can obtain legal advice and representation through that Union. If you have any questions about your dispute or are ready to take further action, let our disputes team know on 1300 544 755.