Employee Relations and Employment Regulations

This Chapter outlines the major factors shaping and defining the employer-employee relationship, discussing the concept of the employee and providing an indication of the formal frameworks that need to be considered. Being regarded as an employee gives a number of rights whilst also creating mutual obligations and the Chapter draws a distinction between employees working under a contract of service and non-employees operating under a contract for services.

The way in which UK employment legislation provides the framework for the employer and employee relationship is discussed. The key provisions of the Employment Rights Act 1996 are set out, noting how the legislation has evolved to address both minimum standards and more social issues. The Equality Act 2010 is reviewed, examining how it extends anti-discrimination protection to people with certain characteristics including race, disability, sex, sexual orientation, religion (or belief), age, pregnancy and marital status. Other legislative frameworks covered include those addressing health and safety requirements, hours and wages, public interest disclosure and the increasing demand to create a suitable work-life balance.

The importance of employee relations is also examined in the Chapter, taking a unitarist perspective that argues for the development of approaches able to motivate and inspire employees through systems that foster loyalty and commitment. This perspective reinforces the importance of employee engagement, noting the need to create a working environment where employees have emotional as well as structural ties to their managers and the organisation. The Chapter emphasises the potential impact of these more emotional engagement processes without losing sight of the need to maintain core cognitive approaches (i.e. outlining what is expected of employees, their purpose/role and how that relates to the organisational mission and objectives).

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In reviewing employee engagement, the Chapter also examines the relevance of employee voice and the processes and structures that can be used to enable people to contribute to decision making in their workplace. The need to create an interactive, more open dialogue that builds involvement (rather than just basic information sharing methods) is emphasised. The observations made help to confirm the importance and relevance of consultation, as the resulting dialogue and the self-organisation that results can deliver greater employee engagement.

A clear distinction between industrial relations and employee relations is also made. Whilst more modern attitudes to employee relations take a much broader perspective, the dynamic between employee representational groups and employers remains a vital component of any employee engagement strategy.

The Chapter closes with a recognition that employee relations can break down, especially when the formal and informal engagement mechanisms used have not been genuine or trusted. In such circumstances, the opportunities provided by mediation are discussed, considering how informal and more flexible approaches to reaching consensus can help minimise the time and costs associated with attempting to resolve work-place grievances. The balance between conciliation and arbitration is also outlined. However, where formal and informal mechanisms have failed to ensure that employees meet the standards required, then formal disciplinary measures may still be necessary.


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