Introduction to Employee Relations:
Armstrong (2009) suggests that employee relations are concerned with managing and maintaining the relations between two parties, the employees and the management. Bratton and Gold (2007) argue that the relationship is rather in between organised labour and the management. The term organised labour refers to a group of employees which may be supported by trade unions (defined below) that aims to, according to Bratton and Gold (2007), maximise the rewards, improve working conditions, better employee learning and development schemes and increase progression opportunities. On the other hand, management seeks to protect organisation’s best interests which are, as suggested by Armstrong (2009), retaining the services of the employees without costing too much.
Purcell and Gray (1986) suggest that there may be two categories of approach to the employee relations – individualist and collectivist. Individualistic approach involves the relations that are based on, policies that relate to an individual employee’s ‘right to advancement and fulfilment at work’ (Purcell and Gray, 1986). These relationships encourage individual employees’ motivation as the approach allows management to evaluate and monitor their individual performances and provide them with opportunities for personal development, career progression within the organisation and rewards accordingly through effective direct communication (Purcell and Gray, 1986). On the other hand, as suggested by Rose (2004), collectivistic approach to employee relations which is often referred as the industrial relations as it may involve employer associations, representing employer and employee institutions, representing employees as well as governing, focus on determining and regulating employment contracts in general through collective bargaining (defined below).
Aims of Employee Relations:
There are clear contradictions between the best interests of the employers and employees. However, with employee relations, both the parties seek to strike a balance between the interests of employer and the employees (Farnham, 2000). In addition, the aims of the employee relations include forming agreements and rules by buyers (employers) and the sellers (employees) of labour services (knowledge and skills) and their agents (such as trade unions and employers associations) and processing conflict resolutions (Farnham, 2000).
Parties to Employee Relations:
There are three distinct types of parties that are involved in the policies and processes of employee relations. Firstly, employers, management and management organisations such as the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) are involved in the employment relationships (Rose, 2004).
Second type of parties are the employees and the employee organisations that support them such as trade unions which refer to social institutions (Bratton and Gold, 2007) that seek to promote the interests of their members and equalise the powers between employers and employees (Armstrong, 2009).
Finally, government and governing bodies which influence employee relations through managing prices and determining wages, making employment rights and conditions related legislations, and providing services such as conciliation and arbitration to establish peace and balance between powers (Rose, 2004).
Rose (2004) developed a model depicting the employee relations processes, the involved parties and the outcomes (shown in Figure 1).
Figure 1: Industrial Relations
Source: Rose (2004:34)
Unitary Vs. Pluralistic View:
Fox (1966, cited by Armstrong, 2009) argues that there may be two perspectives on employee relations – unitary and pluralistic. The unitary view which is usually held by the employer side implies that the management has the sole authority of directing and controlling the employees aiming to achieve organisational growth and economic goals (Armstrong, 2009). In this view, as Fox (1966) describes, the management