One of the most important factors in any workplace is the relationship between employees and employers. This relationship is sometimes termed as “Employee Relations”, referring to the relationship between employees and employers in an industrial setting. Employees have specified rights over their working conditions and over other matters regarding their pay, redundancy, overtime, promotion, and many other issues. These rights are specified by law and sometimes, also negotiated through trade unions or worker unions in order to influence the decision of employers.
Each country specifies the rights of its workforce differently and some countries give workers higher bounds of protection. In some countries, such as the United States and Great Britain, workers have fought for their own rights over different periods in history and have succeeded in gaining a considerable amount of influence. Great Britain has a minimum wage limit set for its workers and employers all over Great Britain are obligated to at least pay their workers this amount for work they have done. Other laws and statutes protect workers from being overworked, underpaid, or discriminated against for employment and promotional purposes. Laws also outline the type of working conditions and working environment that is essential for workers and the rules as to how/when and in which circumstances, workers can be laid off, fired, or made redundant (Rose, pg 94-111, 2004).
Other factors which also affect employee relations are factors such as pension plans, education plans, training, and disability and injury allowances. Hence, there are a number of factors that employers and employees must be conscious of in the setting of an employment contract (Lewis, pg 110, 2009). Moreover, with the growing influence of employees and with increasing bargaining power, employers must set strategies and approaches in order to effectively deal with the whims and concerns of their employees. No workplace can operate without the employees being properly motivated and satisfied with their work. Dissatisfied employees may mean large losses for the firm and in the case of Great Britain, some lawsuits as well (Rose, pg 98, 2004).
International and Regulatory System
The international system regarding employee welfare and employee relations lacks coercive power and is not able to effectively regulate the conditions offered to employees in various countries. International laws are difficult to implement as each country has their own policy and their own concerns regarding employee welfare. An example of an international law that is difficult to implement is the law against child labor, restricting the number of hours a child under a certain age can work. However, Third World countries are not able to implement this law effectively and child labor is heavily prevalent in such countries The United Kingdom has set a proper regulatory system for employer and employee relations and aims to ensure that both sides receive their fair share. It is alleged at times that employees receive a greater amount of leniency and have more say than the employer in the maintenance of this relationship. However, employees in the UK also have issues regarding the minimum wage, pension plans, and health benefits included in their pay (Lewis, pg. 114-184,2003).
Developed countries such as the UK, Australia, USA, and Canada have regulatory systems which aim to moderate the relationship between employees and employers (mature employee relations). Laws govern the contracts upheld by both parties and the clauses are testable by law. Hence, if one party fails to acknowledge or fulfill a clause mentioned in the contract, that party is liable to punishment by law. However, not all countries have a regulatory system. Most Third World Countries do not have a minimum wage nor an obligation to provide employees with any other benefits. Discrimination and unnecessary redundancy is strongly prevalent in such countries. No system exists to properly assist labor in standing up for their rights. Cheap labor is readily available in less developed countries and developed countries are often found exploiting this situation. Since their own countries have a strong system regulating employer and employee relationship, they avail cheaper labor without any hassles in less developed countries (Lewis, pg 189,2009).
However, the international system and regulatory power for employer and employee relations details issues such as age requirements for work, health benefit plans, job security, minimum wage, and retirement plans. There are several agencies working to aim to secure such benefits for employees all over the world (Hollingshead, pg 24-32, 2010).
Trade unions and worker associations also do not have full acknowledgement and recognition under the laws of many countries. Hence, workers are unable to negotiate terms and conditions with their companies on a large scale or engage in “collective bargaining”. Mainly, in Third World countries it is the blue collared workers or labor class who lack education and awareness of their rights. These people also lack opportunities and hence are exploited by their employers by being offered low wages and practically no-benefits (Rose, pg 156-230, 2004) this will have an adverse effect on employee relations.
White collar workers or skilled labor is more informed regarding international law; hence usually such workers do engage in proper contracts and receive competitive salaries, according to their qualifications. They also receive benefits, health insurance, and retirement plans. Most Third World countries also implement international law upon their own government employees.
Government employees are given proper employee benefits and adequate pays with pay raises whenever adequate. They are treated according to international standards of employer and employee relations (Lewis, pg 89-105, 2003).
However, only one side of the story should not be accounted for as employees also have an obligation to fulfill their duties during the period of employment. International law states that employees may be fired if they fail to perform all their duties. Hence, it is mandatory for employees to also not over emphasize their power. There is also a maximum limit to the pay raises and extra benefits that employees can negotiate and any violent or defaming behavior can lead to arrest and conviction. Unnecessary union formations and illicit use of power is strongly condemned (Jenard & Judge, pg 161, 2005).
International regulations mainly aim to ensure that all employees are given fair opportunities and are not exploited. They aim to prevent discrimination on the basis of age, gender, ethnicity, and background. They also aim to ensure that all employers are protected against illicit employee action and employee strikes. However, all of these regulations are made by separate international organizations. It is difficult for these organizations to implement their policies in all countries or convince governments to adopt their policies. They must convince governments to sign deals and contracts for the adoption of these policies, yet this is a very difficult task. These organizations lack coercive power. They cannot force other countries to adopt these policies if they do not find them beneficial. The act against child labor was upheld by the UN, but lacks serious implementation (Hollingshead, pg 121, 2005).
These countries still have children working long laborious hours in dangerous situations and being paid very little for their efforts. Hence, international regulations have very little influence and power in the global world. They are mostly ineffective and of no practical use. However, they do raise awareness and raise a voice for some potential concerns regarding the work place.
Mostly, these international laws affect workplaces in Great Britain, USA, and other developed countries, where employees are educated and well-informed. Employees raise a voice in sequence with these laws themselves and demand to be given equal rights and opportunities as people in other developed countries receive. This can be exemplified in the new Pension increase movement in Great Britain (Coats, pg 1, 2010).
However, people in less developed countries seldom have many opportunities and are happy with what they receive as payment for their work. They cannot afford to demand more as they will be in danger of losing their job, instead of being given what they deserve. Employers in these countries also lack resources to be able to give their employees such extravagant benefits. International regulations can only help in raising awareness among the educated class and then enabling the workers to fight for their rights themselves. Moreover, despite such strong efforts, discrepancies prevail in countries like the UK and the USA, where opportunities for men and women are still not identical. Women do receive less pay in many professions such as doctors, lawyers, actresses, and many others. Biases do exist and there is still a prevalence of unjust behavior in these places as well, tending to make it even more difficult to uphold a system in countries which lack resources for implementation (Jenard & Judge, pg 113, 2005).
Employee Relations Approaches
There are two main approaches to employee relations, which include the individualistic approach and the collective approach. Employers choose their management style according to what they find most suitable and what is preferred.
The individualistic approach outlines the way employers prefer to keep separate management styles and negotiations open with individual employees and collective negotiating means dealing with the full work force at large (Blyton, pg 94-102, 2004).
Coordinating and managing employer and employee relationships become more difficult and complicated year by year. It is essential to manage the concerns of employees regarding issues such relocation of industry, harassment, redundancy, compensation, and violent behavior. Hence, it is important for each employee to have a progressive attitude towards the relationship between employee and employer. If this relationship becomes weak, the company suffers at large (Blyton, pg 230-234, 2004) this will hinder employee relations on a large scale.
As mentioned before, there are two ways of managing this relationship, which are a collective approach or an individual approach. The individual approach involves contact of an individual employee with the employer. The employer negotiates the terms and conditions of the contract with the individual employee, pertaining to that employee only (Lewis, pg 208-215,2003).
There are advantages with using the individualistic approach which include that there are only one person’s interests involved and hence, there is no conflict between parties. Sometimes, when the opinion of multiple employees is taken, various employees have differing views and differing interests. Hence, it is difficult to serve the interests of all employees and a trade-off must be made in order to serve the interests of the majority, which might leave some employees unhappy. An example to illustrate this is, one employee may feel that the wage rate is too low, while another may feel that more fringe benefits should be provided to employees. Another employee’s concern may be the health insurance plan and another employee may be worried about the new downsizing operation that the company has begun. It would be extremely difficult for the employer to serve all needs simultaneously; hence some employees will be left unattended in this regard. With individual bargaining, individual needs are catered to in the employment contract, hence there is no conflict.
Moreover, since the whims and needs of one person are included in individual bargaining, the employee relations does not have to compromise significantly as to the attendance of his/ her needs. The employee and employer can easily come upon a one-on-one settlement (.Edwards, pg 110, 2003) However, this approach also holds disadvantages which include that one person’s concerns may not be enough to restructure company policies or change procedures. One person may not have enough influence or coercive power to negotiate a great deal and hence the manager may not uphold the concerns of that individual employee. Hence, usually individual bargaining tends to have a much lesser impact upon company procedures and policies at large. There is a very low tendency of compliance by the employer hindering effective employee relations.
The second approach to employee relations is collective bargaining. This entails negotiating issues with representatives from trade unions and other employee representatives in order to solve the issues of employees collectively, on a large scale. This method aims to eliminate or reduce conflict as employees decide upon their demands on a collective scale and choose representatives to convey their demands to the employer. This enables all issues to be addressed quickly instead of individual employees coming to the employer with individual demands. Hence, it is a quicker and more effective process (Blyton, pg 12-36, 2004) and essential for good employee relations.
Through collective bargaining, the employees exert a lot of influence upon the employer and are able to get what they desire quickly and more effectively. As it is said that there is power in numbers, hence the more employees that are involved in the trade union, the better the result. The method of collective bargaining also has some down sides and some disadvantages. It causes the individual worker to be overshadowed by the interests of the whole group. An individual may have some private concerns which may not be the majority opinion. However, these concerns are not catered to when things are being dealt with on a collective scale. Hence, some employees may be left feeling deprived and unhappy (Edwards, pg 76-89, 2003) again, hindering effective employee relations.
There are other methods of employer and employee relations which depend upon the nature of work of the employee and whether the employee is a part-time or a full-time employee. Full time employees benefit the employer in many ways which include a sense of loyalty and belonging in the company which enables the employee to focus their best efforts upon the business. The employers also have a greater amount of control on the employee and his/her activities. The employer senses a feeling of security and trust which leaves him satisfied that there is other permanent staff available to assist him in hard times, this needs to be overcome in order to promote effective employee relations.
However, employers are also faced with a greater burden of full-time employees. They may be required to pay for vacations and must also pay payroll taxes. It is quite difficult to hire and maintain such a dedicated workforce, and employers will constantly need to provide benefits and other sources of motivation to their employees (Taylor, pg 245-246, 2008) this will promote healthy effective employee relations.
According to UK’s internal revenue code, part time employees are defined as those who work for a period less than 1,000 hours in a year. Part-time employees have some advantages for employers which include flexibility in working hours and a potentially economical option which is extremely viable for smaller and newly developed ventures. Moreover, part time employees can be availed when needed; hence full time costs can be saved to a large extent. Moreover, part time employees need not be given extra benefits such as paid vacations and health insurance. Just as full-time employees, part time employees also have their disadvantages. It is difficult to compete on the basis of loyalty and time with the other employers of part-time employees. When part time employees are offered other options and full time work, they may resign and this may result in a shortage in staff. These are the basic approaches that are used by employees and employers for employee relations. The approaches are used according to the suitability, custom, and preference of the employee and employer, this is essential to build good employee relations.
UK Employee Relations System
Although UK’s employment system is one the most highly protected and established system in the world, it is currently facing a lot of controversy and issues. Workers in the UK are most informed about their rights and have the highest amount of power now as opposed to the power they had in the post war period. However, they still find the system to be a complete turmoil. Employers are currently facing problems with high levels of employee regulations and low productivity and motivation in employees. The rate of motivation has decreased substantially over the years and even though 2005-2008 marked a period of Workers’ Rights Awareness and this rapidly increased the awareness workers have of their rights, workers were far less motivated than employers wanted. Workers tend to feel that there is an unlimited amount of unfairness in the system and it needs substantial improvement (Coats, pg 1, 2010)
The UK’s employment relation system is fairly simple and does not over emphasize certain issues. It gives employers fair liberty to hire and fire employees at their own will and it also prevents the formation of unions. Employees today find this quite unfair and are striving to find a collective voice and to be heard by the government and employers of the UK (Coats, pg 1, 2010).
Employees are not quite aware of the fact that unions are very much prevalent in the UK and they do have a right to a collective voice. However, that voice is subdued in the United Kingdom and employees are not made aware of the opportunities and rights that exist for them. Therefore, increasing employee relations is a must.
Union strikes and action is prohibited in the UK, which makes employees feel that they are at a loss for voicing their opinion. Miss Margaret Thatcher imposed this law upon the kingdom as a way to protect employers from unjust violence and threats from employees looking to impose unfair demands upon employers. However, this system has caused the employees to feel that they are at a loss and is causing more frequent and larger amounts of litigation made against employers. Hence, employee tribunals are active at full speed, dealing with a large number of lawsuits. It is found that employees who are not a part of a union tend to look towards employee tribunals for proper acknowledgement of their demands and to convey their whims, concerns, and other matters. This has currently put UK in an uproar and is affecting the economy at large (Coats, pg 1, 2010).
UK, in the post war period, was more or less the same as it is today. However, the predecessors of this government, in the post-war period understood that there was a need for a platform to voice the opinions of other parties and reasonably argue over alternatives. However, the current system of capitalism does not seem to be working well for the UK presently. This may call for a new system or model of capitalism to be designed and implemented (Rose, pg 220, 2004).
The government may be looking for full dialogue on the issue of improving the employee relations system and must make several reforms to the current prevailing system. These reforms may consist of adequate arrangements to deal with employee concerns on a collective scale and find alternate methods to dispute resolution. Implementation and more focused awareness of employee rights would be an advancing step, especially in areas where employees are least informed and most exploited. Companies who are listed on the Stock Exchange should be asked to also publish information regarding their personnel relations policies and other matters such as accident occurrence, labor turnover, and other human resource related issues.
Hence, opposed to the post war period, some regulations were imposed upon UK”s employee relations system which included the setting of anti-union laws. Some allowances were also made such as extra rights for working parents, minimum wage, and other worker friendly policies. However, these movements were disregarded as in the postwar period, little regulation controlled employee relations. It was left up to the employee and employer and the State only controlled major and serious issues regarding safety and other important concerns. Collective bargaining was majorly encouraged and trade unions were recognized as a means of reducing conflict (Coats, pg 1, 2010). Workers today feel deprived of the rights of collective bargaining and the post-war period system began crumbling with the on set on Miss Thatcher’s governance. The system is currently a wreck and needs new reforms or a new model to follow. It is alleged that other developed countries have developed and implemented their employee relations systems better than the UK and workers in the UK claim that the quality of jobs in the UK is below satisfactory and needs major improvement.
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