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Contemporary Development in Employment Relations

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Employment
Wordcount: 3547 words Published: 23rd Sep 2019

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Unit Title Contemporary Development in Employment Relations


As CIPD (2018) cites Employee Relations has replaced Industrial Relations and is now about defining a relationship between employers and employees. This replaces the traditional approach, where the relationship was solely between the employer and trade unions, (Armstrong, 2014, p.274) defines the traditional approach as a good day to day working relationship, and any organisation proposes would be dealt with by the elected representative. The key contributors to Employee Relations today along with employers and employees are Trade Unions, The Government and Government Bodies. The contribution of the Trade Union, according to Unite the largest union in the UK, is that it is committed to providing a service to its members by negotiating with Employers and Government to protect their employment rights, equality and diversity in the workplace. (Unite, no date). As citied in (Aylott, 2018, p.27) the Governments contribution is about passing of Acts and Regulations and they provide the legal framework for the employment relationship to exist. Along with the Government there other the bodies such as The Central Arbitration Committee (CAC) and The Advisory Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS), their contribution is to influence the communication between both parties.

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CIPD (2018) suggest that Employee Relations now has a focus on both individual and collective relationships in the workplace, with a focus of improving line manager relationships with employees. Employment relationships are vital to an organisation, and these relationships have moved from a traditional to a fragmented relationship. Outsourced work is an example of this type of relationship, more so through the transfer of employment from one employer to another you will find that the loyalty is often with the previous employer. Employment relationships have always been indeterminate but with the diversity and complexity continually changing it is likely to continue to fragment the relationship. (Aylott, 2018, p.19).

CIPD (2018) suggest that a positive climate of employee relations, along with an employee involvement, commitment and engagement, can improve organisations outcomes and improve employee well-being.


There are several approaches towards employee relations, however the main two are Unitarism and Pluralism. The Unitary approach is the perspective that everyone in the organisation has the same views, interests and a common set of objectives and therefore work in unison towards shared goals. This approach has the assumption that the profitability of the organisation can increase if everyone has the same common goal and work unanimously towards these goals to establish harmonious relations. The Pluralistic approaches is the opposite of the Unitary approach as this is seen as a good way to achieve good employee relations. In an organisation it’s an alliance of different groups who have different demands and requirements, and to resolve these different requirements management need to reach comprises and conflict is inevitable. (Businessjargons.com, no date).

In terms of the Junior Doctors Strike, the Pluralist approach was used as this was conflict between the British Medical Association and the Government. This was approach was taken as it was clear that not everyone shared the same views in terms of the changes to the contracts and therefore conflict was needed. There was the opinion that it went deeper than just the change of contract, this could be reflected as the psychological contract. This contract as is seen as the ‘human’ side of employment relationship which looks at the values, ambition and motivation of individuals. The quality of this contract can influence how employees act day to day and is based on employee’s trust and fairness. A violation of this contract by an employer can have an impactful consequence for an organisation as this can affect job satisfaction and commitment. (CIPD, 2018).


Breakdowns in the employment relationship are not always avoidable and there are external and internal factors which can have an impact on the relationship. The Government has an impact on the employment relationship, this is because it is an employer itself in the public sector which includes NHS Trusts and central and local governments. The role of the employer gives the government the opportunity to influence policy and practice through the terms of its employee relationships. The Government also has an impact as its role as a legislator, as in the UK it decides and implements employment laws that originate from UK Parliament and the EU. They can also have an impact through its agencies such as ACAS, this was evident in 2014 when the government introduced the requirement for all Employment Tribunal claims to be lodged with ACAS first this was seen as an attempt to resolve disputes informally and reduce the number of claims actually going through to tribunal (Taylor and Woodmans, 2016.p.107.) The Government’s refusal to back down on proposed contractual changes that they intended to impose on Junior Doctors fuelled the desire for strike action. They hoped to exploit widen divisions in the BMA to force the Junior Doctors to back down, to help force through and election mandate to introduce a seven day NHS.

Trade Unions can also impact the relationship as their role is to represent the interests of their members, and as Nowark (2015) citied in (Taylor and Woodmans, 2016,P.105) suggests that the trade union’s aim is ‘’to win fairness, justice equality for working people.’’ They are seen to be most impactful when it comes to terms and conditions of their members namely around pay, and in order to get the best possible outcome they rely heavily on the negotiation and consultation process.


The contract of employment describes the basis of the employment relationship (Daniels, 2016). There are two ways in which someone can work for an organisation, a contract of service (employee) and contract for service (worker or sub-contractor). The Employment Rights Act 1996, states that any employee who has worked for an employer for at least 4 weeks must receive a written contract no later than two months after starting employment. A contract of employment must include employment particulars and they must be in writing so that it meets the Employment Rights Act 1996, however an employer can add in additional particulars / clauses, such as, confidentially, probationary period, specific benefits aligned to that role.

Two commonly used contracts of employment are Fixed Term and Permanent. Fixed Term Contracts are known to be used in situations when an employer wants to employ someone for a specific time period. (Daniels, 2016, p.62). Fixed term contracts are flexible for both employees and employers with benefits to both. The employer can have those specialist skills and the employee is able to gain boarder experience in that role. A weakness this has to employers is that they are open to risk that employees leave the business for permanent work. Employees who are on a fixed term contract cannot be treat less favourably than permanent employees doing the same job, and they have the right to the same pay and terms and conditions. However if the role is specific and . A strength of a fixed term contract is that it ends on the agreeable date, and the employer does not need to give any notice. (Gov.uk, no date). A challenge to this would be that when an employee who has had 2 or more years service and under the Fixed-term Employees (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2002, they would need one of the five fair reasons for their dismissal, after four years service of an employee who is on the fixed term contract they are automatically classed as permanent employee. To summarise there are advantages and disadvantages to the Fixed Term Contract, and the need for the contract is dependent on the organisations needs at that specific time.

Permanent empoloyee’s are employed to work full time, part time or shift working.


CIPD (2018) cities that Employment law is taken from a number of sources including Acts of Parliament and decisions on points of law made in courts. In 1973 European Law became a further source when the UK joined European Economic Community, which evolved into the European Union (              EU). After 1997 when the Social Chapter started to apply the UK’s membership of the EU in employment regulation grew considerably. Employment Law Regulations are about protecting the works against exploitation, and to mainly ensure that they are paid a fair wage and to protection against discrimination. European Law is made up of three principle sources, EU Directives, Treaties and Regulations.



Daniels, 2016, states that Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 (TULRCA) defines a Trade Union as an organisation whose principal purposes include the regulation of relations between workers and employers or between workers and employer’s associations. Trade Union role is to look after the interests of its members. They are there to strengthen the employee’s voice and to equal the power therefore they recognise the advantages of working in partnership with employers. (NIBUSINESSINFO, No date). Trade Unions become recognised when the employer is required to negotiate with the trade unions on matters covered by collective bargaining, which include pay and other terms and conditions. Daniels 2016, p.185, states that the statutory recognition process is when a trade union makes a written request to the employers for recognition, this identify the trade union and the bargaining unit, this is the group of workers they are seeking to represent. If the organisation and the trade union can’t agree on the bargaining group, the Central Arbitration Committee (CAC) will make the decision, as they are the independent body that that the statutory powers with the main one being decisions relation to recognition or derecognition of trade unions. The Employment Relations Act 2004 determines that this process must be followed when then employer and trade union have been unable to agree on an appropriate bargaining unit. (Daniels, 2016, p.186)

The union involved in Junior Doctor Strike was the British Medical Association (BMA). They state that there policies are determined by doctors, in regional and national forums. These forums meet regularly to discuss issues that are affecting the profession.


CIPD defines the Employee Voice as a way in which employees can communicate their views to their employer. Since the decline of trade union memberships, there is now the assumption that the employee voice no longer needs the representation from trade unions, however if they do need representation it is believed that the trade union involvement will enhance the impact of the employee voice. (Taylor and Woodmans, 2016, p.114). Upward communication is seen as vital to an organisation as this needs the involvement of employees in the decision making. (Aylott, 2016, p.34). Taylor and Woodman (2016) tells us that management introduce practices with employees to gain their ideas and co-operation so that they are involved on the decision making, employee involvement practices be; suggestion schemes, management briefings and newsletters. Participation is described as employees participating in the organisation decision making through their representatives, examples can include; employee forums, joint consultation meetings and partnership working. CIPD describes the partnership approach as employer’s representatives and employers emphasing mutual gains, tackling issues with high co-operation, rather than through the traditional adversarial relationships, this shows a high commitment to information sharing. I feel that the Government’s approach towards the changing of the contracts could have been different had they involved and listened to the Junior Doctors. As the negotiations that had taken place with the employer and the trade union where being overshadowed by the Government and they were threating to impose the changes regardless of the negotiations. The Government seemed adamant on this change and were not thinking of the of the employee’s psychological contract and the impact on what this would have on them.


The Junior Doctors strike tells us how vital the employee voice is to an organisation. Before the introduction of the Information and Consultation of Employees Regulations (ICE) in 2005, the use of an employee voice was optional for employers. However this regulation now provides the employee with a legal right to be informed and consulted with regarding employment matters. (Taylor and Woodmans,2016, p.115). ACAS, (2015), is in a good position to identify the barriers in workplace productivity. A report from ACAS, shows that there needs to be a renewed focus in the workplace with leaders and employees all moving in the same direction for mutual benefit. As a result of this report, ACAS introduced the seven layers of workplace productivity, with one of those layers being a Strong Employee Voice.

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CIPD (2011) provides a number of examples of how having an employee voice can benefit an organisation, employees feel more valued and therefore will contribute more, the organisation gains a positive reputation which then makes it easy to recruit and retain good employees, employees skills and knowledge can be better used and this increases higher productivity, and most importantly it reduces conflict and co-operation between both the employer and employee is based on interdependence. They also highlight the benefits it brings to employees, feeling more valued which then motivates them, they feel that they have more influence over their work, there is more opportunity to develop their skills.

Employee Voice has the link with Employee Engagement, as Purcell (2010) cited in (Taylor and Woodmans, 2016, P.82) that there are different dimensions to engagement and these are described as building blocks of engagement, with 3 main blocks being linked to employee voice; employee trust in management, satisfaction with involvement in decision-making at the workplace and quality of relationships between management and employees. The MacLeod Report (2009) also cited in (Taylor and Woodmans, 2016,P.86), identifies four enablers of engagement and one of those enablers in Employee Voice, with the definition that when employee’s views are sought out, they are listened to and see that their opinions count and make a difference. These two reports show that by having the right employee engagement and a focus on employee voice, will create a productive culture.


CIPD (2017) cities that there are different mechanisms for employee voice, one those being Representative Participation. This refers to selected committees meeting with management on a regular basis, approaches of this can been; Trade Unions and Employee forums. The introduction of The Information and Consultation of Employee Regulations 2004 were introduced to give employees the right to request that their employer sets up or changes arrangements to inform and consult them about issues in the organisation. (ACAS, no date). When an organisation has a formal agreements the must inform employees of the business economic situation employers have a legal right to inform and consult with employees about employment prospects and the must inform and consult with the view of reaching an agreement on decisions that are likely to lead to workplace changes or contractual changes. There benefits to both union and non-union forums, for example if there was a conflict in the organisation in relation to Pay and Terms and conditions of employment I feel that the representation from a Trade Union would have a more impactful outcome to members as their role is to represent their members achieving the best possible outcome for them. If a conflict arose regarding the changes of offices I feel the representation from an employee forum would be of most beneficial as these would be employees of the organisation who understand the impact the conflict and they can communicate with employees and employers on the best possible outcome for the conflict.


Aylott, (2018), cites that conflict is occurs when different parties perceive a threat to their needs or interests and this results in a struggle to ensure that their needs / interests are met. Conflict can occur between individuals, an individual and the organisations or the group of employees and the organisation. Conflict can be linked to cooperation on the workplace and mutuality and fairness, employees and employers uniting in the organisation for job security. There is the expectation from employees that they are treat fairly in the workplace, and (Colquitt et el, 2001) citied in (Aylott, 2018, P.38), states if those expectations are not met employees will often respond by reducing their work performance and this can be related to cause conflict. As already citied in the essay there are the Unitarist, Pluralist views of conflict, (Mekenna, 2006) citied in (Aylott, 2018, P.39) states that another view is seen as , Interactionist, conflict is accepted and encourages innovation and helps the organisation to respond to the change quickly. ACAS (2009) categorize causes of conflicts as; conflicts over task, conflict of process and difficult relationships. Categozings these approaches enables the conflict to be dealt with more effectively and will help to support the resolution. Conflict is official, which is when it is recognised by a Trade Union and this is likely to be strike action. The conflict needs to follow the legal framework of the TULRCA (1992) When employees disagree with the employer this when the conflict is unofficial and not supported by the a Trade Union and is driven by individuals. Examples of misbehaviour can relate to sabotage, absenteeism, reduced effort and withdrawal of cooperation (Aylott, 2018, p.41).



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