Employee Relations – What Are They and How Do They Work?

Employee relations can best be described as the relationship between employers and employees, and encompasses both the individual and collective relationships. It is essential for employers to maintain a positive relationship with employees to ensure the workforce  stay engaged, motivated and loyal; which in turn contributes to the Company’s productivity.

Employee relations encompasses a range of topics, from traditional issues such as: employees working condition, their pay and benefits, to more culture lead issues such as: rewards and recognition and work-life balance.

With increased diversity in the workplace, the growth of the gig economy and mixture of group and individual policies, it’s vital for employers to be transparent in the employee relationship. In order to best manage employee relations in the workplace, it is important to have a clear and transparent policy which sets out the Company’s ethos, values, rules and also guidance on how employee relations issues should be handled.

The Law

Within the UK there are various legal provisions which apply to the employment relationship and also detail how problems should be addressed if they arise. Generally speaking, these can be divided into two separate categories;

  1. Individual – the specific relationship between an employer and the employee. At the heart of the relationship should be the contract of employment. Employee handbooks and policies should comply with the ACAS Code of Practice as a minimum. In addition, employees have statutory employment rights, for example, equal pay.
  2. Collective – can include collective consultation, bargaining, arbitration and industrial action. Some employers will work with recognised trade unions to negotiate, consult and inform collectively to a group of employees. Collective relationships can also be created for a set period as part of a wider business process, for example, redundancies.

Workplace conflict is part of organisational life, you can’t expect everyone within the Company to see eye to eye all of the time, however, conflict does need to be managed positively and proactively. Failure to address problems arising in the workplace can affect sickness absence, bullying and harassment claims and employee turnover, which in turn all effects productivity. As a result, managers should have the training and skills to be effective people managers.

The potential for conflict has been heightened with the COVID-19 pandemic and has presented a number of challenges for many employers. For example, employers have been under pressure to deliver new, stringent health and safety measurements to keep employees safe whilst at work; whilst also facing operational issues. In addition, there are many other variants within the workforce; people with caring responsibilities, some employees being furloughed whilst those who have remained working have had an increase in their workload, implementing working from home arrangements and even the impact of some Company’s having to make redundancies.

Change and uncertainty can cause people to feel anxious; to prevent conflict from arising it is important employers communicate with employees regularly and are transparent – demonstrating a fairness and consistency in the Company’s approach. In addition, managers should be supported and equipped to handle sensitive conversations with employees.

There are many benefits for employers who develop good employee relationships, including the ability for employers to better understand, engage, motivate and retain their employees.

If you would like further guidance or support on this matter or require advice on other people management matters please contact Clover HR on 0121 516 0299 or email us at info@cloverhr.co.uk

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