Table of Contents
“Employment relations” is an inclusive term used to describe the relationship between employees and managements, as well as managements and trade unions. According to Curran and Quinn (2012, pp.464), employment relations are mainly designed to protect interests of the workers and managements through mutual relationship and understanding, as well as improve the quality of work. This is a crucial aspect since it prevents industrial disputes on top of developing a healthy working environment.
Employment relationship encompasses interaction between any of the four key players; employees/unions, state, and management/employers (Curran and Quinn, 2012, pp.464). The three actors have varying roles that impact employment relations in different ways. This report explores the three main actors of employment relationship and the roles they play, though state and trade unions are given more emphasize since they is more powerful. The report also discusses the concept of living wage, the Equality Act 2010 as a measure put forth by the state (United Kingdom) to protect workers, and finally a case study report on employment relationship in small firms in the UK.
Ackers and Wilkinson (2014, p.18) suggest that states always have indirect effect on labour relations and they exert an inevitable influence on the establishment and development of employment relations system. They are in charge of enacting legislations, which can either foster or hinder establishment of organizations representing employers and employees either in a direct or an indirect way.
The enacted legislations also set the minimum level of employees’ protection on top of laying down the rules of the “game” (Ackers and Wilkinson, 2014, p.19). For example, the state can provide greater or less protection to workers who refuse to carry out tasks assigned to them which they consider to be reasonably too dangerous for them, or those who may act as safety and health representatives.
States also influence how employment relations systems may function through development of their labor administration. According to Kim et al (2012, pp.125), collective bargaining can pick up where the law leaves off if effective enforcement of the law is made through labor inspectorate. In case states infrastructures meant for helping to solve disputes that may emerge between workers and employers, or for having rights vindicated are weak, then workers and employers are forced to devise their own alternative arrangements of institutions (Godard, 2014, pp.16).
Godard (2014, pp.16) further suggests that the extent to which states build up well functioning courts or other dispute resolution systems considerably influences the course of employment relations. According to Frege, and Kelly (2013, p.36), the ease with which employers, employees, and their respective organizations enforce their legal rights is crucial just like the rights themselves. As a result, decision by state governments to form special administrative bodies or tribunals to handle individual employment issues as well as labor disputes at large is deemed to be an expression of the essence given such issues in a given society.
In most countries, states play direct roles in employment relations, especially in countries that have no respect for freedom of association principles. In such countries, states may interfere with workers’ and employers’ organizations or have outright control of their activities. States may invalidate collective bargaining agreements that they perceive to be interfering with their economic policy goals (Frege, and Kelly, 2013, p.38).
Nonetheless, in most of the industrialized countries, states promote orderly employment and industrial relations by forming the appropriate legislative frameworks, which encompasses minimum level of employees’ protection, as well as offering workers, employers and their organizations advice, information and dispute resolution services. This is achieved through formation of labour relations institutions (Frege, and Kelly, 2013, p.38).
In a few countries such as Belgium and Ireland, states are more active participants in employment and industrial relations. In these two countries for instance, representatives from the state government have been hammering out national level agreements and solve other labor and social issues in collaboration with representatives from trade union and employer circles. In other countries such as Mexica and Argentina, tripartite machinery has also been a common feature of employment relations and it is used in fixing minimum wages.
According to Kersley et al (2013, p.41), active participation of the state is aimed at moving the national economy towards certain direction as well as maintain social peace commonly referred to as “social dialogue” and it has been achieved in countries such as Belgium, Austria, Australia, Belgium, Netherlands and Ireland just to mention a few. Nevertheless, active involvement of the state is highly discouraged by experts and by the International Labour Organization (ILO) (Brown, 2014, pp.268).
In other countries such as the United States and Germany, states participate in employment relations as negotiators and their primary role are to enact legislations that that outline frameworks for helping parties reach an agreement such as offering them free mediation services. Nevertheless, whether passive or active, Brown(2014, pp.269)suggests that states are constant partners in any employment relations system. Moreover, in case the state itself or a parastatal (publicly owned enterprise) is the employer, the state is directly involved in employment relations.
Finally, it is essential to note that the effect of regional integrations on state policy is felt in the employment relations field. For instance, with the European Union, the practice in member states has considerably changed to reflecting on directive dealings with consultation of employees and their representatives inclusive of health and safety issues. Multilateral trade arrangements such as the North American Free Trade Agreement and the Mercosur Common Market among others contain workers’ rights mechanisms or provisions that may have a direct impact on employment relations after some time to the member states (Brown, 2014, pp.271).
Trade unions are another vital player of employment relations. Wanrooy et al(2013, pp.345)define trade unions as continuous associations of wage earners meant for improving or maintaining conditions of their employment. Trade unions have a long history since the first unions were formed during the industrial revolution even though they became popular in the late 19th century. The unions reflect the persuasion that workers can only improve their situation by branding together. They play a significant role in national and international politics on top of influencing developments across the globe with respect to the world of work(Wanrooy et al., 2013, pp.345).
According to Kersley et al (2013, p.105), trade unions are structured based on various lines such as occupation or craft (whether they group blue-collar or white-collar workers) and by the enterprise. However, there are also general trade unions which are made of workers from a wide range of occupations and enterprises. In most countries, the legal status of trade unions is subject to special rules and they are required to be registered and to have provided crucial information to the authorities.
The primary role of trade unions is collective bargaining in protecting interests of their members against exploitation by the employers. Other than this function, unions also engage in other activities such as political work whereby in some countries trade unions take the form of direct representation by being given reserved seats in legislatures. An example of a country whereby trade unions are given direct political representation in parliament is Senegal. In countries such as France, Austria, and Netherlands, trade unions are also given reserved seats on tripartite bodies that are in charge of determining social and national economic policies. Trade union federations have also had a crucial impact on the development of social policies in other regions such as in the Euro zone (Kersley et al., 2013, p.107).
Trade unions influence social and economic policies by exercising their power which is backed up by threatening to take industrial actions, as well as by lobbying politicians and policy makers. As a result, trade unions have been successful in the fight for greater legislative protection of the workers across the globe. According to Hoque (2014, p.78), trade unions’ political activities are either on the defense or offense depending on whether the government in power is anti-labor or pro-labor. It is also considerably influenced by the relationships between the union leaders and the government or politicians.
The third key role of trade unions is the aspect of providing services to union members. According to Hoque (2014, p.79), unions ensure that workers’ rights are respected and in case they are not, the relevant unions take appropriate actions. Outside the workplace, trade unions provide their members with other numerous benefits such as participation in welfare schemes as well as preferential access to credit just to mention a few.
Union halls can also serve as centers for cultural events and family ceremonies. Other functions of trade unions include maintaining discipline among the members, facilitating communication with the managements, as well as promoting cordial and amicable relations between managements and the workers. Therefore, trade unions can offer their members a wide range of services and they depend on the resources of the respective union, its creativity, as well as the cultural milieu in which the union operates (Van Wanrooy et al., 2013, pp.191).
Employers who are the providers of work to the employees are often differentiated in employment relations system based on whether they are in the public or private sector. Though collective bargaining and trade unionism initially used to exist in the private sector alone, the phenomena have in the recent years been introduced in the public sector as well. According toArnold (2014, p.56), state owned enterprises are highly dwindling in number across the globe though they are still common in the African countries, in China, Vietnam, and India.
According to Edwards (2011, p.62), employers have common interests in defending and précising causes to advance. They pursue a wide range of aims which in turn define the character of the organizations they form such as economic federations, chamber of commerce, as well as employers’ organizations meant for spearheading for social and labor issues. International Employers’ Organizations and the International Chamber of Commerce are the only two organizations that have been set up by the employers’ community. The primary role of the organizations is to represent interests of enterprises across the globe.
The organizations also defend and advise affiliated employers as well as strengthen their position in the society with respect to labor issues. Unlike trade unions which comprises of individual persons, employer’s organizations are made up of enterprises. Other than defending and promoting their members’ interests, employers’ organizations represent employers in the political structure and provide members with numerous services.
Being involved in political structures help employers’ organizations in lobbying governments to implement policies that are friendly to the interests of the employers, primarily through media campaign. Sharing of crucial data such as safety and health information, training members about management issues, as well as offering assistance to the members in labor court cases are among the numerous services that employers’ organizations provide to their members (Edwards, 2011, p.63).
Living wage refers to the wage that is set based on the amount a person requires to earn so as to cover the basic costs of living. According to Werner and Lim (2015, pp.3), the idea behind the concept of living wage is that individuals who work in a given community are able to live decently. Living wage standards vary by region though they are often higher than the minimum wage set by the national government.
Unlike the minimum wage, living wage establishes more reasonable minimum wage at a local level(Werner and Lim, 2015, pp.3). Moreover, it is essential to note that the living wage is just an informal benchmark that is not legally enforceable unlike the national minimum wage that is enforced by the state government. The living wage is set by the Greater London Authority (GLA) and the Centre for Research in Social Policy at Loughborough University, while the national minimum wage is set by the Low Pay Commission and enforced by the HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC)(Coulson and Bonner, 2015, pp.32).
In the UK, living wage is promoted by the Living Wage Foundation (LWF), and it is calculated using different rates with London having highest rate. In the recent past, living wage has received widespread political support including support by the Prime Minister David Cameron and support by the Labour leader, Ed Miliband, even though employers have given it limited endorsement(Coulson and Bonner, 2015, pp.35).
Currently, the Greater London Authority (GLA) is among the few organizations that pay their employees the minimum wage. By November 2014, the living wage in London was set at £9.15 an hour and £7.85 an hour for the rest of the country. These figures are slightly higher than the set national minimum wage was set at £6.50 an hour for persons aged 21 and above and £5.13 for those aged between 18 and 20 years(Coulson and Bonner, 2015, pp.35; bbc.com, 2014, para1-6).
The campaign for the living wage has been intense in the UK for a long time. Data retrieved from the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings and compiled by the Office for National Statistics shows that the weekly gross earnings for full-time workers are £517 whereby full-time earnings for men are £556 per week compared to £459 for women. The median annual earnings are reported to be £27,000. Nevertheless, Coulson and Bonner (2015, pp.36) report that there are considerable variations across the country whereby the highest median gross weekly earnings are reported in London (at £658), while the lowest earnings are reported to be in Northern Ireland (at £460) (bbc.com, 2014, para1-6).
According to Lopes and Hall (2015, pp.5), by January 2015, approximately 1,000 employers had been accredited by LWF, committing them to offer subcontracted staff and their employees the living wage. Most of the Financial Times Stock Exchange 100 (FTSE 100) companies such as Barclays, SSE, Pearson, and Aviva among others are among the accredited companies. Some big local authorities such as Cardiff, Newcastle, and Birmingham also pay their employees the living wage(Coulson and Bonner, 2015, pp.37).
Nevertheless, most of the employers in the country pay between the living wage and the minimum wage. Employers who oppose the this idea claim that paying employees living wage is likely to result in massive job loss, particularly a time like now when the country is still recovering from the 2008/2009 economic crisis(Coulson and Bonner, 2015, pp.37).
According to the Livingwage.org (2015, para2), implementing a living wage policy has a wide range of benefits to business organizations, families, society and the country at large. According to a study carried out in London in attempt to establish the business benefits of implementing living wage policy reported that at least 80% of the employers noted an improvement in the quality of the work of their employees after implementing a living wage policy. Similarly, they reported that with the implementation of living wage policy, absenteeism reduced by more than 25%.
In addition, approximately 66% of the employers reported a crucial impact on employees’ recruitment and retention within their organizations. 70% of the employers also reported that living wage increased consumer awareness of their organization’s commitment to be socially responsible or be an ethical employer. According to Livingwage.org (2015, para3), the turnover of contractors in PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) was also reported to drop from 4% to 1% following the adoption of a living wage policy in the company.
Related findings were made in a study conducted by the Queen Mary University of London whereby about 54% of the persons earning the living wage reported to feel more positive about their places of work following the introduction of living wage. 52% of the respondents also reported that the introduction of living wage made them feel more positive about their employers(Coulson and Bonner, 2015, pp.39).
Implementing a living wage policy also affords employees the opportunity to decently provide for themselves and their families. According to the Livingwage.org (2015, para3-4), 75% of the interviewed employees reported significant increases in work quality after receiving living wage, while 50% of the employees reported that living wage made them more willing to implement changes in their working practices, and made them more likely to embrace changes in a quick manner.
Living wage also enables employees to have some time with their families. Lack of time by the employees to be with their families is the core reason why the living wage campaign was launched by parents in East London in 2001Livingwage.org (2015, para4). Employees claimed that they were forced to work in two minimum jobs for them to meet their living cost, thus left with no time to be with their families. As a result, implementing living wage policies in the country would play an instrumental role in improving lives of many people and the society at large.
With the higher staff morale, increased productivity, lower staff turnover, improved living standards of the lowest paid employees, Coulson and Bonner(2015, pp.37)suggest that a collection of all these benefits would significantly drive the country’s economy forward. Coulson and Bonner (2015, pp.37)further highlight that living wage is a crucial tool of promoting employment relationship or relations between employers, employees, the state, and trade unions.
A number of measures can be adopted in attempt to promote implementation of living wage policies in organizations across the country. The main approaches include lobbying government and private business organizations to adopt the set living wage; and by launching a national wide campaign to sensitize employers on the essence of adopting living wage policies in their respective organizations(Anker, 2011, p.23).
4.0 The Equality Act 2010: Transgender Case, With Appropriate Reading and Reference to Legal Principles
The Equality Act is a legislation that took effect on October 1, 2010 and it provides a framework for protecting rights of individuals as well as advancing equality of opportunities for all. The Act streamlines and combines previously enacted discrimination legislations. Some of the legislations that were brought together into one act include the Equal Pay Act 1970; the Sex Discrimination Act 1975; the Race Relations Act 1976; the Disability Discrimination Act 1995; the Equality Act 2006, part 2; the Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003; the Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003; the Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006; and the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007)(Clucas, 2012, pp.946).
The legislation prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on gender reassignment basis. The act highlights four types of discriminations which include direct discrimination; indirect discrimination; harassment; and victimisation. Direct discrimination is described as treating some employees favorably compared to the rest of the employees based on their actual or perceived gender reassignment, or because they associate with persons who have undergone, intends to undergo is undergoing gender reassignment. This involves discriminations such as an employer declining to employ a transgender because he or she thinks that the transgender employee may make the rest of the team uncomfortable.
Indirect discrimination involves introduction of policies procedures or practices that apply to all workers, but specifically disadvantages persons who have undergone, are planning to undergo, or undergoing gender reassignment(Bryson and ESPE, 2014, pp.184). An example of such an indirect discrimination is introduction of a policy that requires all applicants and employees to disclose their gender reassignment.
Harassment on the other hand encompasses unwanted conduct relating to gender reassignment aimed at violating a worker’s dignity or creating an unfriendly, humiliating, intimidating or degrading environment to the worker. The provision allows workers to complain of behaviors that they may find offensive irrespective of whether they are directed to them or not. It is essential for employers to note that they are potentially liable for harassment subjected to transgender persons by third parties such as persons working in and outside their organizations, as well as clients and customers. Workers are also protected from harassment due to association and perception. However, there must be evidence to show that the harassment occurred within the knowledge of the employer(Clucas, 2012, pp.947).
Victimization involves unfair treatment of employees who support a complaint about gender reassignment discrimination. It is essential to note that the act defines gender reassignment as a personal, social and/or a medical process by which individual’s gender presentation is changed and individuals who decide to live as opposite sex without undergoing any medical process are covered by the act (Bryson and ESPE, 2014, pp.189).
The legislation also prohibits discriminating transgender individuals for being absent from work due to proposition of undergoing or are having gender reassignment than they would have been treated if they would have been absent because of other reasons such as illnesses. As a result, Veale(2012, pp.73)suggests that employers should enact policies in their organizations which are specifically designed to prevent discrimination during recruitment and selection; in determining pay; training and development; selection for promotion; discipline and grievances; countering bullying and harassment; and in taking time off work.
Employers can support transgender at the place of work through good communication, supporting individuals undergoing gender reassignment, and through confidentiality. This encompasses communicating to the staff, customers, and clients, through the company’s quality/Diversity programme and policy, that harassment, discrimination, and victimization based on gender reassignment is unacceptable(Veale, 2012, pp.74). Employers should also discuss with transgender persons on how they would like other members of the workforce to know information about their transition. With respect to confidentiality, all personal records of the individual who has reassigned his or her gender should be changed to reflect his or her new names and gender.
Employees who are discriminated based on gender reassignment are required to forward the claim to the Employment Tribunals, even though they are advised to communicate with their employers first so as to minimize the negative effects on all the involved parties. Section 7 of the Equality Act 2010 specifically protects transsexual while Section 12 (sexual orientation) protects rights of gay, lesbian, heterosexual and bisexual people though no change was made to the substantive law(Clucas, 2012, pp.949).
Section 114(7) of the act has a provision which improve the handling of discrimination cases by Sheriff Courts and County Courts. With the introduction of the Equality Act 2010,jurisdiction for majority of categories of non-employment cases started being vested in Sheriff Courts in Scotland and County Courts in Wales and England. As a result, Section 114 (17) declares that specialist assessors should be appointed to investigate sex and race discrimination cases in the three states because the law does not apply in North Ireland(Masupe and Parker, 2013, pp.225).
Nevertheless, numerous questions have been raised over when a judge is supposed to sit with assessors in sex discrimination claims as well as the specific roles assessors when appointed in a discrimination case(Lane and Parkes, 2014, pp.95; Veale, 2012, pp.75).
Still in attempts to eradicate discrimination based on sexual orientation, race, and gender among other grounds used by employers to discriminate workers, the act extended powers of the employment tribunal. Unlike in the previous act whereby an employment tribunal would require the employer to reduce or eliminate effect on claimant of discrimination, the current act allows a tribunal to recommend an organization to take appropriate steps so as to reduce the effect of discrimination on other employees, and not just the claimant(Manthorpe and Moriarty, 2014, pp.45).
It is however crucial to note that the act provides for some exemptions to the general prohibition of gender reassignment discrimination. In a few situations, transgender people can be excluded from single sex facilities as stipulated in the Equality Act 2010 Statutory Code of Practice (Services, public functions and associations). The code states that service providers provide separate or single sex services for men and women should treat transsexual individuals depending on the gender role at which they present. According to Lane and Parkes(2014, pp.96), persons who have undergone gender reassignment may be barred from gender specific services provided it is a “proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim”.
- Exercise Four: Case Study Exercise- Employment Relations in Small Firms report
The conventional wisdom usually claim that employment relations in small and micro enterprises (small firms) are better because they are based on flexibility of work rules, ease communication, as well as identification of workers with organization’s objectives. However, this is not always the case even though it can be argued that small firms imply certain sets of features that make employment relations in them different from employment relationships in large organizations. This section provides a case study analysis of the employment relations in the micro and small enterprises in the United Kingdom. The analysis carried out is based on the findings made in various pieces of national and literature reports relating to the topic in question.
It is essential to note that the data available specifically on collective bargaining in small firms in the UK is very scarce, which can support the claim that collective bargaining in small firms in the UK is the exemption. Just like most other European Union countries, UK has highly decentralized collective bargaining systems. This explains why it is employment and working conditions are rarely regulated in small firms in the country(Anyadike-Danes, Hart, and Du, 2015, pp.27).
Based on Anyadike-Danes, Hart, and Du (2015), survey, it was reported little collective bargaining takes place in small firms in the country. The researcher reported that only about 1% of the small firms in the country have managerial employees covered by collective bargaining at any given level. Therefore, it is fair to make a general conclusion that collective bargaining taking place in small enterprises in the UK is practically non-existent. Related findings have been made by other studies such as the Du and Temouri (2015, pp.143)who found out that there is no particular mechanisms that function to promote collective bargaining.
The Employment Relations Act (1999) fails to offer statutory mechanisms to workers to demand recognition of trade unions for bargaining purposes whereby a minimum of 50% of the labour force are in membership. In addition, if more than 10% of the members are in membership, it would be easy for the union to pursue recognition(Anyadike-Danes, Hart, and Du, 2015, pp.28).
In a meta-analysis study carried out by Baumann-Pauly et al(2013)about employment relationships in the European Union, the researcher reported that collective bargaining is exceptional in small firms because rules are rarely applied. The researcher also highlighted that agreements in small firms are of low quality and their contents often relate to working time and conditions more than they discuss employees’ wages. It is also evident that employers in small firms are afraid of collective bargaining, or negotiating with trade unions(Baumann-Pauly et al., 2013, pp.701).
With respect to employment and working conditions, there exist some overlaps because small firms often rely on the typical forms of labour ranging from family members to casual workers. According to Du and Temouri(2015, pp.145), in small firms, there is an indulgence of members of the family regarding their contribution to production. The enterprises also have informal hierarchies which are often based around gender and characteristics of the family.
In general, the dynamic of the labour process combined with other aspects such as vagaries of a volatile market lead to specific forms of social negotiations in relation to working patterns. Therefore, identifying the prevalence of small family firms within UK economy would be a challenging task. Related findings were made by Moore and Spence (2006, pp.223)who suggested that family support in form of informal and flexible labour is critical for small family enterprises.
According to Blackburn and Kovalainen (2009, pp.138), small firms, not only in the UK but across the globe, look for greater flexibility from labour even though this is not likely to involve formal multi-skilling, but the notion that workers will help out when needed. In a systematic literature review carried out by Gunnigle (2013) it was found that there was substantial evidence of labour negotiating working hours as well as having task discretion. However, the discretion lay within the prerogative of the firm owners so that workers’ ability to negotiate highly depends on a number of factors such as skills possessed by the individuals, as well as their relationship with the owners(Gunnigle, 2013, p.69).
The available evidence on the employment and working conditions can be summarized in numerous topics such as wages, fringe benefits, labour turnover, health and safety training, as well as working time. Wages and salaries are reported to increase with company size, a wage differential that does not result from varying levels of minimum wages in collective agreements, but due to poor control and application of the agreements within small firms. In addition, owners of the small firms in the country with a small number of employees are exempted from tariff binding agreements, an aspect that enables them to pay low wages than those specified in wage settlements(Moore and Spence, 2006, pp.223).
Fringe benefits as well as voluntary corporate pensions are low and not common in the UK small firms. Evidence on the issue of working time and flexibility shows that actual holiday consumption of small firms in the UK is below collective agreement standards and part-time jobs are dominant among the small enterprises. Moreover, deviation from the normal 5-day working week is common in the country, particularly in the hospitality, food and engineering sectors(Anyadike-Danes, Hart, and Du, 2015, pp.35).
UK evidence on the issue of labour turnover shows that unemployment in the small firms is higher than in large enterprises. Moreover, a significant number of the small firms employees sign temporary contracts compared to those in large firms. With respect to health and safety issues, Anyadike-Danes, Hart, and Du(2015, pp.38)report that the probability of a worker suffering an accident in small firms is approximately two times higher than in large firms. This is attributed to numerous factors such as the lack of formal internal institutions to oversee safety and health regulations, longer working hours, faster working patterns, as well as higher presence of temporary employees who lack adequate training.
Training of the workers in the small firms has also been reported to be low in spite of the existence of numerous national sources dealing with training issues. From the systematic analysis of the literature available about working and employment conditions, a general conclusion can be made that the conditions improve as firms grow in size.
There is very scarce data available about the issue of conflict in small firms in the country. However, the available data as well as experts’ opinions confirm that incidences of organized collective actions such as strikes in small firms is very low in the UK, which make most of the experts conclude that employment relations in this sector are not problematic(Anyadike-Danes, Hart, and Du, 2015, pp.38).
The uncertainty associated with the current situation of labour market, especially for the small firms in the country, lead to individualistic and defensive behaviors by the workers thereby minimizing chances of taking collective actions. Moreover, the close and regular interaction between employers and the employees impedes employees from articulating problems in the respective firms they are working in.
Nevertheless, virtually all small firms in the country do not have formal frameworks for addressing disputes and conflicts. For the few firms that have the policies, Gunnigle (2013, p.73)reports that employers rarely use them since they perceive them as a failure of personalized management styles to amicably solve problems in a less formal manner. In case disputes arise in the firms and persist to levels that the employer and the employees cannot solve, the involved employees end up leaving the firm. This explains why the rate of employees’ dismissal is higher in small enterprises than in large companies.
Some of the factors that influence the way disputes are resolved in UK small firms include the type and quality of relationship between the involved workers and their employer; the leadership style adopted by the employer and the general firm’s management; the bargaining power of the workers with respect to aspects such as the employee’s professional contract, and skills; as well as the market situation of the individual firm. In general, categorizing conflicts in small enterprises is difficult because they are featured by “informality”, “individuality”, and “negotiated solutions”. Nevertheless, disputes are rare in small firms than in the large UK firms(Mayson and Barrett, 2006, pp.448; Perry, 2012, p.87).
There exist substantial differences between employment relation practices in various sectors in the UK. For example, there is major difference in employment relation practices in the manufacturing and the service sector. The service sector in the UK encompasses direct contact between the employees and the customers with the consumption and production occurring concurrently. This makes it difficult for employers to manage employees’ performance and the quality of the output.
Unlike the service sector, employees are not in direct contact with the customers and employers are able to control employees’ performances, as well as the quality of output. This situation impacts employer-employee relations in a positive way because employers focus on having good relations with their employees so as to improve their productivity and the quality of their outputs. An in-depth analysis of the employment relations in the service sector shows that retail and personal services highly depend on feminized and flexible labour which results in specific form of labour management. This situation is not common in the professional services(Mayson and Barrett, 2006, pp.448).
With respect to firm size, UK literature shows that fast growing small businesses tend to offer slightly higher fringe benefits to their management personnel irrespective of their sizes. This is perceived as a strategy of attracting higher caliber management personnel, as well as attracting the best talents in the firm so as to support their rapid growth paths(Mayson and Barrett, 2006, pp.449; Perry, 2012, p.93).
From the analysis carried out in this section, it is clear that just like in many other parts of the world, small firm employers in the UK tend to neglect employee relations. This can be attributed to the fact that most of the small firm entrepreneurs emphasize much on their business growth. In addition, one can mistakenly conclude that small and micro enterprises have harmonious employee relations, though this is not the case since disputes exist but employees are not willing to make collective actions because of job insecurity and the close relations they have with their employers among other factors.
A close examination of the labour turnover, the number of unfair dismissals, health and safety records, as well as payment and remuneration confirm that employee relation practices in small firms in the UK and across the globe at large is worse than in most of the large business organizations(Edwards, 2009, p.35). Moreover, most of the small firms in the country lack dispute and conflict resolution frameworks and the few that have them rarely apply them. Nevertheless, it is essential to note employee relations in the UK small and micro enterprises may vary depending on the growth rate or size of the firm, among other factors such as the nature of business a given firm engages in.
With the findings made in this report, there is a need for small firms in the country to adopt proactive approaches that are not defensive or reactive in dealing with unions. Unions can significantly help business organizations in achieving their objectives in aspects such as acquiring new business. They should stop perceiving trade unions as threats, but instead focus on the various benefits they present to both the workers and the employers(Edwards, 2009, p.38).
In addition, small and micro enterprises not only in the UK but across the globe should also adopt appropriate employee relations strategies which encompass offering better pay, promoting working and employment conditions, as well as introducing policies through which disputes and employees concerns can be amicably handled(Edwards, 2009, p.39). By so doing, small firms are likely to attract a pool of talented workforce and high caliber management personnel, as well as improve the welfare of the employees.
The main learning points derived from this assignment include the importance and the roles played by the three key actors of employment relations. It is clear that state, one of the main players of employee relations, directly or indirectly in influencing relationships between employees and employers. However, indirect involvement of the state appears to be a more prudent approach since it is not likely to scare away investors. States can be involved by providing policy frameworks which guides employers and employees in solving disputes that may arise among them. They can form employment tribunals that are independent and that would offer other forms of services to employers and employees such as advice, not just helping in solving disputes.
In addition, other than unions offering collective bargaining to the employees, they should also offer other services to the employees and to the employers which would improve the wellbeing of the workers and the employers. By so doing, employers would stop perceiving them as threats and instead collaborate with them in improving the general relations between them and the employees. Finally, employers should focus on the positive part of having trade unions because if properly managed, unions can present numerous benefits to both employers and the employees. In general, collaboration between all the four actors; the state, management; unions and employees are essential for effective employee relation to be achieved.
Another key point learned from this analysis is the critical role the UK government plays in promoting good employee-employer relations. Since 1975, numerous legislations have been introduced in attempt to protect employees who are in most cases vulnerable to exploitation and discrimination from the employers. The Equality Act introduced numerous provisions that not only protect the ordinary employees, but also the minority groups such as pregnant women, disabled persona, as well as lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and transgender (LGBT) who have been neglected for a long time.
With the 2010 legislation, persons who are planning to undergo, those who have undergone, and those undergoing gender reassignment have been protected from all the four forms of discrimination (direct and indirect discrimination, harassment and victimization) that they were likely to face at their places of work. In addition, the legislation empowered the Employment Tribunal to be enforcing implementation of recommendations made by the tribunal not just to protect the victimized transgender person, but to protect other employees in the organization and those likely to be employed in the future from any form of harassment because of their sexual orientation.
Under the new law, employers are also potentially liable for discrimination, harassment and victimization that employees may face in an organization. Therefore, it is evident that the UK government has made key milestones in promoting good employee-employer relations. Nevertheless, the concept of good employment relations has not fully been embraced in the small and micro enterprises in the country. The relations are poor among small UK firms than in the large business organizations as discussed in the case study report above.
Carrying out this analysis has significantly helped me in developing analytical thinking skills, presentation as well as writing skills. I have also learnt how to criticize theories and findings made by other researchers, as well as developed skills on how to apply findings and theories developed into real life situations. Based on this research, my core strengths include research techniques, analytical thinking, as well as presentation, with my main weaknesses being eliminating irrelevant materials or contents in a swift manner. Conducting the study, analyzing the findings and wiring the final copy turned out to be an exhaustive exercise that was also time consuming. Therefore, I need to improve my content evaluation and writing speed so to tackle future assignments in an effective manner.
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