Information and resources on various aspects of employee relations. There are also audits that you can take to assess practices in your organisation. Explore the links below to learn more.
The importance of positive employee relationsOpen
Employee relations are concerned with the relationship between staff and their manager and organisation. They should aim to create a positive working environment and culture, and cover communications, employee participation in management decisions, consultation, conflict and grievance resolution, and relationships with trade unions. Employee relations can be seen primarily as a skill-set or a philosophy, rather than as a management function.
The achievement of business goals, making efficiency savings and providing high-quality services are increasingly dependent on delivery by frontline employees. The emphasis on employee engagement as a key part of the employment relationship is a key factor. 'Engagement' has been described as a combination of commitment and organisational citizenship. Good practice in employee participation in decision making can address the issues through promoting training, team working and developing supervisors trained in employee relations matters.
Policies on work–life balance are beneficial in underpinning positive workplace culture. There is a strong link between work–life balance, commitment and performance. To this end, employers should welcome, wherever possible, staff exercising their right to request flexible working.
Because relationships are built on two-way communication, it deserves high priority in any organisation. We suggest that both the opportunity to communicate directly and the two-way communication itself are useful.
Getting communication right involves professionalism and persistence on the part of all staff. The following communication skills should be modelled by managers:
- focusing on positive behaviours and outcomes
- taking a positive, problem-solving approach
- anticipating issues before they become problems
- mediating in situations of tension and conflicts
- proactively recommending solutions
- offering diplomatic advice to senior managers about what works in practice.
See the Key additional resources section for access to communication skills e-learning.
An effective organisation is transparent in its decision making and ensures that staff are informed of all key developments. Examples of tools to inform and involve staff are:
- providing summaries of strategic and business plans to inform staff of overarching aims of the organisation
- staff briefings on major developments
- regular team meetings
- staff e-forums (blogs) and e-newsletters
- forums for direct communication with senior management, for example using video/multimedia tools
- opportunities to join networks for staff in under-represented groups
- regular meetings with staff representatives/trade union stewards.
Managing workplace conflictOpen
The ability to manage and resolve conflict remains a key issue in staff management. Mediation as a technique for resolving workplace issues represents an important shift from the traditional industrial relations framework, with its emphasis on formal discipline and grievance procedures. Mediation promotes a positive 'win-win' approach consistent with the current philosophy of HR management.
Although the operation of organised industrial relations has decreased, managers should not be complacent about the need to be sensitive to the experiences of their workforce, especially in times of radical change. Social workers are experiencing the impact of severe budget cuts as well as challenges to their professional role.Domiciliary care workers and care and support workers will need to be engaged in the change process and to be informed of the rapidly changing shape of the health and social care sector. All of these examples illustrate the need for managers to anticipate and be sensitive to the impact of current demands on social care staff. Forums need to be made available to staff to constructively discuss the impact of policy changes and budget cuts in a contained and supported way.
Mediation and conflict resolutionOpen
The Department for Trade and Industry introduced the Employment Act 2002 (Dispute Resolution) Regulations in 2004 to encourage employers and staff to resolve disputes in the workplace. The regulations require an employer to use a minimum three-step grievance procedure consisting of an initial letter, a face-to-face meeting and a further meeting to consider an appeal if necessary.
Trade unions work as 'social partners' in ensuring the active involvement of staff in developing a positive work environment and culture. As well as ensuring that workers' rights are protected, unions enable staff to have a voice in decision making at all levels of the organisation.
In workplaces where a trade union is not recognised, other arrangements need to be in place to ensure that staff are actively consulted and informed. The Information and Consultation of Employees Regulations 2004 require all employers with 50 or more employees to have a formal consultation process in place and define the specific issues/subjects on which consultation must take place. Staff consultation arrangements also sit alongside trade union recognition agreements to ensure the representation of non-union members.
See the Key additional resources section for information on mediation and conflict resolution.
Dealing with bullying and harassmentOpen
Bullying and harassment of any kind should not be tolerated in the workplace. Although the values of social inclusion and anti-discrimination practice are inherent in the social care sector, it should not be assumed that bullying does not occur. Every organisation, no matter how small, should have policies that address bullying and harassment in the workplace and which protect staff from violence or intimidation. Systems need to be in place to challenge bad practice and the abuse of people who use services and the systems for reporting this need to be accessible to all staff and people who use services.
In order to guard against harassment, it is also important to have a policy to positively promote diversity in the workforce. This will assist both the recruitment and retention of staff who may have experienced discrimination. It is a requirement for employers to consult the Equality Act 2010 for this purpose.
Employment practices must also be carer/family-friendly and conform to legislative requirements. This includes recognising the needs of people in the workforce who are carers for disabled adults, as well as carers for children.
The Dignity at Work Partnership is a project established with funding jointly from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and Amicus to tackle the problem of bullying and harassment in the workplace. The aim of the project is for employers and employee representatives to work together to find ways of addressing issues connected with bullying.
Key additional resourcesOpen
- ACAS (2010) A guide for employers and managers: Bullying and harassment at work, London: ACAS.
- Communication skills (SCIE e-learning)
- ACAS, Disputes and mediation, London: ACAS.
- ACAS, Managing conflict at work, London: ACAS.
- ACAS, Bullying and harassment, London: ACAS.
- ACAS (2009) Employee communications and consultation, London: ACAS.
- ACAS (2005) Sexual orientation & the workplace: A guide for employers and employees, London: ACAS.
- CIPD (2010)Employee relations: An overview, London: CIPD.
- CIPD (2004) Managing conflict at work, London: CIPD.
- Dignity at Work Partnership (website).
- TUC (2010) Labour market, London: TUC.
- Equality and Human Rights Commission (2009) Equality impact guidance, London: EHRC.
- Government Equalities Office (2010) Equality Act 2010, London: Government Equalities Office.
- Stonewall (2007) Working with lesbian, gay or bisexual people: A ten point action plan, London: Stonewall.
- Black workers (TUC online publications).