Employee Relations Guide

21 October 2020

It is important to maintain strong employee relations. As a business owner, you must first view employees as stakeholders and contributors to the company rather than as a resource.

This perspective encourages you to seek employee feedback and value their input more. Consider the employee experience when making decisions that affect the entire company.

With an understanding of why it is so important, you can consider ways to improve employee relations. You can improve employee relations with some day to day human resource management techniques.

What is employee relations?

This is a term used to describe the relationship between an employer and their employees.

Employee relations refers to individual and collective workplace relationships. It focuses on managers establishing trust-based relationships with their employers.

In short, it refers to employer and employee relationship management.

Employee relations impact upon all aspects of employment.

Effective management of management and staff relationships helps avoid workplace conflicts arising. It also prevents them from escalating to cases that require the involvement of external bodies.

Employee relations rising proves that trade union influence is decreasing workplace dispute resolutions. Levels of industrial action have continued to decline across the private sector.

What is the role of HR in employee relations?

Workplace conflict occurs in any industry.

The relationship between management and staff can become strained, no matter the sector. Therefore, it is important to be able to manage conflicts.

The role of an HR department in employee relations provides methods of managing conflicts.

HR should have the confidence to build a positive working climate. This managed climate will contribute to the overall performance of the business.

Why is employee relations important?

You should never underestimate how damaging workplace conflicts can be. Conflict affects employee morale and potentially leads to costly claims against a company.

An example of this includes changes to an employee's pay. If it is not managed by their line manager, a company could face a costly constructive dismissal claim.

Specialised training can help an HR department avoid conflicts. Working with an employee relations specialist also helps prevent conflicts escalating.

This strong employee relationship management will help to encourage continued trust. A strong employee relationship helps to make employees feel valued.

Examples of employee relations issues

There can be many common employee relations issues in the workplace. Factors that effect employee relations include employees taking issue with certain decisions.

These can intend to drive the company forward, or dispute potential changes to their working arrangements. The intent may not matter, as it can still cause effects on employee relations.

Some staff may have an ongoing issue with management, whilst others may have come across an issue that it is becoming difficult to resolve.

It is important to consider the coronavirus pandemic when discussing employee relations examples.

Many employers will have to act in ways they never thought they would need to before. This will undoubtedly have affected staff.

The virus will have affected staff in different ways, such as those who have caring responsibilities or those who are at higher levels of risk.

You must maintain strong workforce relations throughout a crisis of this nature. Staff need to feel supported, kept in the loop, and appropriately managed.

How to manage employee relations effectively

The first thing you should do is provide appropriate training for the human resources department.

Employee relations programs can help management too. They should be able to negotiate effectively with employees, along with other vital skills.

These vital skills include consultation, surveying and interpreting employee attitudes. Spotting potential signs of conflict and how to resolve differences early are also important.

You should also provide training on a wide range of legal problems that may arise when managing employee relations.

These can relate to sickness absence and management disputes.

Also focus on collective issues, such as mass redundancy and company changes to contracts as a result of a business downturn.

With mass redundancies comes confusion and potential disputes. Redundancy advice can reduce this.

It is important to remember alternative dispute resolutions with employee relations best practices. Options like mediation continue to gather popularity in the place of traditional routes.

It's important to attempt to resolve conflict at an early stage before it escalates.

Show how mediation will take place through clear employee relations policies and procedures.

Types of employee relations policies

Putting certain policies and procedures in place encourages and supports effective employee relations. These can include policies on grievances, disciplinaries, redundancy, holidays and sick pay.

You should also produce policies on how a company will manage negotiations with trade unions.

It is always advisable to maintain clear policies on these areas. These policies help make it clear to the staff how the company will approach them.

Clear policies should outline steps that management and HR will take to keep staff informed and allow them to have their say.

Any intended extra steps to encourage employee relation should be clearly outlined in the policy.

Employee relations strategy example – works councils

Works councils consist of employees and managers who discuss factors that may impact on a business. They assemble to promote discussion between all parties and to help them set up policies and procedures.

If employees are more involved with key decisions such as this, they may be less likely to later resist the changes.

It is important to make the most of these councils. If staff are raising concerns, take care to listen to and act on these concerns.

Do you need help?

Creating positive employee-employer relationships is a worthwhile and difficult process. But we’re here to help. Call us and we’ll take you through what you need to do: 0800 028 2420

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