A beginner’s guide to employee relations

Welcome to the first in our series of ‘Beginner’s guides’, intended to explain what kind of work we do at organic hr and how it could help your company. This week, we will be focusing on Employee Relations.

 

So what is it?

Although it might not always be considered the most comfortable thing to talk about, employee relations covers a huge amount of different issues in the workplace, and includes things like investigations, appeals and hearings (for an exhaustive list of what it could include, click here). When most people think of human resources, this is probably what first comes to mind.

The most common thing that we deal with in terms of employee relations is case management. This includes things like disciplinary procedures, grievances and conflict resolution. Grievances and conflicts could be as a result of anything from an employee’s concern with the way they’re being managed, through to disputes over terms and conditions (which includes pay), whilst disciplinary procedures are brought about for obvious reasons such as misconduct or unauthorised absence.

Below is a short video of a mock grievance hearing, highlighting some good and bad practices:

 

 

In terms of case management, ACAS – which stands for Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service – sets out guidelines for employees and practitioners on how processes such as grievance hearings and disciplinary procedures should look, in a code of practice. The reason this is important is that Employment Tribunals have the power to increase awards made against employers by up to 25%, should you fail to reasonably follow the code at any hearings that the code applies to (this doesn’t mean however that any hearings that don’t follow the code are necessarily unfair).

One interesting thing that we find crops up a lot in disagreements between employers and their staff is a breakdown in the psychological contract between the two parties. When somebody starts work there are expectations from both sides as to how the relationship will work. The majority of these expectations will of course be set out in the written contract upon employment, and some might be discussed verbally, however sometimes there will be things unsaid and unwritten, which end up being the basis of a dispute in these situations.

 

How does this affect my company?

Whatever the size of your company, provided you employ somebody, issues to do with employee relations will crop up.

Although we don’t like to scaremonger at organic hr, at the very worst badly handled employee relations can end up putting you on the wrong side of employment law, costing your firm a lot of money, and more often than not either demotivating staff or affecting your staff retention. Well-handled employee relations however will make your staff feel secure in the knowledge that any issues will be dealt with professionally and ‘by the book’, and also make sure you don’t get into any trouble.

 

Why organic hr?

Firstly, we like to speak in plain English when it comes to advising our clients. It’s easy to slip into jargon, but we realise this isn’t helpful for anyone involved. We’re always transparent about our services and the processes involved.

Many companies will use lawyers to advise them on best practice and procedures in employee relations, and although it is always a good idea to seek professional help if you’re unsure of how to proceed, lawyers could be unable to provide hands on support, as this may prevent them from providing further help in a tribunal situation (handling the case directly would make them a witness in their own case – something which of course presents a conflict of interest).

Lastly, many firms find it helpful to use the services of larger consultancies that offer advice over the phone, and again although this is a sensible and frankly quite easy option, many of these firms don’t offer the kind of hands-on advice that employers may want or even need.

 

We want these guides to be as helpful and informative as possible, so if you’ve got any questions about the post or employee relations, feel free to leave a comment and we’ll do our best to help!

 

Alternatively, if you’d like to speak to use about our services, give us a call on 01422 399535 or email us at team@organichr.co.uk.

 

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