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Employment Relationships: From Start to End Essay

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Updated: Aug 8th, 2020

The Impact of Employment Law at the Start of Employment Relationship

Internal and External Factors

There are both internal and external factors influencing employment relationship, and it is important to differentiate between the two categories because the ways to address issues arising from internal factors are different from those to address issues associated with external influence. For example, culture is a major internal factor. It can refer to the employees’ cultural origin as well as their professional background. Culture is the subtle influence which is often overlooked by employment law and policies. However, it is important to acknowledge the cultural influence and address cultural issues to ensure the effectiveness of internal relations. Procedures and operations are often performed rather based on specific cultural characteristics of employees than official policies, which is why employees’ culture should be taken into consideration when managing employment relationships.

Speaking of management, it is another example of an internal factor. There are two major considerations: managerial philosophy and managerial practice. The former refers to the theoretic approach and conceptual framework of management in a given organisation. It is about developing strategies and defining objectives. The latter—managerial practice—refers to actual practices and procedures managers employ. They should be based on and naturally develop from the managerial philosophy, but in the real world, it is not always the case. The way management is organised and practised influences the very core of employment relationships on every level.

However, organisations cannot disregard the fact that not everything about their successful employment relationships depends on what they do or can be responsible for, i.e. there are also external factors. For example, inflation can be an influence. Traditionally, external economic factors are regarded as factors influencing the financial performance of organisations, but in today’s world, it is important to acknowledge the impact of such phenomena as inflation on every aspect of organisations’ operation because they are all interconnected. Another external factor is the political situation. With new political movements, elections, and alignment of forces, organisations may face the necessity to modify their employment-related policies and practices.

Employment Status

One of the distinct characteristics of employment in the modern world is the wide range of its forms and the blurring of boundaries between them. In a situation where there is a considerable number of employees whose organisation of work is different from traditional patterns, there is a need for classification. A major aspect of such classification is identifying different types of employment status. Determining the employment status of a person is important for several reasons.

First, it has a legal context: employees of different statuses are subjects to different provisions of employment and tax legislation. Second, organisations need to differentiate among employment statuses to address their employment relationship management issues and human resources management issues more effectively. This includes budget considerations and mutual obligations. Finally, persons themselves need to know their employment statuses to organise their work more appropriately, define their responsibilities clearly, and have a tool to protect their employment rights.

UK law recognises five main types of employment status: worker, employee, self-employed and contractor, director, and an officeholder (Employment status 2016). The most widespread are the first three. A worker is a person who enters an agreement to do certain work personally for a reward. The agreement does not have to be a written contract. Workers have a limited right to delegate their work to third parties and have responsibilities, such as turning up for work and providing their services for the term of their agreement.

The second type of employment status—employee—is clearly defined as a person working under an employment contract, which is a formal written agreement between an employee and an employer specifying their rights, responsibilities, duties, and obligations towards one another.

Self-employed persons are those who run their businesses and take responsibility for how it develops and whether it fails or succeeds. Contractors, who are also included in the third type of employment status, can be workers or employees if they work for clients (rather than employers) and can be self-employed as well.

Employee Rights during the Employee Relationship

Work-Life Balance

The concept of work-life balance encompasses various aspects of organising one’s work, such as considering how much time and energy one’s work demands, being able to distribute time and energy wisely, and making informed choices about allocating resources to job tasks. Modern legislation, as well as organisational policies, recognise the importance of work-life balance and encourage individuals to maintain it by planning their work thoroughly. Work-life balance contributes to higher individual productivity and makes the working process more flexible, i.e. more suitable for addressing new or unexpected tasks and challenges with increased effectiveness. Besides, it has been argued that a successful work-life balance helps create a more pleasant work environment, reduce absenteeism, and raise the retention rate. Another important consideration is that maintaining the work-life balance of employees helps employers meet current legal requirements regarding proper working conditions. Overall, internal human resources management practices tend to improve when work-life balance is encouraged.

Most persons are eligible for an annual leave of 20 working days plus eight days of public holidays. The average over 17 weeks should be less than 48 hours of work per week (Maximum weekly working hours 2016). However, exceptions exist, such as for those who sign an alternative form of contract or have a job with specific characteristics, such as firemen and police. One break of 20 minutes is allowed, but it should not be at the end of a shift. Daily rest should constitute not less than 11 hours uninterrupted between shifts. Night workers should not work more than eight hours per 24 hours. There are also restrictions in terms of time off work. For example, people who are 16 or 17 years old are not entitled to work between midnight and four in the morning.

Work and Family

UK legislation provides various regulations on such issues as working time, time off for dependant care, maternity leave, and paternity leave. Existing laws strive for taking into consideration the family issues of working people as an integral part of their lives influencing the organisation of their work.

Providing adequate leave to a person who has had a child is an important achievement of labour rights movements in democratic countries. Concerning maternity leave, the current legislation provides for two types of it: ordinary maternity leave (OML) and additional maternity leave (AML). The former is not less than two weeks after the birth of a child (not less than four weeks for certain types of employment, such as working at a factory) and not more than 26 weeks. The leave is partially paid. AML can be up to 26 weeks after the OML, but it is unpaid. Paternity leave is normally seven to 14 days, and the last day should be before the child is 56 days old.

Also, persons are entitled to be provided with leave for emergencies where their close ones or dependents need their care, and delivering care to them prevents the persons from performing their duties at work (Time off for family and dependants 2016). The legislation does not specify the exact length of such leaves and states that time off for family and dependants should be calculated based on a particular situation. However, in some cases, an employer may ask an employee to take annual leave in addition to this time off if providing care to family members or dependants requires more time.

It should be noted that employers are not obliged by law to pay their employees during such leaves. However, they may do so, and the pay is subject to discussion. Also, time off for family and dependants is defined as a type of emergency leave, which is why a person is not eligible for such leave if the circumstances causing the necessity for time off have been known beforehand. For example, taking a child to a doctor appointment does not qualify for a dependant leave. Instead, an employer should take parental leave, which is regulated differently.

Fair Treatment Concerning Pay

Along with proper working conditions and the rights to an adequate amount of work and rest, the fairness of pay is one of the most important issues of the labour market. The general idea behind various efforts towards eliminating discrimination in terms of pay is that fair treatment, i.e. rewarding people doing the same work equally despite their race, gender, or age, contributes to the creation of a healthier, more encouraging, and more capable work environment.

First of all, the necessity for fair pay is essentially connected to human rights. It is admitted in today’s world that a person should have not only the right to work but also the right to the adequate reward. Also, everyone should be free of any forms of discrimination based on such characteristics as race and gender. These norms are declared, accepted, and recognised in many countries, but the situation where, for example, women receive less in average than men for the same kind of work may still be observed in some countries. There are also discriminations against minorities in this regard. To ensure that human rights are fully respected and fulfilled, it is necessary to promote fair pay because the absence of it undermines democratic values and principles, which cannot be good for the society or the market.

Second, the lack of fairness of pay is a highly discouraging factor. Vulnerable groups that tend to be paid unjustly, such as ethnic minorities, are demotivated to perform at sufficient levels. On a larger scale, the entire labour market suffers when there are underpaid groups because their potential is neglected. Improving the fairness of pay will increase their engagement, this stimulating more productive employment.

Equality Legislation

Much legislative effort has been dedicated to the promotion of equality in the workplace, which encompasses equal conditions, treatment, rights, and opportunities. One of the laws aimed at such promotion is the Equality Act of 2010. It provides for protecting people from any forms of discrimination based on nine characteristics: “age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, [and] sexual orientation” (The protected characteristics 2010, para. 2-10). The law declares that, wherever a person is within the ranges of these characteristics, he or she must not be discriminated and must be treated equally in terms of workings conditions.

The legislation also strives to define discrimination and classify its types, which is an important aspect of measures against it. Generally, there are four categories of discrimination incorporated into UK laws: direct discrimination, indirect discrimination, victimisation, and harassment. Direct discrimination is the explicitly less favourable treatment of an employee from his or her employer (also, supervisor or colleagues) based on one or several of the nine characteristics listed in the Equality Act, e.g. because the person is Muslim or homosexual unlike the majority of employees. Indirect discrimination is less explicit, as it involves actions that affect everyone, but the effect is not the same to everyone. For example, an organisation adopts a new policy that all of the employees have to follow, but for some of them, following the policy is complicated by their gender or religion. What makes this type of discrimination indirect is that the policy is applied equally but fails to recognise differences in the workforce.

In discrimination legislation, victimisation refers to treating unfavourably those people who act under discrimination legislation, e.g. bring proceedings under it or provide evidence. Harassment refers to such actions and behaviours of an employees’ co-workers or supervisors that humiliate the person or otherwise violate his or her dignity. Harassment is also based on the nine characteristics listed above. Direct and indirect discrimination, victimisation, and harassment are condemned in the equality legislation, and the pursuit of eradicating them is declared.

Psychological Contract

Although legal agreements that regulate employment relations and working conditions are usually designed very thoroughly to consider every aspect of the mutual obligations between an employee and an employer, they still might fail to regulate the informal part of the connection between the two parties. Besides legal terms and conditions, which can be recorded and systematised, there are more subtle things about the actual agreement between an organisation and its workforce. These things include the work environment and informal procedures that are overlooked by formal employment documentation.

Besides entering a legal agreement, an employer and an employee need to agree on the way they perceive and understand mutual obligations. They also need to establish rules of behaviour that are not necessarily part of the formal agreement. These matters are called the “psychological contract.” Pivotal components of it are trust and confidence—without the former, any interaction is undermined, and the latter is there to ensure that the interaction is not hindered by redundant preoccupations. Norms of everyday behaviour and certain “rituals” are also aspects of the psychological contract.

It can be argued that the psychological contract is more influential in a way than any formal arrangements. While the latter regulate procedures, the former is about day-to-day practices, which shape the actual relationship between an employer and an employee. From the psychological contract, the two parties know what to expect from one another and what they will be expected to do in return.

Informal by their very nature, psychological contracts are not created or fully regulated by organisational procedures. They only emerge from and manifest themselves in personal interactions and communication. There are four links in the psychological contract chain. The first one is employees’ expectations, i.e. what an employee perceives as the nature and the results of his or her work. The second is delivery, i.e. how expectations are met. This part of the contract includes mutual trust and the assessment of fairness in delivery. How expectations are met is a factor of commitment and job satisfaction, which constitute the third link. Finally, high levels of commitment and satisfaction shape the intention to stay, the ultimate link of the psychological contract chain. If there are breaches on the way, e.g. expectations are not met, employee engagement decreases, absenteeism increases, performance is reduced, and employees may opt for leaving their job.

Issues to Be Addressed at the Termination of the Employment Relationship

Fair and Unfair Dismissal

It is hard to discuss the reasons for dismissing an employee in the context of fairness. Dismissals are often accompanied by a conflict between an employee and his or her employer, and it can be expected that what one party perceives as fair the other one claims to be unfair. That is why there is a need for establishing more objective and balanced criteria for evaluating dismissals. Many companies today are dedicated to designing performance evaluation tools that would allow a fair assessment of their employees’ work, thus ensuring that dismissals, if such occur, are not unfair, and evidence can be provided to confirm their fairness.

However, not all dismissals are objectively based on inadequate, insufficient, or otherwise poor performance. And this is the primary difference between what is referred to as “fair dismissals” and what is referred to as “unfair dismissals.” The former occurs due to an employee’s failure to meet thoroughly explained performance expectations, which are normally described in employment agreements. Also, an employee’s misconduct or actions that have adverse effects on the organisation may cause dismissal, too, and such a dismissal will be considered fair.

Unfair dismissals are associated with two categories of causes: those that are not connected to performance at all and those that fail to recognise and respect employees’ rights (Dismissal: your rights 2016) In the first category, there are such causes of dismissal as the personal bias of the organisation’s decision-makers or discrimination due to one of the nine characteristics protected by the Equality Act of 2010 (see Equality Legislation). The second category is about dismissing an employee for practising rights provided to the employee by the legislation. For example, if a person is fired due to being frequently absent, it can be a fair dismissal. However, if the person was absent due to a maternity or paternity leave, a parental leave, or a leave to take care of a dependant, but this person is still fired despite having confirmed the validity of his or her excuses for being absent, such a dismissal is unfair because it fails to acknowledge the right of an employee for all kinds of leaves listed above.

Exit Interviews

Many organisations today adopt the practice of so-called exit interviews, i.e. interviews with employees who have handed in their notice and are about to leave their job. Exit interviews are important and beneficial to both the employee and the employer for several reasons.

First, the employer receives an opportunity to gain insight into the organisation. Employees often indicate false or incomplete reasons for their resigning. Sometimes, they do so due to being unable to openly announce the actual reason, such as hostile environment, harassment, discrimination, or conflicts with other employees. Properly conducted exit interviews, i.e. confidential and preferably by an external party, are a setting where the resigning employee is more likely to share the real reasons, thus indicating existing problems that the organisation has to address. Second, the employer can use the information from exit interviews to develop better retention strategies. For example, reasons for leaving can be identified in a comprehensive range and classified, i.e. it can be determined whether employees are pulled by different opportunities or pushed out by dissatisfaction. Analysing these data can help the organisation address the issues of retention more effectively.

There are benefits for the employee, too. At an exit interview, he or she receives a platform to talk to a representative of the organisation (even if the interviewer is external, he or she will report to the organisation’s decision-makers) openly and under the protection of confidentiality. Free of a threat to be persecuted or fired, the employee can share his or her concerns. Also, the employee has an opportunity to provide his or her conclusive feedback to the organisation, which many can find accomplishing and gratifying.

Redundancy, Its Impact, and Stages of Managing

Redundancy is suspension or termination of employment, voluntary or compulsory, due to such reasons as for economic downturn, reduced need for employees, and restructuring of production or operation (Redundancy: your rights 2017). Although redundancy may be a necessary measure that can help an organisation go through a difficult phase or even save it from collapsing, there are adverse effects of redundancies that should be acknowledged. The main negative effect is the loss of employees who may be the most experienced and talented. Such a threat exists because, in the case of voluntary redundancies, most valuable employees may opt for leaving. At the same time, those who are left at the organisation after redundancies may become demoralised and distrustful of management, which undermines normal operation.

Redundancy should be conducted following generally accepted standards of employment relations. The first thing to do in the redundancy process is to define clearly the reasons for the need to conduct it. Then, measures should be discussed to prevent it. If redundancy is deemed inevitable, the management should develop selection criteria for laying certain employees off. All relevant managers should be consulted.

The organisation needs to arrange a personal meeting with an employee who will be laid off and communicate the reasons for him or her. From the procedural perspective, redundancy should be performed in compliance with any appropriate legislation and the employees’ rights, such as termination rights. Also, employees should have an opportunity to appeal. Following these stages will ensure a fair redundancy process. Redundancies perceived as fair do not only strengthen the reputation of an organisation but also ensure maintaining proper morale in the workforce.

Reference List

2016, Web.

2016, Web.

2016, Web.

2017, Web.

The protected characteristics 2010, Web.

2016, Web.

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