Employment-Relations

Unfairness at work: looking at employment relationship in a new light

THE LATEST IN OUR SERIES LEADING UP TO THE MANAGEMENT BOOK OF THE YEAR AWARDS

By shortlisted author Cecilie Bingham

Employment-RelationsEmployees from British Home Stores have seen their pension fund disappear, workers in Sports Direct have been paid below the minimum wage, construction firms have been fined for blacklisting union members, Tesco is the subject of a legal dispute – some of its employees claiming that it has discriminated against them on grounds of gender and age following pay cuts for night and weekend shift working, the abuse of zero hours contracts is rife .

These incidents have all occurred in the last year and, although rare, are examples of the ways in which employers sometimes treat their employees as a means to a profitable end and nothing more.

Some workplace practices, of course, are less rare, verbal abuse, bullying and intimidation are omnipresent throughout UK workplaces: for example a bullying survey, undertaken by solicitors Slater & Gordon, looked at 2,000 UK employees and brought to light the fact that over a third of them felt they had been bullied.

While in the summer of 2016 a poll of over 1,550 women, by the TUC and the Everyday Sexism Project, found that over half experienced unwanted workplace behaviour ranging from sexual innuendo and inappropriate jokes to unwanted physical contact and groping.

Around one in eight women reported the unwelcome and uninvited feeling of their genitals, breasts and buttocks. Shockingly it was the younger women (16-25) who were those most likely to be on the wrong end of such inappropriate attention.

In the light of this it is perhaps surprising that conflict at work is not more common.

The new text book; Employment Relations: fairness and trust in the workplace, attempts to put workplace behaviour into context, exploring how the employment relationship is a contested one with the potential for conflict always present.

It examines what happens when employees think they are being treated in shabby and unfair ways and conversely what happens when they are treated well. Throughout the overarching theme of ‘perceptions of justice’ employee relations, as a subject, unfolds in a number of ways with which the reader can emphasise and perhaps sympathise: allowing both the academic and the practical to be understood by students as well as by practitioners.

Although fairness and justice are the ‘peg’, the book explains and expands on the parties to, and concepts of, employee relations and describe the tools and theories used to understand and ‘unpick’ what goes on within the employment relationship, showing how this is influenced by a number of things such as the state of the labour market, UK and European legislation, notions of best practice and fashion.

Cecilie Bingham is the author of Employment Relations: Fairness and trust in the workplace, which is shortlisted in the Management and Leadership Textbook category.