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Complete Guide to HR Strategy: Employment Relations Policies (With Examples)

Actively managing employee relations through policy is one of the key roles of an HR practitioner.

These policies work to strengthen the employee experience and reduce the risk of employee complaints through clearly defined processes.

On an organisational level, this requires maintenance and improvement to allow this relationship to work in good faith. With the right employment relations policies in place, even tricky situations can be mitigated.

These policies can go largely unnoticed until the views of the employer and employee begin to differ. Then, they can work to align these views once more and manage the outcomes.


Symptoms of Poor Employment Relations

Assessing the current landscape of the workplace will allow you to set priorities for improving employment relations. The following symptoms of poor employment relations can give you a starting point for your strategy.

Poor Performance

A demotivated, disgruntled workforce won’t be putting forward their best work. They may feel resentful due to uninvestigated complaints, poor interpersonal relationships or badly handled changes within the workforce.

This overarching issue can take a lot of investigation and improvement to remedy. Each employee will have had a different relationship with the employer, with managers and changes affecting each differently.

Diagnosing the reasoning behind poor performance is time consuming, but overall improvements to employment relations policies can improve productivity. Improving the culture and perception of the employer can drive better performance.


Staff that feel burned by poor employment relations can have a higher rate of absenteeism. This may be because they’re not motivated to come to work or have mental health issues that are exacerbated by the culture of the workplace.

On an organisational level, a trend of absenteeism can be indicative of a wider issue. This could be that staff are demotivated or that managers don’t have clearly defined absence policies that they can exercise.

High Staff Turnover

Staff departing in droves as a result of unpopular changes or deteriorating employment relations is harmful for a business. This shows that employees are not being involved with these decisions, which forces them into an ultimatum.

Litigation and Tribunals

A litigation or tribunal is a clear red flag about the organisation’s employee relations policies. While you may think the claim is spurious, it shows that the communication between parties has broken down to the point of no return. This may be an isolated incident or part of a wider trend, either way HR have to tackle it head on.

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Employment Relations Policies to Highlight in Your HR Strategy

As you lay out your HR strategy for the coming years, consider how employee relations will be covered. It’s essential to address the aims of these relations and how they will change over the period highlighted in your strategy.

Consistency within the workforce is the aim of these policies, as the method by which issues are dealt with are clearly outlined. Use this space in your strategy to account for changes, prepare for organisational developments and resource effectively to improve employment relations.

Employee Engagement

This concept is more than just a buzzword, as high engagement drives better profits for organisations. Through the course of your employment relations policies, you want to treat employees well and fairly to increase employee engagement.

Within this portion of your strategy, you can marry this with other initiatives that you have in place. These will impact on the policies that you have currently, so use this plan to lay out how you will change them to respond to this.

Diversity Management

If you want to benefit from employing diverse team members, then you have to actively manage this relationship. Where no official policy exists to prevent discrimination, diverse team members may be reticent to come forward when this occurs.

While you may not have had need for these policies in the past, your HR strategy is a great place to decide how you will implement them. You may be bringing in new initiatives to give women leadership roles or hire more diversely, as such you should bring in policies to support these initiatives.

A commitment to diversity can be seen as mere lip service without strong policies to back this up.

Employee Communication

As organisations grow and change structure, there’s a need to review and update communication plans. Regular reviews of communication and confidentiality protects both parties.

Strong communication and methods by which employees can communicate in confidence make for a better relationship.

Should an employee wish to bring a grievance, your policies should outline who and how they should communicate this. This reduces the likelihood of employees becoming dissatisfied and discussing these grievances among themselves.

Look back at exit interviews and issues around communication in the organisation; this will show you if revamping your communication policies require attention in future.

Involvement and Participation

How do you bring employees into decision making? As we discussed in our Total Reward Management Guide, this has a role to play within the rewards strategy of a business, as employees feel valued when their opinion is heard.

Creating a process and using engagement platforms by which employees are invited to participate in decisions can be very beneficial. Outline this in your policies, as this will help to ensure that a standardised procedure is followed to give all employees a voice.

Where appropriate, you may also choose to allow for discretion that gives employees more autonomy on how they conduct tasks.

This can improve participation in the workplace, as employees feel more connected with the work that they do. This requires policies to shift as managers are encouraged to take results into account, rather than the desire to conform to rigidity.

While this may be a large-scale initiative within your HR strategy, you should also support this with clear policies.

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Working Conditions

The conditions that workers experience form another component of their relationship with the company. Policies and strategies should exist to ensure that these hours are fair, holidays are allocated, and reasonable adjustments are made.

There are many strong arguments for going above and beyond your legal requirements relating to working conditions.

Work-life Balance

The discussion around work-life balance is always shifting, and we’re more aware of this concept than ever before. This forms a major part of the employment relationship, as employees need to feel that they have this balance to form a good opinion of their employer.

Through your policies, you can give workers more autonomy and allow for leniency for emergencies. These practices help your employees to feel valued by the company and more able to deal with other commitments in their lives.

Negotiation and Bargaining

HR should be involved in creating policies around individual negotiations and collective dialogue. Whether dealing with an individual, group or formal union – your goal should be to keep the conversation productive and moving towards a fair solution.

Ensure that you know the law surrounding negotiation, especially where it relates to unions. These groups advocate for the rights of employees and can be quick to legal action where they feel this is merited.

Employees are also entitled to paid time off to carry out duties on behalf of their union and must be given relevant information to act upon.

By keeping good employment relations, talks and negotiations should not break down into strike action or mass walkouts. This may mean changing policies that are viewed as unfair or reiterating unclear ones.

Conflict Resolution

Conflicts within a team and the wider workforce have the potential to derail productivity. Employees that are facing conflict with one another or the organisation won’t be as productive as their counterparts.

This can be difficult to manage, but HR shouldn’t shy away from outlining formal conflict resolution measures to solve this. This gives managers the tools that they need to solve these issues consistently, regardless of their individual feelings on the matter at hand.

If you don’t currently have this in place within your organisation, or wish to improve the existing policy, then you can outline this within your strategy. This may need to be made simpler or less time consuming, depending on feedback from employees.

HR should be present to facilitate this conversation, offering support to supervisors that are dealing with these conflicts.

Change Management and Management Control

By aligning with the organisational changes that you see in future, you can prepare for any fallout from employees. The practice of proactive change management can improve the employee experience, as clear communication and planning minimises damage to the relationship.

While these changes can be difficult for employees, active management can preserve this relationship.

For anticipated changes, like mergers and redundancies, HR can work this into a longer-term strategy. This strategy can outline what will be done in the run up to the change, such as consultations, communication and additional resources for employees.


The way that you handle disciplinary actions will be apt to change over time, as case law evolves and the needs of the workforce change.

Not only should HR be aware of these changes, they should also communicate this to all managers and supervisors. This may mean additional training on hand to upskill managers and ensure compliance.

Disciplinary action should be handled informally where appropriate. For example, managers can coach employees to improve their performance before issuing formal warnings.

However, managers that are acting with this kind of discretion have to be confident in their abilities to do so. While this may be appropriate to coach a poor performer, it wouldn’t be appropriate to cover up gross misconduct.

If this is a weakness in your organisation, then think about how your can strategize to fix this. New training, clearer policies and present HR representatives can all mitigate the need for disciplinary action.

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