Policy choices

During the 1980s and early 1990s the use of ACAS's collective conciliation and arbitration services declined considerably. But the individual conciliation case load has been very heavy and the ACAS advisory work has flourished. These are aimed at encouraging non-adversarial approaches to preventing and resolving problems at work by facilitating joint working groups of employers, employees and their representatives. The Central Arbitration Committee (CAC) The CAC is an independent arbitration body that deals with disputes. It arbitrates at the request of one party but with the agreement of the other.

It does not handle many arbitration but it deals more frequently with claims by trade unions for disclosure of information for collective bargaining purposes. Employment tribunals Employment tribunals (formed under the Employment Tribunals Act 1966) deal with most cases brought under employment law. They consist of an independent, legally-qualified chairperson, and two representative members, from the employer and the union. Their constitution is informal, but their decisions are legally binding. Evidence is given on oath, witnesses are called and legal representation is permitted as in a court of law.

Appeals may be made (on points of law only) to the Employment Appeals Tribunal: this is a formal court, consisting of a judge and lay members representing both sides of industry, and its decisions establish legal precedent. Other Stakeholders A recent article in People Management (Wild, 2003) suggested that there is increasing public awareness of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in relation to labour-related globalisation issues such as the use of child labour and sweatshops in developing nations, and the widening gap between 'fat cat' managerial pay and that of workers.

These issues have been brought to public's attention not by trade unions, but by pressure groups (non-government organisations, or NGOs) such as Oxfam, Anti-Slavery International and Clean Clothes. Pressure groups have arguably become lead players in employment-related issues. Industries in sporting goods, and apparel, fashion and food retail are among the targets of widespread PR pressure, consumer protest and boycott in relation to labour practices. When formulating policies in these areas, organisations may be consciously or unconsciously deciding on the extent to which they want to adopt the HRM approach to employee relations.

This emphasizes commitment, mutuality and forms of involvement and participation that mean that management approaches and communicates with employees directly rather than through their representatives. Policy choices There is, of course, no such thing as a model employee relations policy. Every organisation develops its own policies. In a mature business these will be in accordance with established custom and practice, its core values and management style and the actual or perceived balance of power between management and unions.

In younger organisations, or those being established on a green field site, the policies will depend on the assumptions and beliefs of management and, where relevant, the existing philosophy and policies of the parent organisation. In both these cases policies will be affected by the type of people employed by the organisation, its business strategies, technology, the industry sector in which it operates, and its structure (for example, the extent to which it is centralized or decentralized).