The Employment Relationship And Employee Rights At Work Introduction HR Management

This chapter examines the employment relationship and its contractual regulation. In particular, it outlines the central significance of contractual regulation in the employment relationship, and how this legitimises the managerial prerogative. The employment relationship is visualised as a process of socio-economic exchange. That is, unlike other contractual relationships, for example something as mundane as the purchase of a railway ticket, the employment relationship is an open-ended contractual relationship.

By this we mean that both parties intend the contract to continue until either party indicates a desire to terminate the relationship. Thus an employment contract is not an immediately closed relationship of exchange. The employment relationship contains an economic component – the exchange of work for payment – but also includes a sociological dimension centred on power and authority.

The economic and sociological components of the employment relationship are structured by the contract of employment. In addition to this, the employment relationship is subject to a range of other processes, for example management competence and efficiency, work group control, management and worker motivation and the potential for workplace conflict and disagreement.

These factors make the apparently rational process of economic exchange much more complicated and to some extent indeterminate – that is, a relationship in which the specific details are subject to ongoing negotiation and change. All employees are protected by a series of basic contractual and statutory employment rights which the employment practices of an employer must abide by. In order to provide readers with the necessary basic information on these matters the chapter divides into seven parts:

  • Distinguishing contractual and statutory employment rights
  • The contract of employment
  • Discrimination in employment
  • The regulation of working time
  • Termination of the employment contract
  • Enforcement of contractual and statutory employment rights
  • New rights at work?

Throughout the chapter there is a series of Activity boxes and Stop and think boxes that aim to assist the reader apply and digest particular points. Readers should work through these individually or in discussion with their teachers. The material in each part of the chapter, although necessarily legal in nature, is explained as far as possible in terms that are general and straightforward, that is, in a manner that will assist the reader in their application.

Some points are repeated as they impact on areas of employment regulation detailed in successive parts of the chapter. Because the aim is to present the material in a ‘reader friendly’ manner there are few direct references to legal texts or statutes; however, at the end of the chapter a list of law texts is provided for further reading. The reader should view this chapter as a general introduction to the contract of employment and its regulation and readers should be aware that more specialist information may be required in applying the general principles to specific situations.


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