The University of Southampton

MANG6177 Employee Relations

Module Overview

Employee relations is an ambiguous term, but one widely used in academia and amongst practitioners. Employee relations as an area of study and practice evolved from industrial relations, and has as its primary focus conflict in the employment relationship, employment and labour law, and unions and collective bargaining. Perhaps for this reason it is sometimes seen as irrelevant in the modern era of globalization. The reality is often very different, and sometimes shockingly so for the unprepared – as managers from the line up to chief executives have often found. The module explores the terrain of employee relations, building from the UK to wider OECD and international experience. It examines the historical development of the national employee relations contexts within which organizations operate and the continuing diversity of these national contexts in the face of the apparent pressures of globalization. The module also considers the implications of employee relations contexts for management and for organizational performance, and assesses whether managements may actively deploy partnership approaches to secure collective employee voice without conflict. As the module develops, students will apply the concepts, frameworks and approaches it introduces to develop their knowledge of a particular national context assigned to them, collecting and critically interpreting evidence from publicly available sources.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

to assist students to explore key aspects of employee relations, with a focus on the organisation of the employment relationship via actors, institutions, systems and procedures, and with reference to potential outcomes in the context of various internal and external environmental forces/conditions. The module will also shed light on the changing aspects of employee relations and on the new economic and employment trends that are emerging. The module is designed with a cross-national comparative coverage to nurture appreciation of comparative variation in employment relations. In light of the above, this module aims to enable you to: • critically evaluate contemporary frameworks and concepts for understanding employee relations; • understand continuity and change in employee relations in practice; • consider the relevance of employee relations actors, institutions, and systems to complement the individual focus of HRM analysis; • consider the constraints, opportunities and alternative modes of action and outcomes offered by the presence of unions and joint regulation; • consider the relationship between facets of employee relations and the broader HR function; • make considered judgments about the appropriateness of employee relations policies and practices in differing contexts.

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • the main aspects and changing facets of employee relations;
  • the main actors in employee relations and facets of their relationship;
  • the general nature and main challenges of union representation;
  • the potential advantages and disadvantages of union and non-union channels of employee representation;
  • the nature of joint regulation of pay and other facets of employment;
  • institutions and systems which can offer employment security and development opportunities via internal labour markets and employability;
  • the systems and practices associated with high investment work systems or high commitment management;
  • the interfaces of employee relations with the broader HR function;
  • aspects of continuity and change in employee relations.
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • develop and maintain up-to-date knowledge of contemporary thinking on employee relations;
  • evaluate the relative strengths and weaknesses of HR functions in terms of their approach to employee relations;
  • plan for and organise key employee relations activities;
  • consider the manner in which union presence and joint regulation may be most appropriately and effectively managed and responded to;
  • professionally influence or advise on the management of employee relations in organisations located in different national and industrial contexts.
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • recognise the strengths and limitations of contemporary organisations in relation to the management of employee relations;
  • develop in-depth and critical evaluation skills using multiple and competing perspectives in constructing written and oral arguments;
  • work in, and contribute more effectively to, contemporary organisations in terms of awareness of the complexity and importance of employee relations;
  • develop effective employment relations policies and practices with appropriate sensitivity and responsiveness to context;
  • evaluate the role and significance of qualitative and quantitative evidence in understanding employment relations situations;
  • evaluate the role and significance of qualitative and quantitative evidence in gauging linkages to outcomes and performance.


• What is employee relations and where do unions and social regulation come in? • Manifest conflicts, collective & individualized. • The comparative historical development of joint regulation and its explanation. • Cross-national comparative employee relations systems, from joint regulation to employment law. • The implications of joint regulation for management and for organisational performance. • Management-union partnerships, from procedure to substance.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include: • Lectures • Case studies • Directed reading • Small and large group discussions Learning activities include: • An individual assignment • Case study problem solving • Directed reading • Action learning set discussion

Independent Study126
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Blyton and Turnbull (2004). The Dynamics of Employee Relations. 



Set exercises - non-exam


MethodPercentage contribution
Examination  (2 hours) 60%
Individual assignment  (2000 words) 40%


MethodPercentage contribution
Examination  (2 hours) 60%
Individual assignment  (2000 words) 40%


MethodPercentage contribution
Examination  (2 hours) 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External


Costs associated with this module

Students are responsible for meeting the cost of essential textbooks, and of producing such essays, assignments, laboratory reports and dissertations as are required to fulfil the academic requirements for each programme of study.

In addition to this, students registered for this module typically also have to pay for:


Recommended texts for this module may be available in limited supply in the University Library and students may wish to purchase the mandatory/additional reading text as appropriate.

Please also ensure you read the section on additional costs in the University’s Fees, Charges and Expenses Regulations in the University Calendar available at

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