HRMU9RI: Contemporary Employment Relations

Semester:  Autumn

Level:  10

Credit Value:  20

Module Coordinator:  Dr Scott Hurrell, Management, Work & Organisation Division

Contact Hours:  30 hours

Assessment:  3,000 word essay (35%); seminar participation (15%) and final examination (50%)

This module introduces students to the current British system of employment relations and the general principles, processes and outcomes that affect the formation, regulation and maintenance of contemporary employment relationships. The course considers different theoretical approaches to the study of employment relations and then examines the role and objectives of trade unions, employers and the state, and the processes and outcomes of their interactions in collective bargaining, employee participation and industrial conflict. The module examines both union and non-union workplaces, to reflect differing employment contexts, and draws heavily on current developments and events that affect employment relations (for example, government policy and notable workplace disputes). The implications of an ‘HRM’ approach for employment relations are also considered. The module is highly participatory with discussion sessions combined with lectures as well as discussion occurring within seminars.


To familiarise students with the nature of contemporary employment relationships, how these have developed and the institutional, political and organisational factors that affect the management of the employment relationship. Students will understand the role of collective and individualised means of regulating the employment relationship and the different forms that managing the employment relationship may take in different organisational contexts.

Objectives and learning outcomes:

By the end of the module students should be able to understand and evaluate: 

A.  Competing perspectives and analyses on the nature of the employment relationship
The factors and processes within the employment relationship and how these are analysed.

B.  The context, processes and outcomes of employment relationships
Vis-à-vis the market, government, public opinion and other social forces.

C.  The growth, structure, organisation, behaviour and goals of trade unions

D.  Non-union forms of workplace employee representation and participation

E.  The growth, structure, organisation, behaviour and goals of employers and management

F.  The role and nature of the state involvement in employment relations
The development and practice of public policy towards employment relations.

G.  The legal aspects of employment protection, especially those related to collective issues

H.  The role of the EU and other international bodies in regulating and influencing the actors in the employment relationship. 

I.  The nature of collective bargaining
The structure of collective bargaining and its variation between employment sectors.

J.  The nature of industrial conflict
The explanations for strikes, other forms of conflict and the legal framework regulating such activity.

K.  The role of HRM in employment relations
How an ‘HRM’ approach to managing people affects the management of the employment relationship.

By the end of the module students should also be able to:

A.  Demonstrate a working knowledge of UK employment law relating to trade union activity and industrial action.  Be aware of the framework for EU employment law.

B.  Be able to critically analyse contemporary employment relations developments as reported in the media.

C.  Provide advice to management on employee relations policy and practice.

D.  Provide advice on basic employment rights issues.


There are no official pre-requisites for this module but it is recommended that students taking this module have first taken HRMU9S3 ‘Fundamentals of HRM’.


This module information is representative of what is included in the module in a given year. Details of actual reading, lectures and coursework may vary year to year and will be available at the beginning of the semester.

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