The role of human resources (HR) can sometimes be a delicate balancing act and when things go wrong for an employee it can often come under fire.
The one-time view of HR was that it was just a department that hired and fired and dealt with benefits and pensions is misplaced. It is a vital department in any organisation, and one of the busiest.
In protecting the interests of both the employer and employee there are many responsibilities and functions that HR performs.
The role is wide-ranging and administrative in nature. It involves documenting and supporting managers in handling grievances, disciplinary matters, absence and performance reviews, maintaining benefits and payroll. HR advisors can also be involved in recruiting, hiring, and training new employees.
For employees, they protect their rights, ensuring that employers operate within the bounds of employment law.
The role of HR in being able to settle employee grievances and stopping them from escalating out of control is crucial. The scrapping of employment tribunal fees last year (1) has seen a rise in employees lodging various claims against employers.
Figures from the ACAS annual report for 2017-18 reveal that its helpline answered 783,000 calls (2) The top three topic categories were discipline, dismissal and grievances; contracts; and wages and the national minimum wage.
Effective, fair and prompt action from HR in dealing with employee concerns can stop issues such as these getting out of control.
So how can HR help employees?
HR practitioners can help employees by mediating in disputes with management or colleagues, assist with concerns about treatment suffered or in dealing with any inappropriate workplace behaviour directed at an individual.
It can help with training and development based on the needs of an employee. This can not only benefit the member of staff, but it can also aid the employer by equipping the worker with skills and knowledge to help them progress within an organisation.
The role of HR can at times appear as if it also involves elements of counselling and that of a personal advisor. Employees can seek advice if there are issues inside or outside of work that are having an impact on their performance. It may be medical, family, relationship or financial problems. With large employers the employee may be directed towards its specialist advisory service or helpline, while in smaller companies they may be pointed in the direction of external services that can help.
Employers will often provide details of how employees can make whistle-blowing disclosures (3). However, in many cases employees will take such matters to HR in first instance.
Many employees are thought to be apprehensive about turning to HR with matters of concern. There is a general view that when employees have cause to complain of mistreatment by an organisation HR practitioners will side with management. The view is they are indifferent to the feelings of the employee and only interested in protecting the interests of their paymasters.
It is a long-held view illustrated by a blog from 2013 titled 5 Things You Need to Know About HR (That They’ll Never Admit) (4). It included headings such as: Remember that HR works for your company, not for you and Be careful what you discuss with HR.
The best HR teams are trusted by employees as they can and will effectively address issues of concern. If HR is not trusted it will lack an understanding of what it is doing wrong and fail to get the best out of employees while also running the risk of causing long-term damage to productivity.
The Next Generation HR study in 2015 (5) found that HR had moved on from being a service-driven sector to an insight-driven service. It was said at the time of the study that as HR becomes increasingly insight-driven and the relevance and the impact of its work increases, HR will very naturally be seen as trusted advisers and partners.
2.At a glance Acas key statistics, Acas [Internet], Cited [2018 Nov 19] available from: http://www.acas.org.uk/media/pdf/j/0/Acas-key-statistics-for-the-year-2017-2018.pdf
4. 5 Things you need to know about HR (that they’ll never admit), Joe Matter [Internet].[cited 2018Nov 19 ] available from https://www.brazen.com/blog/archive/5-things-you-need-to-know-about-hr-that-theyll-never-admit/
5. Developing the next generation, CIPD [Internet].[Cited 2018 Nov 19],available from: https://www.cipd.co.uk/knowledge/work/youth/next-gen-report
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