Some of the major features of employer-employee relations are as follows:
1. Employer-employee relations are the outcome of the employment relationship in industry. These relations cannot exist without the two parties—employer and employees.” It is the industry which provides the setting for employer-employee relations.
2. Employer-employee relations include both individual relations as well as collective relations. Individual relations imply relations between employer and employees. Collective relations mean, relations between employers’ associations and trade unions as well as the role of the State in regulating these relations.
3. The concept of employer-employee relations is complex and multi-dimensional. The concept is not limited to relations between trade unions and employer but also extends to the general web of relationships between employers, employees and the Government. It covers regulated as well as unregulated, institutionalised as well as individual relations. These multi-pronged relationships may be in organised or unorganised sector.
4. Employer-employee relations is a dynamic and developing concept. It undergoes change with changing structure and environment of industry. It is not a static concept. It flourishes or stagnates or decays along with the economic and social institutions that exist in a society. The institutional forces give content and shape to employer-employee relations in a country.
5. Strictly speaking a distinction can be made between human resource management and employer-employee relations. Human resource management deals mainly with executive policies and activities regarding the human resource aspects to the enterprise while employer-employee relations are mainly concerned with employer-employee relationship. Human resource management refers to that part of employment relations which is concerned with employees as individuals, collective or group relationship of employees and employers constitute the subject matter of employer-employee relations.
6. Employer-employee relations do not function in a vacuum. These are rather the composite result of the attitudes and approaches of employers and employees towards each other. Employer-employee relations are an integral part of social relations. According to Dr. Singh (Climate for Industrial Relations, 1968) the employer-employee relations system in a country is conditioned by economic and institutional factors.
Economic factors include economic organisations (capitalist, socialist, individual ownership, company ownership, and Government ownership), capital structure and technology, nature and composition of labour force, demand and supply of labour. Institutional factors refer to state policy, labour legislation, employers’ organisations, trade unions, social institutions (community, caste, joint family, and religions), attitudes to work, power and status systems, motivation and influence, etc.
7. Several parties are involved in the employer-employee relations system. The main parties are employers and their associations, employees and their unions, and the Government. These three groups interact within the economic and social environment to shape the employer-employee relations system.
8. The main purpose of employer-employee relations is to maintain harmonious relationships between management and labour. The focus in these relationships is on accommodation. The parties involved develop skills and methods of adjusting to or cooperating with each other. They also attempt to solve their problems through collective bargaining. Every employer-employee relations system creates a complex set of rules, regulations and procedures to govern the workplace.
9. Three main parties or outlets are directly involved in employer-employee relations:
Employers possess certain rights vis-a vis labour. They have the right to hire and fire workers and thereby control the economic destiny of employers. Management can also affect workers’ interests by exercising their right to relocate, close or merge a factory and to introduce technological changes. Many employers use dubious tactics to break unions and their strikes. Employers try to gain loyalty of workers in various ways.
They are concerned mainly with imposing motivation, commitment and efficiency of labour. Employers negotiate individually as well as through their associations with employees’ representatives to settle terms and conditions of employment. Some employers share decision-making power with workers.
Workers seek to improve the terms and conditions of their employment. They exchange views with management and voice their grievances. They also want to share decision-making powers to management. In their struggle, workers get support form trade unions and labour legislation. Trade unions exert power both at plant level and industry level.
Government has come to play an increasing role in employer- employee relations to protect the interests of both employers and employees.
10. The Central and State Government evolve, influence and regulate employer-employee relations through laws, rules, agreements, awards of courts, executive and financial machinery.
The Government has played an increasing role in employer-employee relations in part by becoming the biggest employer and partly by regulating working conditions in the private sector. The Government of India has enacted procedural as well substantive laws to regulate employer-employee relations in the country.
In addition, the Government has set up wage boards, labour courts, tribunals and other bipartite and tripartite bodies to maintain healthy relations between employers and employees. The requirements of the Welfare State envisaged in the Constitution of India are the major reason for State intervention in employer-employee relations.
11. The scope of employer-employee relations is quite wide.
The main issues involved here are:
(a) Grievances and their redressal.
(b) Workers’ participation in management.
(c) Ethical code and discipline.
(d) Collective bargaining.
(e) Standing orders.
(f) Machinery for the settlement of industrial disputes.