Employee Relations definition

Employee relations, known historically as industrial relations, is concerned with the contractual, emotional, physical and practical relationship between employer and employee. The term employee relations is increasingly used due to recognition of the fact that much of the relationship is actually non-industrial. Some authors cite employee relations as dealing only with non-unionised employees and labour or industrial relations with unionised employees. Others suggest that industrial relations and employee relations are dead fields, replaced by the more all-encompassing human resource management.

The origins of industrial relations emerged from the industrial revolution and the creation of free markets and large, unified movements of workers. The resulting tensions escalated and created an urgent need for forces that could regulate the relationship. Intellectually, the first piece of literature that seriously addressed the relationship between employer and employee was Sidney Webb and Beatrice Webb's Industrial Democracy (1897).

In the past employee relations, under the industrial relations umbrella, was concerned with conflict management and managing the vastly different agendas of employer and employee. Nowadays the term is used more collaboratively and looks at ways both employer and employee can benefit from new schemes and initiatives. Increasingly there is the belief that the needs of both employer and employee entwine, although some scholars and businesses find it difficult to reconcile the needs of businesses operating in a competitive, free market with those of employees.