Looking In To Human Resource Management Commerce Essay

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Introduction

Human resource management is one of the key business functions for the organization in today's world. Human resource management has gained an enormous importance as the firms now days try to attain a competitive advantage over the other firms to dominate the market and capture the maximum market share for attaining the high profits. For attaining a competitive advantage over the other firms a strong and skilled workforce is one of the key factors. One of the most important functions of human resource management is recruitment and selection and the actual and proper theme of this human resource function is to recruit the best available candidate for the required job. Recruitment and selection function of human resource management allows the firms to have the qualified and best suited personnel for the desired position and this allows the firms to get the maximum desired output from that position.

Diversity in the workforce is one of the curtail needs of today's business, but somehow this is mismanaged or either neglected by some contemporary work organizations. Several governments introduced different legislations to reduce the discrimination in the working environment, but different researches have proven the fact the employers are still able to discriminate while selecting or recruiting the candidates for vacant positions. In this paper a critical evaluation of the diversity legal framework of United Kingdome in relation to employment policy on equality issues will be done.

What is Diversity?

For understanding the term diversity another important term which is closely used with diversity is 'equality'. Although, these both terms sometimes are used interchangeably but do not carry the same meaning. The term 'equality' refers to the creation of a fair environment or society in which everybody gets an equal and full chance to utilize his/her potential. Whereas 'diversity' refers to difference and using this in contrast or in addition to, it means to recognize the differences among the individuals as well as the groups, the treatment of people as individuals and placing the positive values on diversity in the workforce. In the past the employers have neglected or gave poor attention to these differences. The diversity of individuals and groups needs to be understood as to fulfill the needs of everyone in the organization.

Unlike diversity policies, equality policies have a long history in UK. In the early 1980s the equality issues were the part of the legislations such as Sex Discrimination Act (1975) and Race Relations Act (1976). Traditional 'equal opportunities' issues, such as race and sex discrimination, cannot be divorced from the broader issues included within diversity management such and individual and cultural differences. In these legislations of early 1980's, 'equal opportunities reflects a moral concern for social justice and one of the major critics of these legislations is that these do not promote the equality in the organization as it only describes the penalties if failed to comply the law. In this organization were not actually compelled to promote equality. There was also concern for focusing on the negative dimension of social groups-based difference, e.g. assuming that difference equals disadvantages. Even though advocates of diversity management do not propose abandoning the social justice principles of 'equal opportunities' altogether, it was suggested in the mid-1990s that diversity would be a new way forward for business organizations. The cornerstone of diversity management is that belief that it will deliver benefits to the organizations, in other words there is a 'business case' for workforce diversity. It is argued that organizations can gain in a number of different ways from workforce diversity. In policy terms, popular conceptions of diversity management emphasize individual differences over social group-based difference and downplay discrimination and disadvantages, while being upbeat about the positive dimensions of group-based differences. Without doubt, diversity management has a certain appeal, but it was also accused early on, based on the US experience, of 'Upbeat naivety' because of the way it de-emphasized the conflicts, problems and dilemmas involved in implementing meaningful initiatives and practices.

Equality, Diversity and the Law

There is no doubt that breach of the discrimination legislation can be costly for employers. However, the traditional legal approach has been to compensate individuals who have been discriminated against rather than to create an ethos of valuing and encouraging workforce diversity. Developments since 2000 have demonstrated a shift in emphasis, by placing a positive duty on public sector employers to promote equality. Positive duties were introduced by the Race Relations (Amendment) Act (RR[A]A) 2000 in relation to race, and extended to disability by the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) 2005 (from December 2006) and to gender by the Equality Act 2006 (from April 2007).

Legal System

The sources of English employment law are common law (decisions made by judges), legislation (also referred to as Acts of Parliament or Statute law) and European Law. (English law refers to the law of England and Wales although these laws can be [and often are] extended to Scotland and Northern Ireland. Although there are differences in the common law, all the discrimination legislation discussed in this chapter applies in Scotland. There is a separate statutory framework in Northern Ireland.) There are also Statutory Codes of Practice (for example the Code of Practice on Equal Pay 2003), which do not have the full force of law, but can be used as evidence in a court or tribunal.

Bodies involved in the enforcement of employment law include the Advisory Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) and the Central Arbitration Committee (CAC). Most importantly in relation to equality, there is the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), established by the Equality Act 2006 and operational from October 2007. The EHRC replaced three existing commissions - the legacy commissions (Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC), Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) and Disability Rights Commission (DRC)) - and took on additional responsibilities in relation to the newer discrimination strands (sexual orientation, religion or belief, age and transgender) as well as human rights.

Public Policy

Issues of public policy play a significant role in the development of employment law. Legislation is informed by the economic and political climate of the day and by the views of society and is therefore quite fluid and, at times, responsive to the organizational actors and pressure groups involved.

At common law, under contracts of employment, the employment relationship is generally weighted in favor of the employer, and UK governments, particularly over the past 40 years, have sought, in various ways, to protect employees from unfair employment practices. However, strategies vary with some governments adopting an interventionist approach while others, such as the Conservative Governments from 1979 to 1997, adopting a strategy of minimum intervention, in line with free-market economic policy.

In relation to discrimination law, much of the driving force for change has come from the EU (see below). However, the Labor Government elected in 1997 has also pursued an agenda of 'family-friendly' policies, resulting in maternity rights that are amongst the best in the European Community, and recognition of the need for flexible working to ensure work-life balance.

Equality and diversity policy and practice in organizations

The development of formal equality policies in UK organizations dates back to the late 1970s and was strongly influenced by the anti-sex and race discrimination legislation of the period. The legislation of the 1970s was pivotal in drawing attention to inequalities in employment and in placing equality issues on the policy agenda of employers (Liff, 1995), but the legislation is essentially liberal and as such, fairly minimalist in nature despite some more recent changes (see discussion in Chapters 5 and 6). By minimalist, we mean that the legislation focuses on issues of equal access to and equal treatment in employment, avoiding the more sensitive political issues involved in the radical approach of 'redistributing rewards' or in shaping labor market outcomes. Following from this, organizational policies have traditionally tended to reflect liberal and minimalist legal requirements and have, thus, generally been concerned to tackle inequality by the implementation of formal rules and procedures to be applied in a uniform way to all employees, irrespective of gender, race, disability and so on. This policy approach, usually known as 'equal opportunity' (EO), seeks to ensure that the employer stays within the law, but does little to actually promote equality or diversity.

Organizational Policies

The majority of UK organizations (at least large ones) now have a formal equality and diversity policy. As stated earlier the public sector originally led the way in the development of equality policy and there are indications that the public sector is still ahead of the private. Formal equality and diversity policies are now almost universal in the public sector (at 98% of public sector workplaces) (Kersley et al., 2005) and there is clear evidence that EO policies are less likely to constitute an 'empty shell' (where formal paper commitment is not supported by practical policies) in the public sector as compared to the private (Hoque and Noon, 2004). In comparison, the picture in the private sector is more mixed and dependent on company size.

Overall, two-thirds of UK private sector workplaces have equality and diversity policies, but large workplaces (1000 employees or more) are significantly more likely to have a policy than small (100 employees or fewer) (94% as against 46%: Kersley et al., 2005: 238). However, there remains a substantial mismatch between an organization's possession of an equality and diversity policy and organizational action in translating the policy into practice (Dickens, 2006: 446; Hoque and Noon, 2004).

It seems though that the emergence and ascendancy of the business case, linked to government initiated changes in public sector employment and service delivery policies in the late 1980s and 1990s (Dickens, 1999), means that there is now greater convergence in public and private sector equality and diversity policy approaches. Thus, it is not the case that all public sector employers proactively pursue equality and diversity strategies, whilst all private sector employers take a minimalist approach.

Key equality and diversity policy issues

In its guidance booklet for employers, Delivering equality and diversity, ACAS (undated) advises employers to take action where it is needed to address inequality or promote diversity. ACAS identifies eight key equality issues that an equality policy should cover: (i) recruitment and selection; (ii) training and development; (iii) promotion; (iv) discipline and grievances; (v) equal pay; (vi) bullying and harassment; (vii) adapting working practices; and (viii) flexible working. This section briefly considers each of these key equality issues - the good practice advice offered by ACAS together with brief comments.

Recruitment and selection

A good job description should be concise and straightforward and include the title of the job, the aim of the job, the main tasks and who the employee will work with.

A person specification should link to the job description and give the skills, experience and knowledge a person needs.

Be explicit with use of language - remember that terms like 'mature person' or 'young graduate' in your job adverts may be discriminatory.

Application forms should ask whether a candidate has a disability as employers may need to make special arrangements for the interview.

To avoid prejudice or bias more than one person should carry out sifts. Review the process at the end of sifts to check points have been awarded on the evidence alone.

At interview do not ask questions of a personal nature - e.g. about marital status, sexual orientation or gender identity.

As reflected in the ACAS advice to employers, good practice in recruitment and selection is generally taken to mean the development of formalized, standard procedures, which are both transparent and justifiable. For example, drawing up a straightforward and concise job description and a person specification based on it (showing the skills and experience the person needs) should enable the objective requirements of the job to be more easily identified by both candidates and recruiters and force a selection decision based on a person's suitability, rather than acceptability, (see discussion in Chapter 3).

Adherence to rigorous procedures can also challenge and even halt the perpetuation of negative stereotypes and myths. For example, a person specification should expose the fact that because a job has always been done by a man, does not mean it is necessary to have a man in that position; or the fact that a disabled person has never been employed does not mean that a disabled person could not do the job. ACAS also encourages employers to make it clear in job adverts that applications from all sections of the community are welcomed. Related to this, formalization of recruitment and selection usually means moving away from reliance on informal, 'word-of-mouth' methods, where family and friends of existing employees are appointed. The word-of-mouth recruitment method is often still favored by many small companies and by those operating within local labor markets, because of its lower cost. However, where certain groups of people, BME workers or women, for example, are under-represented in an organization, it is likely that it will simply perpetuate under-representation. In addition, job adverts should be carefully written so as to avoid deterring certain social groups from applying and to avoid the impression that particular 'types' of candidates will be favored. ACAS provides some examples of phrases that should be avoided. For example, 'needs to be physically fit' could be taken to mean someone younger or non-disabled. A better and more accurate description of what the job entails should be provided, for example, 'needs to reach and bend to pick items from shelves'. Similarly, 'needs to give clear information to clients by phone' is better than 'needs a good command of spoken English' because the latter might be read as meaning someone whose first language is English or even someone who is English.

Training and development

All staff should have the same access to training - regardless of whether they are part time or full-time.

Be flexible about your training - residential training may not suit those with caring responsibilities or those who work from home.

One of the main messages of an equality and diversity policy should be that training and development is available equally to all staff. The ACAS advice highlights the way that organizations' training policies often make tacit assumptions about people's availability for training based on the male career norm (full-time work with no outside commitments). Training courses can be used as a way of implementing the equality and diversity policy by communicating the aims and objectives, by raising awareness of equality and diversity issues and by instructing managers and other employees of their roles and duties in relation to the policy. For example, managers involved in recruitment and selection and in staff appraisal are often required to undergo equality and diversity training to ensure that they adopt non-discriminatory approaches. Equality and diversity awareness training may also be used in an attempt to improve all employees' attitudes and behavior towards diverse social groups both within the employment and customer service contexts.

Some organizations develop specially targeted training programs to break down employment segregation and to achieve a more diverse and inclusive workforce. This type of initiative can sit well within both traditional EO policies with a social justice orientation and DM policies with a business case orientation. This kind of training is a form of positive action, an equality strategy that is not universally popular among employers in the UK. What is striking is that articles about equality initiatives in both the academic and practitioner journals tend to use the same few companies as examples, suggesting that the strategies adopted in the private sector, beyond a fairly limited list of exemplar employers, are generally less proactive. Nevertheless, it is important to highlight exemplars of good practice in order to provide encouragement and inspiration to key actors in other organizations.

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