Comply with Labor Laws to Avoid Labor-Related Problems

Labor laws are very extensive and are imposed by either federal or state authorities or both. These laws are also referred to as employment laws.

These laws regulate the relationship between employees, employers, trade unions and government.

It is important to know all the relevant laws that apply. Getting updates on these laws is essential.

In a Federal system of government, Federal labour laws do not automatically supercede state laws. Normally, federal regulations are re-enacted by state's law-making body in order that these have legal effect.

Under certain legal provisions, laws may become effective throughout the whole country without further adoption. Sometimes, these can lead to friction.

The law may also provide that government agencies can make further rules by way of statutory instruments, for example. This is the case in the United Kingdom.

Labor Legislation

Labor laws are contained in various legislation including:

  • Industrial Relations Act
  • Labor Relations Act
  • Employment Discriminations Act
  • Trade Unions Act
  • Workplace Relations Act
  • Race Relations Act

Labor laws are enacted in order to bring about a harmonious working relationship between employers and employees.

They also provide avenues for and specify the process in industrial disputes resolution.

Some legislation has the noble purpose of controlling discrimination of various description.

Industrial tribunals or a similar body are set up to prevent and / or settle work-related disputes.

Workplace disharmony is damaging to both employees and employers. Thus, the reason why labor laws are enacted. These affect HR laws that you implement in your organization.

Dispute Resolution Process

These include:

  • Collective bargaining where management representatives and union representatives meet to negotiate an agreement
  • Conciliation where a third party provides assistance in order for the parties to reach an agreement, and
  • Arbitration which is the process where a third party makes a judgments

Try to reach an agreement without the participation of a third party.

To help your organization do this, improve the conflict negotiation skills of your HR Manager, line managers and also shop stewards.

Shop stewards are union officials who represent employees in their grievances against management.

A grievance procedure can help prevent such grievance from becoming a full-fledged industrial dispute. This is contained in the Collective Agreement.

The steps involved in grievance procedure include:

  • Your employee discusses his or her grievance with the immediate supervisor.
  • If the matter is not resolved by the supervisor within a specified period, the employee asks the shop stewards to approach the immediate supervisor.
  • If the grievance remains unresolved for a specified period, the shop stewards will then refer the matter to a union organizer who will negotiate with your representatives, usually the HR Manager and or line manager. An employer association representative can also represent your organization.
  • The last resort is conciliation before an industrial tribunal if the matter remains unresolved for a specified period.

Once the matter comes before the tribunal, there is a risk that the actual issue brought by your employee is not resolved. Try to avoid reaching this stage of grievance resolution.

It is possible that parties other than the employee have their own interests to serve. See that this does not happen.

Settle Grievance at Management Level

Resolve to settle the grievance at the management level. This will prevent a lot of problems.

Provide for this in your human resource policy manual.

Even if you do not have an employee handbook, labour laws provide for this. Organizations may ignore these legal provisions to their peril.

Your HR Manager and line manager can take certain actions to ensure that grievances are handled properly.

  • Empathic listening. Listen carefully to what your employee is saying. Put yourself in the "shoes of the employee".
  • Distinguish between facts and feelings. Handle them both as these are important to employees.
  • Give serious attention to every grievance. Do not leave anything to chance.
  • Keep emotion in check. When managers do this, there is no reason for your employees to feel that their grievances are trivial. Remain calm even if the employees become emotional.
  • Get all the relevant facts. Verify the information. Interview people who are close to the facts.
  • Refer to records and previous decisions. This may include getting to know accepted workplace practices. You may have to obtain necessary advice, including legal advice from someone who is well-versed on the industrial law.
  • Take prompt action. Once a decision is made based on the facts, immediately inform the employee and union representative.
  • Give reasons for the decision. This satisfies the doctrine of natural justice.
  • Understand the position of the union. It may or may not support the employee's complaint. This is where your good judgment must prevail.

Promote trust and understanding between your management and employees. This can avoid lengthy meetings in resolving grievances.


Labor Laws and Practices

Federal labor laws and practices can differ from those of states in a federal-type of government.

However, court decisions can extend the application of laws across state boundaries or national borders.

An example is in countries that are within the British Commonwealth where labor laws in member countries are persuasive. This means that parties can refer to these laws. But these are not mandatory unless enacted or applied by the courts in the country where your organization is located.

The law can change rapidly through decisions of the law courts. Industrial tribunals are a part of this court system.

There are organizations that are not comfortable with unions and try to ignore or undermine their position.

This is not conductive to the creation of harmonious working environment. But it also depends on the cultural background of the employees.

Some believe that unions do not thrive in Asian countries working environment. Empirical evidence of this is not yet available.

Options Available to Your Organization

There is only one option available.

And this is to embrace the challenge of moving positively forward even in the face of all the challenges posed by labor laws.

Such laws are very extensive and complex. It is advisable to obtain legal advice every time you have a doubt as to any provision of the law.

It is necessary to take all of these matters into consideration not only because of the dire consequences that can ensue.

These are all important matters especially with the onset of strategic human resource management.

Comply with applicable laws to avoid industrial relations-related problems that can hurt your organization.





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