The significance of Human Resource Management (HRM) cannot be overemphasized in the UK and globally; however, the pace of HRM development, knowledge and theory seem to have varied considerably with the different aspects HRM. This brief will however review an aspect of Human Resource Management (HRM) – statute law and the employment contract focused on equal opportunities and managing the diversity on women since 1970’s. The relevant literature on statute law and the employment contract is reviewed; factors inhibiting Equal opportunities are signposted and a contemporary view is upheld.
Human Resource Management (HRM) has become one of the most discussed approaches to the practice and analysis of the employment relationship in Western market economies over the past few decades. Whether the perspective is supportive or critical, the idea that a reformulated relationship between management and employees is occurring has taken hold to a considerable degree. Human Resource Management concerns the management of the employment relationship (Beardwell and Holden, 1997). Managers practice this in organisations; and the nature of the organisation and the way it is managed constitute the immediate context within which Human Resource Management is embedded and it is this context that this context generates the tensions that HRM policies and practices attempt to resolve. This brief will however focus on “Equal opportunity and managing the diversity focussed on women since 1970’s” – a contemporary perspective. In addition, this brief will emphasize a habitual aspect of HRM – The Contract of Employment: statute law and the employment contract. The concluding section will in turn relate this functional or legal explanation of contract of employment to an informed contemporary view.
2.0 Literature Review
Along side philanthropic voluntary bodies acting on behalf of people with particular attributes or requirements, there were in the late nineteenth century other organisations that – at least in part – reflected the notion that people would speak for themselves. However, because, these human attributes – colour, race, sex, age and disability-varied considerably, the resulting consequences too, became complex. Thus requiring unique and adequate statute laws and employment contracts. Today, there exist a plethora of parliamentary Acts founded at different times and addressing various human attributes. Apparently, some of these Acts are affiliated to Trade Union Congress; in 1902 and the union organised mass marches and events, which in turn influenced debates for enacting parliamentary Act for addressing human attributes (Smith, 2005). The early days of an emergent statute law can be traced to anti discrimination both 1960s and 1970s with the creation of specific movements – the Disability Income Group (DIG) in 1965, Disability Alliance (DA) in 1974, and the Association of Disabled Professionals (ADP) in 1971. Although, each of these alliances had unique agenda, common to them all is the human attributes they possessed. However, prior to recent policy and legislative development in respect of disabled people, initiatives to address racial and gender discrimination in the UK (1960s and 1970s) were outlined, as they provide a backdrop to the debate about disability discrimination. But other early legislation on race which addressed issues of immigration control followed the white initiated riots in Notting Hill and Nottingham in 1958. However, apparent attempts to counter the discriminatory consequences of immigration control, Race Relations Act were passed in 1965 and 1968, which were intended to address issues of the Race Relations Board (RRB) and the Community Relations Commission (CRC). The legislation was seen as restricted in scope and the implementing agencies were under resourced, as were the various urban aid programmes. Thus, leading to a review of racial discrimination in 1975 (Home Office, 1975; 1977; 2002).
Overall, on the issue of gender discrimination, UK legislation has been strongly influenced by the need to comply with European Union (EU) laws. Article 119 of the 1957 Treaty of Rome required member states to secure equal treatment between sexes. This played a part in the negotiations on the entry of the UK into the European Economic Community. Summarily, the overall contemporary perception is that there is sufficient evidence to confirm that women are grossly under-represented in UK labour market. In 1989, 44% of the UK labour forces were women (this proportion was forecast to rise to some 50% by the year 2000) and yet only 1% of UK general management were women (Davidson, 1991; Davidson and Cooper, 1992). Not only were women poorly represented, there had been a certain degree of ‘ghettoing’ where women managers generally tended to be concentrated in banking, retail and catering industries, at the lower managerial levels, and in the ‘softer’ areas such as personnel or customer services.
2.1 Factors inhibiting the development of women managers
It is evident from literature that the core factors, which inhibit the development of Equal opportunity for women in UK encompasses career factors and personnel systems e.g. breaks to raise children; women’s attitude and behaviour; the attitude of senior executives; individual and organisational factors (Ashridge Management College, 1980).
2.2 Practical measures that have been taken
As a redress, a number of practical measures have been sort:
- Integrating women’s development;
- Career planning development for women;
- Promoting the networking of women;
- Providing women-only training;
- Encouraging women into management education;
- Auditing attitudes towards women; and,
- Reviewing equal opportunity policies.
Pivotal to this brief however is the statute law and the employment contract pertaining to ‘equal opportunity policies and managing diversity focusing on women’ as enshrined in old and contemporary Acts of Parliament – The Equal Pays Act 1970, Race and Relations Act 1976 and Sex Discrimination Act 1975. Although this is not an exhaustive list of existing contemporary Acts; there exist only two sources of statute law in the UK – Parliament and the European Union, which can be either written or orally designed to give an employee some property rights whilst in employment.
3.0 The Equal Pay Act of 1970
The Equal Pay Act 1970 addressed the specific issue of pay differences between men and women, whilst the Sex Discrimination Act 1986 was passed to address amendments needed for earlier pieces of legislation to ensure compliance with EU law. The 1975 legislation introduced the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) whose remit covers gender equality issues in Britain. It is both a campaigning and a research body with a major focus on employment/labour market issues. It argues that ‘moving sex equality agenda forward requires action from government’ (Equal Opportunities Commission, 2004; Smith, 2005). However, with the passing of time, the Equal Pay Act of 1970, as amended by the Equal Pay (Amendment) Regulations of 1983, to incorporate, an equality clause into an employee’s contract of employment where they are employed to perform ‘like work’, work rated as equivalent or work of equal value to that of another employee of the opposite sex in the same employment. Thus, men and women must be treated the same where they are employed in the same employment organisation and conditions of employment. Wherein the object of the equality clause is to remove any terms within the contract over pay, which are less favourable than those for other employees performing like work or work of equal value. Thus it is against the statutory incorporated terms of the 1970 Equal Pay Act to pay employees who perform the same work differently. Over the years, several organisations have been compelled by the Equal Opportunities Commission to redress their job evaluation schemes because the basis of job evaluation scheme within the organisation is sexist in that the hierarchy of jobs, and hence evaluation, is more significantly related to the sex of the job occupant than the job itself.
Following a long dispute, which was centred around whether or not the 1970 Act infringed the EU directive on equal pay and equality of treatment at work as defined in article 119 between the UK and the EU; the 1983 Equal Pay (Amendment) Regulation was introduced. The issue directly turned on the voluntary nature of job evaluation schemes as defined within the 1970 Act. Overall the effect of the Equal Value (Amendment) Regulations has been to widen the scope of the 1970 Equal Pay Act so that claims for equal pay can be heard by tribunals and courts on the basis of Equal Value to the employer of work performed by distinct jobs within one organisation. However, the statutory incorporated terms covered by the Equal Pay Act, as amended, are now presumed substantial and far reaching in their implications for many organisations.
Although, presently, the perception is that statutory incorporated terms covered by the Equal Pay Act as amended by the Equal Pay (Amendment) Regulations of 1980 is now being assumed to be substantial and far reaching in their applications in relation managing the diversity focusing on women since 1970’s. This brief is of the view that the Equal Opportunity Commission alone is not sufficiently holistic to completely accommodate and/or address issues of diversity focussing on women since the 1970’s. It is pertinent to note however that this concluding view is being informed by contemporary statistical trends evident in the literature e.g. less than 1% of women attain management positions, and the number of women holding parliamentary positions is no exception – souring – a view currently been echoed by the newly elected leader of the Conservative Party, Mr David Cameron).
In light of the aforementioned this brief would like to conclude that in addition to the evolution of the 1970 Equal Pay Act and the 1983 Amendment Act, the government must establish a accessible framework for monitoring and enforcing Acts of Parliament and at the same time foster 21st Century advertisements to signpost in a ranking other local, national and international organisations based on the yearly performance and overall sustainability of equal opportunity and managing the diversity focussing on women – a contemporary redress.