Thursday 18 November 2010

Human Resources: Origin, functions, Legislations (Case study on Npower)


All managers have five basic functions. They are planning, organizing, staffing, leading, and controlling (Dessler, 2005; p 4). Out of these, the staffing or human resource management function has gained new prominence in the recent times as there are concerns regarding global competition, the internalisation of technology and the productivity of labour. These imperatives have made the managers rethink and change the way in which they manage the employment relationships so as to utilize the human resources in the most effective manner. In order to leverage the full potential of the workers and gain their commitment, there has to be changes in three elements of managerial control, that is, organizational design, culture and HR policies and practices. The subject of HRM has been an area of considerable interest of HRM scholars in the past two decades. These scholars have presented several arguments and concepts that reflect the precise meaning of HRM, its characteristics, its antecedents, and its ideological assumptions (Bratton and Gold, 2007; p 4). Also there have been some significant changes in the HR related law in the recent times which is very important for managers as virtually every HR decision taken by the HR or line mangers is effected by HR related laws (Dessler, 2005; p 17).

In this coursework, firstly, the origin of the HRM will be examined. Then the influential theoretical models devised by the HRM scholars that defines HRM analytically and discovers the ‘fundamental traits, contrasting concepts, key domains, and goals’, will be explored (Bratton and Gold, 2007; p 4). Further, an organisation will be chosen and its brief background will be given. Then the human resource functions and the various associated strategies adopted by the organisation will be critically analysed in the light of the literature available on those functions. The coursework will then report on the changes in the law that are related to the HR functions. Finally, recommendations will be provided for changes to the organisation’s strategies and approaches along with the reasons for those recommendations.


i. Origin

The origin of the concept of HRM has been relatively recent. Although the development of HRM has been in existence since 1970s when the ‘human capital theory’ and ‘human asset accounting’ was found, modern view of human resource management gained prominence in 1981 with the introduction of HRM on the prestigious MBA course at the Harvard Business School. At the same time, some other Schools such as Michigan School also contributed to the origin of HRM ( The following models and schools led to the formation of HRM as a critical discipline in a knowledge economy.

ii. The Matching model of HRM

The Michigan School made one of the early expressed statements of the concept of HRM (Fombrun et al, 1984; cited at Armstrong, 2006; p4). According to them, the Human Resource systems and the organization structure should be managed in such a manner that is congruent with organisational strategy. The Michigan theorists also highlighted the following four generic processes that form the human resource cycle and are performed in all organisations (Armstrong, 2006; p4).

  • Selection
  • Appraisal
  • Rewards
  • Development

The weakness of the model is its ‘apparent prescriptive nature, with its focus on four HR practices’. Moreover, the model also fails to highlight the issues such as stakeholder interests, situational factors, and the concept of management’s strategic choice. However, the model strength is its ability to highlight the coherence of HR policies. Further it is successful in expressing the significance of ‘matching’ internal HR policies and practices to the organisation’s external business strategy (Bratton and Gold, 2007; p22).

The Matching model of HRM

Source: Adapted from Fombrun et al. (1984) (cited at Bratton &Gold, 2007; p21)

iii. The Harvard model of HRM

The Harvard school of Beer et al (1984) are considered to be the other founding fathers of HRM (Armstrong, 2006; p5). According to Beer et al (1984), in order to formulate right human resource policies and practices by the managers of the firms, a central philosophy or a strategic vision is required. Beer et al (1984) argued that ‘today, many business pressures are demanding a broader, more comprehensive and more strategic perspective with regard to the organisation’s human resources’ and these pressures have demanded for a longer term approach in managing people and considering employees as potential assets, rather than just variable costs (Cited at Armstrong, 2006; p 5).

The Harvard school of Beer et al (1984) also outlined that the HRM policies and practices have both short term and long term impacts. The four major factors that can be affected by the choice of policies are as follows:

  • the commitment of employees
  • the level of congruence between employee’s own goals and those of the organisation
  • the overall competence of employee
  • the overall cost effectiveness of HRM practices


Beer et al (1984) state that ‘In the long run, striving to enhance all four Cs will lead to favourable consequences for individual well-being, societal well-being, and organizational effectiveness (i.e., long-term consequences)’. Beer and his colleagues further suggest ‘that human resource management has much broader consequences than simply last quarter's profits or last year's return on equity. Indeed, such short-term measures are relatively unaffected by HRM policies. Thus HRM policy formulation must incorporate this long-term perspective’ (cited at Price, 2007).

The Harvard model of HRM

Source: Beer et al, 1984 (cited at Bratton, 2007; p 22)

iv. The Guest model of HRM

The Guest model of HRM was developed by David Guest. Guest (1997) developed a theoretical framework that held the view that a core set of integrated practices can achieve superior individual and organisational performance (Bratton and Gold, 2007; p 24). His model consists of seven policies for achieving the four main HR outcomes. He believes that these outcomes will lead to desirable organisational results. From this context, Guest model is similar to the Harvard model. However instead of four categories of Harvard model, Guest’s model has seven categories. For instance, the Harvard model has human resource flow, Guest’s model has manpower flow; instead of work systems as in Harvard model, Guest call these organisational and job design. Both the models have reward systems. However, Guest’s model differs from Harvard’s model by including three additional categories, that is, policy formulation and management of change; employee appraisal, training and development; and communication systems (Cakar et al.,2003; p 190-207). Guest’s model is based on the belief that if an integrated set of HRM practices is applied in a coherent fashion in order to achieve the normative goals such as high commitment, high quality, and task flexibility, then better performance can be achieved. His model is based on six elements:

  1. an HRM strategy
  2. a set of HRM policies
  3. a set of HRM outcomes
  4. behavioural outcomes
  5. a number of performance outcomes
  6. financial outcomes

(Bratton and Gold, 2007; p 24)

There are a few conceptual issues associated with Guest model. Firstly, the values underlying the HRM model of Guest are mainly employee-oriented and unitarist. The emphasis is on the longer term growth of the individual and the firm and the pay related individual performance. Secondly, the Guest model concerns the status of some concepts such as commitment. Guest argues that the empirical evidence has failed to show the link between high commitment and high performance. One of the biggest advantages of the model is that it maps out the area of HRM very clearly and classifies the inputs and outcomes. The model is helpful for identifying the key goals such as strategic integration, commitment, flexibility, and quality (Bratton and Gold, 2007; p26). However, several authors have criticised Guest’s model as being simply a polar ideal type’ which was first developed by Max Weber and tends to suggest unrealistic conditions for the practice of HRM (Keenoy, 1990; p 367).

v. The Warwick model of HRM

The Warwick model of HRM is based on the Harvard model of human resources management. The Harvard model of HRM consists of employee influence, human resource flow, reward systems, work systems. Similarly, the Warwick model has HRM context, which consists of human resource flows, work systems, reward systems and employee relations. Again, the Harvard model consists of business strategy and task-technology in situational factors and the Warwick model has business strategy content and task-technology in inner context. However, the model lays more emphasis on strategy and it differs from Harvard model of HRM in this context (Cakar et al., 2003; p 190-207). Therefore the model stresses on the business strategy, the HR practices, the outer and inner ‘context in which it takes place and the processes by such changes takes place’. The strength of the Warwick model is that it recognizes and classifies the significant environmental influences on HRM. However, one weakness of the model is that it fails to show that the HR practices are linked to the firm’s performance (Bratton and Gold, 2007; p 26).

The main components of the model are:

1. outer context

2. inner context

3. business strategy content

4. HRM context

5. HRM content

Comparison of various HRM models

Source: Cakar et al., 2003.

vi. The Storey model of HRM

According to Storey (2001, p6), the main characteristics of human resource management are ‘an amalgam of description, prescription, and logical deduction’. His model of HRM was made by reconstructing the ‘implicit models’ told by some managers during research interviews. The main components of Storey’s model are as follows:

  1. beliefs and assumptions
  2. strategic aspects
  3. the role of line managers
  4. key levers

vii. Hard and Soft HRM

According to Storey (1987), there are two version of HRM namely, ‘hard’ and ‘soft’. ‘Hard’ version reflects a ‘utilitarian instrumentalism’, and a ‘soft’ version reflects more of a ‘developmental humanism’ (Legge, 1995; p66). ‘Hard’ version of HRM stresses on the ‘quantitative, calculative and business strategic aspects of managing the headcount resource in as ‘rational’ a way as for any other economic factor’ (Storey, 1987; p6). Whereas "soft" version of Human resource management (HRM) focuses on treating employees as valued assets and a source of competitive advantage (Legge, 1995; p66).


A distinctive approach to labour management


Strategic interventions designed Strategic interventions designed to elicit commitment and to develop to secure full utilisation of resourceful humans labour resources

Integrated with

business strategy


Internal integration

Just another term

for personnel


Storey’s model of mapping the various meanings of HRM

Source: Storey, 1992; p27.

viii. Definitions

Michael Armstrong (2006) believes that human resource management (HRM) can be regarded as a ‘strategic and coherent approach to the management of an organisation’s most valued assets – the people working there who individually and collectively contribute to the achievement of its objectives’.

According to John Storey (1989), HRM can be defined as ‘set of interrelated policies with an ideological and philosophical underpinning’. He also stated that the meaningful HRM consists of following four factors:

  • A particular constellation of beliefs and assumptions;
  • A strategic thrust informing decisions about people management;
  • The central involvement of line managers;
  • Reliance upon a set of ‘levers’ to shape the employment relationship.

(Cited at Armstrong, 2006; pp.3-4)

ix. Personnel management and HRM

The debate of differences between HRM and personnel management although has died now, went on for a period of time between scholars of HRM. An understanding of the concept of HRM is enhanced by analysing the differences and knowing how the traditional approaches to personnel management have evolved to become the present day practices of HRM (Armstrong, 2006; p 16). Some academics like Armstrong (1987, p 32) argues that HRM is ‘no more and no less than another name for personnel management, but, as usually perceived, at least it has the virtue of emphasising the need to treat people as a key resource’. According to Legge (1995, p 70), the differences between personnel management and human resource management can be identified by taking two approaches. Firstly, by differentiating their normative models and secondly by differentiating the descriptive-behavioural models and their respective practices.

Legge (1995, pp70-5), outlines the following similarities and differences between personnel management and HRM by comparing their respective normative models.


1. Both the models stress on the significance of integrating personnel / HRM practices with the goals of the organisation.

2. Both the models emphasize on vesting personnel / HRM firmly in the line management.

3. Both the models stress on the significance of individuals developing their abilities to the full for satisfaction of their own, so that they can make their ‘best contribution’ to the success of the firm.

4. Both the models recognise that placing ‘right’ people into the ‘right’ jobs as an significant means of integrating the personnel / HRM practice with the goals of the organisation including individual development.


  1. Firstly, there are many statements about personnel management which when placed in the context of the text seem to exhibit personnel management as a management activity largely aimed at non-managers. Besides ‘personnel management appears to be something performed on subordinates by managers rather than something that the latter experience themselves’, whereas, HRM stresses on the significance of employee development specially the development of the management team.
  2. Secondly, in personnel management models, line manager’s role is to carry out the specialist personnel work. Therefore, personnel management recognizes that most specialist personnel work has to be implemented within line management. However, in HRM models, ‘HRM is vested in the line management as business mangers responsible for coordinating and directing all resources’ for achieving the results at the bottom line.
  3. Thirdly, HRM models stresses on the management of the culture of the management as the ‘central activity’ for the top management. ‘These were not fully integrated with the run –of-the-mill normative personnel management models’ even though the OD models of the 1970s claimed (Source: Legge, 1995; p 70-5).


The RWE Group is one of the Europe’s five largest utilities. The group is in the business of generation, transmission, sale and trading of electricity and gas. In the year 2007, RWE group employed around 63000 employees and generated some € 43 billion in revenue. Its major power generation markets are in Germany, the UK and Central Eastern region. In the UK, the company operates under the company called RWE Npower and uses the brand name ‘Nower’ (RWE Annual Report, 2007; p3). The company generates electricity and supplies gas, electricity and related services to around 6.8 million customers through its retail business Npower. According to Cornwall Energy Associates, Npower had a market share of 12.1 % of the UK gas residential in April, 2008. The company operates and manages a flexible portfolio of power stations, and is a market leader in renewable energy development through its wind and hydro business, Npower renewables (Source:

Npower employs around 8500 employees in the UK. The company believes that it is people who drive the business forward by bringing innovation and inspiration to the way the company works. As part of the RWE Group, the company is determined to build a business which delivers the highest quality of service to all our customers. This depends on having the right people working with the company, so that they can build and retain a highly skilled and well-motivated workforce. All of these depend on recruiting and retaining right and talented people. Moreover the company also believes in giving everyone within the company the chance to realise their full potential, so that they are better equipped to respond to customer needs. Therefore the company is dedicated to nurturing the talents at every level (Source: All this makes the human resources management an important area for the company. The company therefore, employs several different strategies to manage the human resources effectively. Further in the coursework, the literature on the following specific functions of HRM and the strategies adopted by RWE Npower to carry out these HR functions will be discussed:

  1. Human Resources Planning.
  2. Recruitment and Selection.
  3. Human Resource Development.


‘Human resource planning is the process of systematically forecasting the future demand and supply for employees and the development of their skills within the strategic objectives of the organisation’ (Bratton and Gold, 2007; p197). According to Mathis and Jackson (2006; pp 43-4), the competitive strategies and objectives of the firm are the foundation stones of human resource planning. In order to make human resources a ‘core competency’ that provides competitive advantage for the organisation, HR plans must be linked with strategic plans. The primary purpose of HR planning ‘is to have right number of human resources, with the right capabilities, at the right times and in the right places’. Organisations must compute the availability of jobs and the allocation of people to jobs for the long term, in HR planning. Such a long term planning requires knowledge of strategic expansions or reductions in the operations of the organisation. It also requires a good amount of knowledge of any technological changes that may affect the organisation. HR planners must recognise the knowledge, experience, abilities and skills that define the capabilities of the candidates required for the jobs. Moreover HR plans may be made for ‘shifting employees’ with the organisation such as laying off employees, retraining present employees, or increasing the number of employees in some areas (Mathis and Jackson, 2006; pp 43-5).

The rationalized approach to manpower planning

Adapted from Bratton & Gold, 2007; p 200

HR planning process:

a. Study the overall strategic plan

The first step of the HR planning is to study the overall strategic plan of the organisation. The HR planners must study the needs of the organisation. The organisation may require more human resources for reasons such as diversification, expansion, organisational growth etc. On the other hand the organisation may require cutting the number of employees or laying off the employees for reasons such as recession, cost reduction etc. Therefore, strategic plan and objectives of the organisation forms the base of HR planning process.

b. Assessing the internal workforce

The second step of the HR planning process is to analyse the jobs that will be need to done and the skill of the people that are currently available in the organisation to do them. The jobs and skills audit is essential in order to assess the internal strengths and weaknesses. After gaining an understanding of the current and future jobs that will be necessary to execute the organisational plans, they can make an audit of the current employees and their capabilities (Mathis and Jackson, 2006; pp 49). This helps the HR planners to assess the demand for human resources in terms of numbers, skills, age group, location, and the overall HR policy of the firm.

c. Assessing the current supply

The next step is to assess the current supply of human resources. This can be done by assessing the supply from the internal as well as external sources. The HR planners must evaluate the supply of manpower in terms of the criteria such as number, skills, age group, location etc.

d. Forecasting future HR supply

The next step is to forecast the future supply of human resources. Forecasting the future supply of human resources involves forecasting the supply of human resources from both external and internal sources. The external supply of human resources can be predicted using the government estimates of labour force populations, trends in the industry, and other interrelated factors. The internal supply of labour can be estimated by considering the employees that ‘move from their current jobs into others through promotions, lateral moves, and terminations’. Other factors that can be useful in forecasting future internal supply are training and development programs, transfer and promotion policies, and retirement policies (Mathis and Jackson, 2006; pp 51).

HR Planning in RWE Npower:

The organisation follows a planning process for HR planning similar to the process discussed above. Firstly, it reviews the strategy of the firm and targets which it has set for itself to be achieved within the period of time. This helps the firm to predict its requirement for the human resources in order to achieve the targets and execute its strategic plan successfully. In the second step it evaluates the current human resources. The manpower that already exists in the organisation is appreciated in terms of the numbers, skills, age group, and location. The third step is to estimate the percentage of existing human resources that is likely to remain in the organisation in the future. The estimation is again done on the same criteria used in the second step, that is, numbers, skills, age group, and location. The fourth step involves forecasting the future requirements of the human resources in order to achieve the targets and the overall objectives of the firm in the future. The future requirements of the human resources are estimated taking into consideration the current supply and future supply of labour. The fifth and last step is to take measures to adjust the balance between the future requirements of the human resources and availability of human resources. The measures can be to recruiting more employees, or retaining the current strength of manpower, or reducing the number of employees.


Here the organisation is apparently following a hard human resource planning process where quantitative analysis is done in order to acquire ‘the right number of the right sort of people’(Armstrong, 2006; p121). However, a soft human resource planning process is advisable where the focus is more ‘on creating and shaping the culture of the organisation so that there is clear integration between corporate goals and employee values, beliefs, and behaviours’ (Marchington and Wilkinson, 1996)

The HR planning must play an important part in strategic human resource management. The human resource planning should look at broader issues relating to the ways in which people are employed and developed in order to improve organisational effectiveness. The human resource planning should also become an integral part of business planning. A strategic planning process reflects projected changes in various types of activities of an organisation and the scale of those activities. Thus, a strategic planning process makes an attempt to identify the core competences needed by an organisation in order to achieve its goals (Armstrong, 2006; p121). Therefore, the organisation must develop its HR planning activities based on the strategic human resource management.


Recruitment refers to ‘the ways in which a firm tries to source or attract the people among whom it will ultimately make selections’. Recruitment strategies tries to sell the organisation as an attractive place to work so as to attract greater number of candidates and reach better pools of candidates (Boxall and Purcell, 2003; p141). Effective recruitment is very important for the firms as the firms can be more selective if it has more applicants. If the applicants are less in number, then the firms may be left with only limited choice. Effective recruitment is important in the high unemployment conditions as well as in low unemployment scenario (Dessler, 2005; p 157-8). While it is important to recruit effectively, it is also important to recruit astutely especially when higher levels of discretion or specialised combination of skills are the requirement for the work. This is because differences in skills and judgements become more pronounced as the complexity of the work moves up, for instance, to jobs where greater ambiguity is involved in decision making (Boxall and Purcell, 2003; p140).

Recruitment is a very complex activity than just placing job advertisement or calling employment agencies. Firstly, recruitment efforts must reflect the firm’s strategic plans. That is, the recruitment efforts and channels used must meet the needs of the strategic plans of the company. Secondly, the recruitment methods used must be selected keeping in mind the type of job the firm is recruiting for and the resources available to the firm. Thirdly, the recruitment results depend to a great extent on non-recruitment issues, such as higher pay than competitive firms etc. Therefore, the recruitment strategies must be consistent with each other and in line with the overall strategy of the firm (Dessler, 2005; p 158).

Selection refers to choosing among the job candidates. It is the process of making fair and relevant examination of the strengths and weaknesses of the applicants and then choosing the best candidate for the job (Boxall and Purcell, 2003; p140). This can be done by using various selection tools and techniques such as tests, assessment centres, and background and reference checks (Dessler, 2005; p 194).

Selection of the right employees is very important for the firm. There are three main reasons that make careful selection important. Firstly, the performance of the organisation depends in part on the employees. Employees that possess the right skills and attributes do a better job for the firm and help the overall organisation to perform better. This makes the selection process particularly important as it relates directly to the performance of the organisation. Secondly, recruiting and hiring employees is expensive. Therefore it is important that the money is spent on the right candidate. Thirdly, the legal implications of incompetent hiring makes careful selection an important activity. The laws require selection practices to be non-discriminatory. Moreover, the employers are held liable if the employees with criminal records take advantage of access to customers to commit crime. Therefore, all these points make careful selection an important activity for employers (Dessler, 2005; p 194).


Recruitment and Selection Strategies in RWE Npower:

RWE Npower is an organisation that is growing at a very good pace. In June, 1999, it had only 500,000 customers and by the end of April, 2008, it had 6.8m customers. Such an expansion of the organisation has led the organisation to adopt various strategies to recruit and select human resources so as to ensure smooth expansion of their operations. For recruitment, Job posting is one of the primary way in RWE Npower where the open jobs are publicized to the employees through intranet, newsletters, bulletin boards, letters etc. Another important method of recruitment used in RWE Npower is Employee referral. Under this technique, the existing employees can refer someone for the job vacancies who is interested in the job. The existing employees are generally rewarded some incentives for referrals that are lead to hiring. Other methods used for recruitment are rehiring former employees, advertising on websites, graduate schemes etc. For selection of the employees, the organisation employ methods such as telephone screening, knowledge and skills assessment, interviews etc.


The organisation uses both internal resourcing and external resourcing as a recruitment strategy. In order to make its internal resourcing successful, there should be a regular skills audit and analysis of the outcomes of performance management reviews. The external outsourcing strategy can be successful, if the organisation makes itself ‘the employer of choice’ in its particular field or for the people it wants to recruit (Armstrong, 2006; pp. 123-4). Apparently, the organisation selects employees by a selection process where it attempts to measure their cognitive abilities, technical aptitude, and intelligence. However, in order to select the right employees for the organisation, the organisation must check it selection process by using tests such as reliability tests and validity tests. These tests help the organisation to make sure that its selection process is reliable and valid so that the right people are selected for the right job. One of the recommended selection techniques is Work sampling technique. This technique has several advantages such as ‘it measures actual on-the-job tasks, so it is harder for applicants to fake answers’ (Dessler, 2005; p 208).


Human resource development (HRD) is the term used to describe ‘an integrated and holistic conscious and proactive approach to changing work-related knowledge and behaviour, using a range of learning strategies and techniques’. These strategies and techniques have the intension to help the individuals and group working in the organisation to realize their full potential and work in a way that enhances effectiveness of the work. HRD has got many strands such as personal development, development for a current job or situation; development in or for new work settings, activities through which individual and organisational goals may be reconciled and development leading to better, fuller life for individuals, organisations, and wider communities (Joy-Matthews et al.,2004; p 7). Therefore HRD can also be considered as a ‘capacity to incorporate learning into behaviour’ (Coopey, 1994; p24).

HRD attempts to involve all learning that boosts individual and organisational growth by including management training and vocationally oriented education. Thus HRD is very closely linked with organisational strategy and the management of change (Joy-Matthews et al., 2004; p 7).

HRD can also contribute toward strategic capability. Strategic capability is complex and requires clarity of vision, careful planning, achievable objectives, and also a focus of action. HRD can contribute towards attributes at various levels of management, knowledge and leadership which strategic capability might involve (Joy-Matthews et al., 2004; p 9).

Human resource development in RWE Npower

RWE Npower believes that the long term-success of business depends on supporting the training and development needs of the employees at all levels. It believes in giving everyone the opportunity to develop and grow. Therefore, human resource development is a top priority for the HR department. The organisation offers a variety of career opportunities in various locations throughout the UK. Some of the activities that the organisation uses to develop their workforce are

1. Personal development plans (PDPs): Personal Development Plan is a ‘structured and supported process undertaken by an individual to reflect upon their own learning, performance and/or achievement and to plan for their personal, educational and career development’(

2. Training programs: In 2008, the company is offering many programmes, workshops and bite-sized modules that will help the employees and managers to unlock their true potential. Some of their training courses are called ‘Ignite’, Emerging Leaders Programme’, ‘New Horizons’, ‘Top Gun’ etc. (Appendix b).

3. Learning Resource Centre: The organisation has in-house learning centres in Peterlee and Thornaby that provide comprehensive learning packages to help unlock the potential of the employees.

4. Open Learning: The Company also provides additional ‘open learning’ resource centres at its customer service locations. (RWE Npower Annual Report, 2006; p 52).


The above efforts by the organisation does reflects that the organisation has made attempts to adopt the four elements of human resource development, that is, learning, training, development, and education. However, it is important for the firm to devise its human resource development programmes based on the philosophy underpinning strategic HRM. The HRD must make a major contribution to the successful achievement of the objectives of the organisation and investment in HRD must benefit the stakeholders of the organisation. Further, the HRD should be performance related. That is, it should be devised in order to attain specified improvements in corporate, functional, team and individual performance and in bottom line results. Finally, although the investment in learning and investment is done by the organisation, the main responsibility of learning and development rests with the individuals. Therefore, the members of HR department and managers must provide all the support and guidance to the individuals in their process of learning and development (Armstrong, 2006; pp. 134-5).


Law affects and influences almost every decision that the HR department takes. This is because that there are certain legal requirements that every organisation has to meet when taking decisions related to human resources. This is why it is important for the Human Resources department to monitor the changes takes place in law related to human resources and modify its decisions and functions accordingly. The law and the recent changes in law related to the following HR issues will now be discussed.

Recruitment and Selection

Every time the organisation advertises a job opening, or recruit, interview, test, or select a candidate, the organisation have to take the equal employment laws into consideration. In order to make sure that the recruitment and selection process of the organisation is free from discrimination, it must comply with the following legislations:

  • The Sex Discrimination Act 1975
  • The Race Relations Act 1976
  • The Disability Discrimination Act 1995
  • The Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003
  • The Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003
  • The Employment Equality (Sex Discrimination) Regulations 2005
  • The Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006

(Source: Lecture notes, Hough, April, 2008)

In order to ensure that employers follow a non-discriminatory recruitment and selection process, the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 was the law designed to prevent unlawful sex discrimination in employment. This was followed by the passing of the Race Relations Act 1976 which was intended to eliminate discrimination on racial grounds. Another major law that prevents discrimination is the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. It prevents discriminations against disabled people (Selwyn, 2006; pp. 111-38). The Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003 prevents discrimination on the grounds of religion, religious belief, or similar philosophical belief. More recently, the Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006 came into effect on 1 October 2006, which made discrimination on the basis of ‘age’ prohibited (Selwyn, 2006; pp. 158-61).

Changes in law:

The Sex Discrimination Act 1975 has been amended on a number of times. It was amended by the Sex Discrimination (Gender Reassignment) Regulations 1999 to prevent discrimination against people who has undergone or intends to undergo gender reassignment. It was again amended by Sex Discrimination (Indirect Discrimination and Burden of Proof) Regulations 2001 when the definition of indirect discrimination was changed. The words ‘detriment of a considerably larger proportion of women’, has been replaced by ‘putting women at a particular advantage when compared with men, and cannot be shown to be a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim’. It was again amended by the Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003, which made discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender reassignment prohibited. Recently, the Employment Equality (Sex Discrimination) Regulations 2005 amended the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 again. It changed the definition of harassment to include “conduct which is related to a person’s sex, but is not, in itself, of a sexual nature”. The new regulations also made clear that discrimination relating to pregnancy is sex discrimination (Selwyn, 2006; pp. 111-38).

The Race Relations Act 1976 has also been amended several times. Firstly, it was amended by the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000. The regulations stresses on public authorities to tackle institutional racism, so as to ensure that public bodies provide services in a non-discriminatory manner. In response to the EU Directive 2000/43/EC, the Race Relations Act 1976 was further amended by the Race Relations (Amended) Act 2003 (Selwyn, 2006; pp. 138).

The Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003 were also amended by the Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2007 to include any philosophical belief and to further extend to include lack of belief or religion (Lecture notes, Hough, April, 2008).

Therefore, the employers must formulate their recruitment and selection procedures taking into account the above legal requirements and the amendments in law. This is because law demands the recruitment and selection process to be non-discriminatory, fair, and unbiased.

Human Resource Development

Although, there is no specific Human Resource Development Act, where all the law related to human resource development can be found, there is a proliferation of statutes, regulations, directives and precedents that organisations have to follow to carry out its human resource development activities. The following legislations have to be taken into account in order to carry out the human resource development activities:

a. The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HSW):

The obligations and liabilities of the employer in health and safety at work have a range of training implications. The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 sets a legal requirement for the employers to impart information, instruction, training and supervision about health and safety so as to secure the health, safety and welfare of people at work. Specific reference to training is made to Part 1.2. (4) (Potts, 1998; p 111).

b. The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999:

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, is similar to the HSW 1974, but is more relevant. It says ‘Every employer shall ensure that his employees are provided with adequate health and safety training -

(a) on their being recruited into the employer's undertaking; and (b) on their being exposed to new or increased risks

c. Further, in context to human resource development, the law requires that the employers must not discriminate on the grounds of sex, race, religion, sexual orientation, age, disability, etc between employees during human resource development activities such as training, education, career development, etc. Therefore the human resource development activities must be non-discriminatory.

Human Resource Planning

Again there is no particular Human Resource Planning Act , where all the laws related to human resources planning can be found. However, there are certain laws that organisations have to observe to carry out its human resource planning activities.

Since, human resource planning involves planning of human resources in terms of numbers, skills, age groups, locations etc. The organisation has to make sure that it does its human resource planning without discriminating on the grounds of sex, race, age, religion, disability, sexual orientation etc. The laws that prevent discrimination are as follows (discussed earlier in detail):

  • The Sex Discrimination Act 1975, along with its amendments
  • The Race Relations Act 1976, along with the Race Relations Act 1976 (Amendment) Regulations 2003
  • The Disability Discrimination Act 1995
  • The Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003
  • The Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003 and 2007
  • The Employment Equality (Sex Discrimination) Regulations 2005
  • The Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006


To conclude, human resource management is all about managing people at work, both individually and collectively, and has broad and wide-ranging implications. The HR practices, issues and debates are constantly formed and re-formed by a changing world. The various models of HRM however, have been successful in providing an analytical framework for studying HRM and in legitimating certain HRM practices. Moreover, these models have also provided a characterization of HRM that establishes variables and relationships to be researched. Further, these models have also served as a ‘heuristic’ device by explaining the nature and importance of key HR practices and results (Bratton & Gold, 2007).

Another important concept recognised in the coursework is strategic human resource management. The integration of human resource strategy with the overall business strategy has been recognised as an important requirement by academics and practitioners alike. However, the integration is often easier in theory than in practice. A strategic approach to human resource management can bridge the gap between theory and practice. Such a strategic human resource management helps the organisation to have ‘an agreed and understood basis of developing approaches to people management in the longer term’. It can also help the organisation to attain competitive advantage through HRM. Strategic human resource management sets a perspective in which the critical success factors related to the people can be addressed, and long term strategic decisions which could have major impact on the success, can be made (Armstrong, 2006; pp. 30-1). Therefore, the managers must try to integrate the human resource strategy with the overall business strategy.

Today, almost every decision taken by the managers related to HR has legal implications. There are certain requirements laid down by the law that the organisations have to meet when carrying out its activities and functions. Therefore, it is very important for HR managers to have the knowledge of relevant legislations affecting their activities. Moreover, it is also very important for them to monitor the changes that take place in law and alter their activities accordingly. This is because ignoring these changes in law can cost the organisation enormous amount of money, time and reputation.

Finally, one must understand that although human resource management is function of the human resource department, HR management is a responsibility of every manager. Therefore organisation should provide its line managers and supervisors with tools and techniques to supplement the broad policy assistance they receive from their HR departments (Dessler, 2005). This would also help the management to integrate their overall strategy into their HR strategy.



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