Is HR for the employee or the employer?

Is HR for the employee or the employer?

The answer to the question ‘is HR for the employee or the employer?’ is that it should be for both. The role of HR is essentially to help organisations to run more effectively by, for example, providing advice to ensure that procedures such as disciplinaries and grievances are properly followed which is for everyone’s benefit (including employees). Similarly, HR may provide training to managers on a range of topics such as performance management, sickness absence etc. Such training helps the organisation to perform effectively, but also means that employees are treated fairly.


The function of human resources

 This topic alone could easily take up the entire blog given the varied range of activities that HR could undertake and the range of views on the subject. However, this is intended to be an overview.

The activities that HR undertake are likely to depend on the size of the organisation, the resources available and its outlook. For example, some organisations see HR as an administrative role such as being responsible for payroll or ensuring that references are followed up.

Other organisations see HR as a source of advice and/or training on topics such as procedures relating to disciplinaries, grievances or redundancies so that they are fair and followed correctly. In addition to the procedures referred to above, HR may also provide training on other subjects such as performance management, equality in the workplace, disciplinary investigations or how to run a disciplinary hearing.

To complicate things further, HR may have a role in shaping the organisation in terms of the number of people doing what etc.  Given the substantial number of ways that HR could come into play it is hardly surprising that both employees and employers may have a misconception of HR and what the function of human resources is. Below are some common misconceptions about HR and the responses should help to answer the question at the start of this blog.

Misconceptions about HR which prompt the question ‘is HR for the employee or the employer?’


1. ‘HR only sees things from the employee’s point of view’


This is a misconception which some managers have. It is a vague statement, but it is clear that the person who is making it believes that HR is on the employee’s side. Let’s explore this remark a little more. Perhaps ‘only seeing things from the employee’s point of view’ refers to the need to follow procedures such as disciplinaries or grievances rather than simply deciding what to do based on instinct alone.

 If the need to follow procedure was what the disgruntled manager was talking about then it is in the interests of both the organisation and the individual. This is because properly following procedures means that the employee is treated fairly, and it enables the organisation to show it has acted reasonably when dealing with the matter.

If an organisation has acted in such a way it is in a stronger position when defending an Employment Tribunal claim, because the organisation is more likely to be able to show that it acted reasonably throughout the process. In relation to alleged misconduct, such steps would include, among others, having thorough disciplinary investigations and properly conducting a disciplinary hearing.


2. ‘HR aren’t going to help because they are paid by the employer’


This is the opposite view to that referred to earlier and is often said by employees. This is not correct either. Yes, HR is paid for by the employer, but HR makes a positive difference to employees too. Examples of such help could be answering questions relating to a grievance or providing information relating to a disciplinary process. HR may well also be involved in measures to improve wellbeing, or in ensuring that line managers are aware of warning signs so as to intervene to prevent a decline in an employee’s health such as stress.


3. ‘HR is too soft and fluffy’


This is another common misconception of HR by managers. It is not entirely clear what it means. Perhaps it is that HR is ‘too soft’ to take the necessary action, or maybe it is a reference to HR focusing on soft outcomes which are difficult to measure. Either way this view is wrong.  As said earlier, the purpose of HR is to help the organisation to perform more effectively. This improvement could be achieved in a number of ways such as raising retention rates, lowering absence levels, improving efficiency by, for example, requiring a certain number of sales to be made. None of the objectives referred to above are vague (or at least will not be once the numbers are finalised).

As said earlier, HR often provides training on performance management in order to bring about improvement. Similarly, training may be provided in relation to managing sickness absence which is likely to lower absence levels. Perhaps, HR has provided advice and guidance throughout a disciplinary process to ensure it was done properly. There is nothing fluffy about any of the activities referred to above. The activities are done to achieve a particular outcome and the work adds value to the organisation.


4. ‘Seeing HR is a sign that something is wrong’


Sometimes employees have this view because they associate HR with particular events such as disciplinaries or redundancies. As said above, there is much more to HR than that, but even if it did relate to a disciplinary process HR is there to ensure that everything is done properly. Therefore, HR should be seen as a positive influence rather than a negative one.

As has been explored above, both employees and employers can have completely different views about who HR is for and what it does. As said above, HR should be for both the employee and the employer and its work should add value to the organisation.

Plotkin & Chandler is an employment law and HR consultancy firm. We work exclusively in those areas and have expertise in delivering HR consultancy and training in a range of areas such as performance management, disciplinary investigations, managing sickness absence etc. Our training is tailored to the needs of our clients, and we are always mindful of the need to deliver value.  

If you would like to discuss the needs of your organisation, and the ways in which we can help, please call us on 020 3923 8616 or email us at info@plotkinandchandler.com



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