Academic industrial relations was defined by Hugh Clegg, one of its founders in the UK, as the study of job regulation. The concept of job regulation refers to the rules that govern the content of the employment relationship and the behaviour and activities of employees, employers, and their representatives. The study of job regulation is therefore the study of the creation, application, and effects of job or employment rules. Employment rules can be classified in a number of different ways. An important distinction can be drawn between those rules that are formal, and written down in company handbooks, collective agreements, and employment statutes, and those that are informal and take the form of customary understandings or norms about appropriate workplace behaviour. A second distinction can be drawn between substantive rules, which govern the content of the employment relationship, and procedural rules, which govern the behaviour of workers, managers, trade unions, employers' associations, and others who become involved in industrial relations. A third distinction relates to the way in which rules are created. Some employment rules are simply inherited from the past and take the form of custom and practice; that is, a taken-for-granted way of behaving or relating to co-workers or managers. Other rules are created through processes of joint regulation, in which employers and employees come together to regulate the employment relationship through collective bargaining, joint consultation, or some other joint mechanism. A third method is unilateral regulation, in which either managers or, more rarely, workers one-sidedly decide what the content of regulation will be. Finally, rules may be generated by the state through the process of legal regulation and the creation of laws which directly determine the content of the employment relationship (e.g. through a statutory minimum wage) or regulate the behaviour of employers and trade unions through collective employment law.
Subjects: Human Resource Management.