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Legal and ethical pressures on organizations to enhance safety of their employees is a major issue that desperately bothers most companies throughout the globe, especially those ones engaged in manufacturing. Organizations have fairly responded to these pressures by instituting accident redress programmes and specific programmes aimed at ensuring that the health and safety of workers is at all times taken care of. The safety programmes require that the employees are in the course of their duties provided with a mechanism that ensures that their physical as well as mental wellbeing is not compromised (Hatcher, 2002). This is achieved through the provision of such protective devices as gumboots, gloves, pullovers and aprons, sound shields and helmets all at the employer's cost.
The main ethical issues that arise under the wider purview of employment include human resource practices, pay, health and safety and labor relations. Employment ethics relates to moral issues in the context of working relations. Most organizations and employers are looking for ways of enacting the best policies ensure legal compliance and confidentiality by the employees and also encourage them to be honest. These policies have not been able to effectively seal all loopholes regarding employee-employer relations. The policies have in several instances met with stiff hurdles which in some cases end up damaging the public images of organizations.
One of the ethical issues that face current and future employment practices is fair compensation. Determining of salaries and benefits for new hires and pay hikes for current staff has not been an easy thing for most organizations. This is partly to blame for lack of universality among various employers and also competition in business for best brains. While most job descriptions give a list of required qualifications for new positions, the actual salary scale may cover a range and allow for some degree of flexibility in the final offer. This is very risky to especially new hires that because of high unemployment rates are ready to take any offer provided they secure a job. In essence, the guiding principle in ethical considerations during the determination of salary scale and benefit levels should be based on fairness both to the organization and the staff.
This is another issue of confrontation between employers and employees. In the course of executing its business, an organization may find it necessary to oversee employee evaluations so as make decisions regarding pay rise, job retention promotion or even laying off of some of its workers. Employees from some of the organizations where such evaluations are have complained of lack of fairness and accuracy citing such prejudices as race, sex and at times work experience. These are in the real sense supposed to be fair since they impact positively on the employee's life. They should be based on performance and not personal preferences.
This is both an ethical and legal issue in many countries. Discrimination takes several forms and can be in favor of an employee or potential employee's color, race, religion, political affiliation or gender. Most of these countries have enforced strict laws. There have been cases of certain US companies laying off only employees of the Indian origin and Latinos during period of economic recession. A striking iron is that these group forms the minority of the American citizenry and therefore their retrenchment at times of economic meltdown is a systematic form of racial discrimination. That notwithstanding, most countries across the globe have enacted legislations banning all forms of discriminations at work places be it in the public or private sector.
This is another ethical issue prevalent in most organizations. Company policies are normally created and enacted by human resource staff to give direction on the organization's operations. Employees who signed these policies have the moral obligation to apply all those policies in their every day life in the work place. Human resources are mandated with the responsibility of overseeing that the employees embrace loyalty to these policies at all times. However, some of these policies are always not employee friendly and at times employees are forced to bend the law so as to achieve their personal goals. A good example of this is an organizational policy that requires that any employee who wants to take a leave before the end of the day seeks permission from the head of personnel management. So in the absence of the personnel manager, no employee leaves office and if one dares contravene this requirement for whatever reason, gets penalized. This is a rather prohibitive policy as it bars employees from attending to important matters of personal interest promptly like seeing a friend who has been hit by a car. A contra-argument to this is that employees should not steal time from their employers.
Current economic conditions may require restructuring of a company's workforce; layoffs and clear decisions have to be made about whom to lay off whom not to. Fair decisions have to be made with regard to the time frame for informing the affected employees about the scheduled for layoffs. This will enable the affected employees to secure other positions elsewhere without necessarily straining much on their budget.
Most companies have the code of ethics for the purpose of fairly balancing between employee and organizational needs. The codes of conduct are aimed at covering business practices, issues involving conflicts of interest and often give clear guidelines on the grievance process for remedying violations. The human resource department is the one charged with the responsibility of ensuring that the employees have read and understood the ethics and do adhere to them.
To avoid possibilities of conflict of interest between employers and their employees, most organizations have line managers who are direct the employee's every day tasks. They are responsible for implementing the best human resource practices and also provide human resource professionals with all the necessary input for developing effective practices that suit the interests of both the employee and employer. In addition, there is a need of accommodating the new changes due to cultural, demographic changes, dual income, and equal employment opportunities. Diversity of cultures brings about a diversity of talents as well as skills in the workplace and the team work in the organization is more enhanced as people are in a position of borrowing the positive attributes of other cultures (Hatcher, 2002).The diversity in culture makes a positive contribution to the human resources development as the people are in a position of exchanging ideas thus reducing the task of training in as far as the HRD is concerned there is also a positive contribution to the issues that are related to changes in motivation, learning principles and changes in training programs to suit the diverse workforce, careers shift and organizational culture.
Some of the procedures carried out to avoid possible legal or ethical issues in employments are:
Compensation entails both pays pay and benefits. Pays refer to the wage or salary that the employees earn, while benefits are a form of compensation provided to employees in addition to their pay, such as health insurance or employee discounts. The aim of compensation practices is to help the organization in establishing and maintaining a competent and loyal workforce at an affordable cost (Michael, 2004).
Productivity improvement programs should tie job behavior to rewards and promotions. Rewards can be financial like bonuses and pay raises or nonfinancial like improved job satisfaction. Such programs are used to motivate employees to engage them in observing appropriate job behaviors, namely those that help the organization meet its goals and avoid incurring heavy legal costs in resolving labour relations issues.
The interaction of the people across the boundaries are responsible for the creation of a situation of the creation of culture mixes in distinct places as well as practices that is consequential to pluralism. There is a disparity inn the process of the occurrence of cultural flows in diverse spheres whose origin may be based from a variety of places. The integration as well as the spread of diverse ideas in addition to the images is responsible for provoking the reactions as well as the resistance otherwise implying contestation. This has very significant implications to the human resource departments in any organization (Michael, 1999). The global norms as well as the practices have got different interpretations based on the locality of the tradition. Diversity has particularly been an important global value on itself. The promotion of diversity is based on international organizations as well as movements in addition to the institutionalization in the context of the nation states. The diminishing of diversity is a factor of the yardstick that is applied by the human resource development in restructuring of sound employment relations.
There are quite a number of social, economic, and technological events taking place in workplaces that have far reaching legal as well as ethical issues. These events also have strong influence human resource practices. These events include:
Ø The emergence of work and family issues
Ø The growing use of part-time and temporary employees
Ø An expanded cultural diversity at the work-place
Ø The rapid advancement of technology
Ø An increased emphasis on quality and team-work
Ø The occurrence of mergers and takeovers
Ø The occurrence of downsizing and layoffs
Ø An emphasis on continuous quality improvement
Ø A high rate of workforce illiteracy
These events impart differently on employer-employee relations in a number of ways. For instance, some companies are of late attempting to accommodate family needs by offering benefit options like, child care, maternity leave, flextime, and job sharing. Better still some firms are attempting to accommodate the special needs of elderly workers through application of skill upgrading and training techniques specially designed to facilitate the acceptance of new and upcoming techniques. Others have gone as far as training their employees in writing basic reading, and mathematical skills so that they can keep pace with rapidly advancing technologies (Kleiman, Lawrence, 2000).
Another issue facing employment is global economy. Many firms are of late realizing the importance of entering foreign markets so as to increase their level of competitions. Aspiring foreign investment naturally calls for the human resource management to consider recruiting globally informed managers who have the zeal to drive business aspirations to new levels. These managers require understanding the foreign languages and culture besides the dynamics of foreign market practices (Mallor et al, 2004). This then calls for employees to consider learning foreign languages so as to stand a better chance of securing stable jobs. However, this can be rather costly considering the time it may take to fully understand and comprehend a foreign language and the associated cultural practices. This has however worked in some selected countries like Canada which is bilingual. Here, both French and English are official languages and therefore all teachings institutions are by law required to embrace both of them with equal regard.
The road to effective human resource management and employee relations practices is a rather difficult one, but progressing towards a long-term vision by making manageable changes, step-by-step, will bring about remarkable and significant results. Below are some of the key elements of a successful process.
With a good employee management practices and a good structured performance management, well incorporated with individual goals that are aligned with business strategy, then time and other resources are effectively and optimally used in dealing with legal and ethical issues of employment. High levels of employee engagement indicate that individuals are performing at their best. With poor human resource management practices coupled with inconsistent evaluation criteria and rewards can lead to mistrust, reduced productivity and higher attrition (Ronald, 2006). Lack of well organized documentation, visibility, and accountability can negatively affect the stakeholders who are always in need of transparency. Where accurate performance information is not available or is difficult to access, training and development decisions together with project assignment decisions may not be made in the organization's best interests.
Evaluation processes that do not engage employees effectively can eventually lead to a lot of inconsistency, late or incomplete appraisals, avoidance of performance discussions, mistrust and lack of honest performance-related discussions. In most cases managers may not be ready to deliver quality feedback and oversee effective performance discussions.
While appreciating the fact each cultures has different expressions and identity and common similarity with others most of the time this might affect the efficiency of people at work place as people are always on a look out not to infringe on other people culture right. Cultural pluralism is very important in any working environment as it integrates cultures and this is only possible if every group involved is in a position to express their interests socially, economically and politically and in doing so each member should be able to satisfy his basic need i.e. food, shelter, and clothing (Michae, 1999). If one of this happens to lack then even his output at work place is compromised. Lack of knowledge on different cultural practices leads to disrespect of each other at work place thus affecting the productivity.