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Equal Opportunities Policies and Developments in Human Resource Management A Comparative European Analysis

Equal Opportunities Policies and Developments in Human Resource Management A Comparative European... Management Research News Volume 15 Number 5/6 1992 15 ardised procedures, monitoring and a long-term commit­ ment to change (and to the costs change might entail). While in theory human resource management might be interpreted as being supportive of equal opportunities, given its emphasis on personnel development, quality and commitment and long-term perspectives, in practice the changes in employment and personnel policies are run­ ning counter to the conditions needed for successful im­ plementation of equal opportunities policies. Equal Opportunities Policies and Developments in Human Resource The paper will draw on findings of the Price Water- Management: house Cranfield Project on International Strategic Human A Comparative European Analysis Resource Management, based on responses of 5,500 em­ ployers in 10 European countries: Denmark, France, Ger­ Ariane Hegewisch (Cranfield School of Management) many, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK. After briefly charting the develop­ Equal opportunities policies in Europe are finding ment of the framework for equal opportunities policies in themselves in the middle of a paradox. On the one hand, the European Community, the paper will examine interna­ after years of campaigning, the European Community and tional results in the monitoring of women's employment the Treaty of Rome have insured a legal framework for within organisations, comparing this with initiatives for equality of opportunity for men and women which far other groups facing discrimination, such as black and exceeds what would have been likely to happen in most ethnic minority employees or employees with disabilities. national states. Regarding individual employers, the num­ It will further examine motivation for these policies in the ber of organisations proclaiming to be equal opportunities light of national labour market developments and then look employers and introducing measures to positively counter in particular at the provision of benefits for employees with discrimination has never been higher. In Britain this is best children. National as well as sectoral differences will be exemplified by Opportunity 2000 and Britain is not alone examined, showing the leading role of public sector em­ in Europe with a concern for the underutilisation of ployers in promoting equal opportunities policies across women's labour. Initiatives in the field of race discrimina­ most European economies. tion are less widespread and suffer from the absence of any EC remit in this area. However, at least in some The paper will then contrast these developments with European countries such as Britain and the Netherlands, changes in employment practices. In particular it will look the debates on equality of opportunities increasingly have at the growth of flexible contracts, variable and perfor­ left their narrow focus on gender issues and are beginning mance-related pay and devolution of personnel responsi­ to include race discrimination. Without wanting to over­ bility to line managers, drawing again on evidence from the state the effectiveness of these initiatives in practice, par­ Price Waterhouse Cranfield Project. The trends will be ticularly in improving working conditions for women and examined according to national and sector variations. black people in lower paid or skilled jobs, there appears to be then, at the beginning of the 1990s, a relatively favour­ This will be followed by a discussion of the implica­ able institutional base from which to fight discrimination in tions of shifts towards human resource management for employment. equal opportunity policies. At the same time, however, European economies Finally there will be a brief discussion of the type of have been subject to recession and economic restructur­ institutional and company level initiatives that might create ing. Organisations have reacted to increased international a productive framework for equal opportunities in the face competition and technical change by decentralising pro­ of these new trends in employment practices. duction and introducing new forms of budget controls. It has also led to a new emphasis on people management, with the new school of human resource management highlighting the need for strategic personnel management, flexibility, quality and devolution of responsibilities to line management. While there is little evidence of an overall shift towards strategic behaviour, there is substantial evi­ dence of moves towards flexibility, individualisation of employment contracts, as well as of decentralisation of policy making to line managers. This paper argues that the successful implementa­ tion of equal opportunities policies depends on stand­ http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Management Research News Emerald Publishing

Equal Opportunities Policies and Developments in Human Resource Management A Comparative European Analysis

Management Research News , Volume 15 (5/6): 1 – May 1, 1992

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References (27)

Publisher
Emerald Publishing
Copyright
Copyright © Emerald Group Publishing Limited
ISSN
0140-9174
DOI
10.1108/eb028211
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Management Research News Volume 15 Number 5/6 1992 15 ardised procedures, monitoring and a long-term commit­ ment to change (and to the costs change might entail). While in theory human resource management might be interpreted as being supportive of equal opportunities, given its emphasis on personnel development, quality and commitment and long-term perspectives, in practice the changes in employment and personnel policies are run­ ning counter to the conditions needed for successful im­ plementation of equal opportunities policies. Equal Opportunities Policies and Developments in Human Resource The paper will draw on findings of the Price Water- Management: house Cranfield Project on International Strategic Human A Comparative European Analysis Resource Management, based on responses of 5,500 em­ ployers in 10 European countries: Denmark, France, Ger­ Ariane Hegewisch (Cranfield School of Management) many, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK. After briefly charting the develop­ Equal opportunities policies in Europe are finding ment of the framework for equal opportunities policies in themselves in the middle of a paradox. On the one hand, the European Community, the paper will examine interna­ after years of campaigning, the European Community and tional results in the monitoring of women's employment the Treaty of Rome have insured a legal framework for within organisations, comparing this with initiatives for equality of opportunity for men and women which far other groups facing discrimination, such as black and exceeds what would have been likely to happen in most ethnic minority employees or employees with disabilities. national states. Regarding individual employers, the num­ It will further examine motivation for these policies in the ber of organisations proclaiming to be equal opportunities light of national labour market developments and then look employers and introducing measures to positively counter in particular at the provision of benefits for employees with discrimination has never been higher. In Britain this is best children. National as well as sectoral differences will be exemplified by Opportunity 2000 and Britain is not alone examined, showing the leading role of public sector em­ in Europe with a concern for the underutilisation of ployers in promoting equal opportunities policies across women's labour. Initiatives in the field of race discrimina­ most European economies. tion are less widespread and suffer from the absence of any EC remit in this area. However, at least in some The paper will then contrast these developments with European countries such as Britain and the Netherlands, changes in employment practices. In particular it will look the debates on equality of opportunities increasingly have at the growth of flexible contracts, variable and perfor­ left their narrow focus on gender issues and are beginning mance-related pay and devolution of personnel responsi­ to include race discrimination. Without wanting to over­ bility to line managers, drawing again on evidence from the state the effectiveness of these initiatives in practice, par­ Price Waterhouse Cranfield Project. The trends will be ticularly in improving working conditions for women and examined according to national and sector variations. black people in lower paid or skilled jobs, there appears to be then, at the beginning of the 1990s, a relatively favour­ This will be followed by a discussion of the implica­ able institutional base from which to fight discrimination in tions of shifts towards human resource management for employment. equal opportunity policies. At the same time, however, European economies Finally there will be a brief discussion of the type of have been subject to recession and economic restructur­ institutional and company level initiatives that might create ing. Organisations have reacted to increased international a productive framework for equal opportunities in the face competition and technical change by decentralising pro­ of these new trends in employment practices. duction and introducing new forms of budget controls. It has also led to a new emphasis on people management, with the new school of human resource management highlighting the need for strategic personnel management, flexibility, quality and devolution of responsibilities to line management. While there is little evidence of an overall shift towards strategic behaviour, there is substantial evi­ dence of moves towards flexibility, individualisation of employment contracts, as well as of decentralisation of policy making to line managers. This paper argues that the successful implementa­ tion of equal opportunities policies depends on stand­

Journal

Management Research NewsEmerald Publishing

Published: May 1, 1992

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