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Employment relations research

Explore our work in employment relations, 1 of our areas of expertise in Organisational Studies and HR

Relationships between workers and employers are a fundamentally important part of economic and social life, and our Employment Relations research looks at how governments, employers and other agencies influence these relationships. It also explores how working people can organise themselves to improve the quality of their working lives.

Through our research, we're answering some of the fundamental questions at the heart of the employer-worker relationship – from how these relationships are regulated by employers, trade unions, governments and other bodies, to why conflict arises between workers and their employers and how such conflict manifests itself.

There's also an increasingly international dimension to our research in the field, and we're investigating the expanding role played by international organisations in trying to shape the nature of work and employment relationships. Our research focuses on the role and influence of these international organisations, the relationships that exist between them, and how their policies relate to global labour governance.

Our work is frequently published by leading academic journals such as the British Journal of Industrial Relations, the Industrial Relations Journal, Employee Relations, Economic and Industrial Democracy, and the European Journal of Industrial Relations.

Our research covers the following topics

  • The study of union organising and attitudes of young workers towards trade unions
  • Employment relations policy and regulation
  • New and emerging actors in employment relations
  • The intersection of international comparative employment relations with organisation theory

The latter topic focuses, in particular, on the issue of international labour standards and the dialogue between the global unions and international financial institutions, such as the World Bank and IMF.


Our research makes use of both large-scale quantitative research methods – including statistical techniques such as regression analysis and structural equation modelling – and qualitative methods such as interviews, case studies and ethnographic techniques. We also analyse and interpret policy developments at various levels.

Collaborations and funders

We enjoy a close relationship with the British Universities Industrial Relations Association (BUIRA), and we've undertaken work with various trade union organisations, including Unite Community. Our work on international financial institutions and global labour governance has also enabled us to work collaboratively with agencies such as the International Labour Organisation and the World Bank. 

Recent funders for our research include major funding organisations such as the Nuffield Foundation, and the Low Pay Commission, an independent body that advises the government about the National Living Wage and the National Minimum Wage.

Publication highlights

Discover our areas of expertise

Employment relations is 1 of our 4 areas of expertise in our Organisational Studies and HR research area. Explore the others below.

Human resource (HR) management and leadership

We're researching the nature of leadership and management, and the cultures and practices which influence how people are led and work. Explore our human resource management global hr and leadership research.

Meeting between two women and a man
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Workplace learning and development

We're developing productive ways of learning-in-action & researching how adults learn best in workplace settings. Explore our workplace learning and development research.

Female and male employee attending an at-work seminar
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Business ethics and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

We're conducting research into corporate responsibility, business ethics, and how we can promote a more responsible business culture. Explore our business ethics and corporate social responsibility CSR research.

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Research groups

Employment Relations and Human Resource Management

We're researching employment relations, leadership and talent management, workplace learning and global human resources.

Our members

Stephen James Williams Portrait

Media ready expert

Dr Stephen Williams

Reader in Employment Relations

School of Strategy, Marketing, and Innovation

Faculty of Business and Law

PhD Supervisor

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Yvonne Rueckert Portrait

Dr Yvonne Rueckert

Senior Lecturer

School of Organisations, Systems, and People

Faculty of Business and Law

PhD Supervisor

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Martin Lawrence Brock Portrait

Dr Martin Brock

Associate Head (Students)

Portsmouth Business School

Faculty of Business and Law

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Interested in a PhD in Human Resource Management?

Browse our postgraduate research degrees – including PhDs and MPhils – at our Human Resource Management postgraduate research degrees page.