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Sustainable HRM Perspectives on Employee Relations

Special issue call for papers from Employee Relations

Call for Papers

Special Issue on “Sustainable HRM Perspectives on Employee Relations”


    Employees are key stakeholders in the formation and development of the organisation’s human and social capital and are a key source of knowledge and support for the development and implementation of sustainable HRM.  Layoffs and jobs elimination are significant features of organizational landscape today raising some serious human resource concerns. In many countries the legal landscape for employee relations is in a constant flux. Both employers and employees globally are concerned about discrimination, safety, privacy rights, etc. at workplace. Organizations are also facing increased pressure to behave in a socially responsible manner. Society in its role as one of the stakeholders of the organization exerts part of this pressure. The employees are one of the most important stakeholders in an organization and the organization as a whole is a stakeholder of HRM. Society’s needs are manifest in several different arenas such as the legal framework of organizational operations, the social mores in which the organizations operate and the constraints imposed by the natural environment.

    “The focus and context of HRM, both in its practice within organizations and its study within academia, is in the midst of significant changes” (Schuler, Jackson & Tarique, 2014). The centrality of voice in High Performance Work Systems (HPWS) has drawn management and behavioural scholars into the research domain on voice, and has elevated the importance of understanding voice-performance linkages for individuals and organisations (Boxall & Purcell, 2008). The global decline in union membership has opened the door for alternative voice mechanisms while also prompting renewed debates over the need for union voice and supportive public policies (Budd, Gollan & Wilkinson, 2010). Declining union membership has renewed interest in the fundamental importance of voice (Budd, 2004) while also prompting inquiries into what forms of voice employees want (Freeman & Rogers, 2006; Freeman, Boxall & Haynes, 2007) and what public policy reforms are necessary to support broad forms of voice (Befort & Budd, 2009). The rise of non-union voice mechanisms has sparked debates over the functioning and legitimacy of alternative forms of voice (Gollan, 2006). The research on employee voice and participation has therefore expanded from an earlier institutional focus to also include significant behavioural and strategic streams (Dundon & Gollan, 2007).
    The strategic HRM practices facilitate economic sustainability for organizations, but impose simultaneous negative impacts on employees (Godard, 2001; Marescaux, De Winne, & Forrier, 2018 & Ramsay, et al., 2000). Pluralist strategic HRM acknowledges the existence of tensions and view these tensions primarily as a potential threat to performance and competitive advantage (Boselie, 2009, 2014; Boxall & Purcell, 2016; Paauwe, 2007). HR professionals need to balance the tension inherent in being a strategic partner on the one hand and an employee champion on the other to be successful in the multiple-role framework (Ulrich, 1997). Managers have to resolve and ensure viability and achieve differentiation while dealing with contradictory economic and social goals such as flexibility, cost-effectiveness and social legitimacy (Boxall & Purcell, 2016).
    Critical HRM research espouses the ethos that the voices of those who tend to be excluded from mainstream analysis are better represented in HRM theory and practice (Delbridge & Keenoy, 2010). The shrinking employee champion role in HRM functions (Francis & Keegan, 2006), tensions caused by work intensification in HPWS (Ramsay, Scholarios & Harley, 2000) and the politico-managerial changes associated with globalization (Keenoy, 1999) are studies under the aegis of critical HRM. Mariappanadar and Kramar (2014) opined organisations can improve performances through HPWS as well as attempt to “reduce” the harm of those HPWS on employee wellbeing because these two polarities are not mutually exclusive but they are mutually reinforcing.  According to Ehnert (2009), people need to be theorized as ‘human beings’ and HRM as a function that is continuously faced with plurality and paradoxicality in the management of human beings within the context of the employment relationship. The HRM function needs to take an active role by focusing not only on fit but also on tensions so as to avoid non-sustainable consequences (Evans, 1999) and on multiple ‘bottom lines’ (sustainability) (Ehnert, et al., 2015) for coping with and working through tensions.
    Sustainable HRM is a recent development in the field of HRM that extends strategic HRM practices by including characteristics of work practices that will facilitate both economic and social sustainability from a new pluralist HRM scholarship perspective (Greenwood & Van Buren, 2017). That is, sustainable HRM signifies the relationships between groups of citizens with gainful employment and the society which are mediated by work and related institutional arrangements to improve organizational performances as well as satisfy employees’ extended set of human needs, social justice, human dignity and adequate leisure time from work for social participations.
    This special issue of Employee Relations will generate new insights in employee relations in the context of evolving area of sustainable HRM by applying a broad range of phenomena and theories. Specifically, it will further theory development in two explicit ways. First, the special issue will enrich our understanding of employee relations under sustainable HRM by calling for empirical studies that draw on the link between employee relations and sustainable HRM practices, and explore conceptualizations of employee relations. Second, by encouraging discipline-based studies that uses sustainable HRM as a meta-perspective to provide insights into a range of employee relations management. Accordingly, this special issue seeks to advance not only employee relations, but also more discipline- or topically-based theoretical areas related to sustainable HRM. Thus, we expect and encourage papers from multiple levels of analysis, across a number of topical areas, using a variety of methodologies, including surveys, qualitative studies, case studies, experiments, and neuroscience-based methods. In addition, authors may submit theory development papers.

    The special issue welcomes conceptual, theoretical and empirical contributions that fall within the general topic of this call. Some areas of particular interest for the special issue are detailed below. However, this list is not exhaustive and authors are encouraged to make contributions within the broader theme of the special issue.
•    Role of the employee as a stakeholder in sustainable HRM
•    Health, safety at workplace and sustainable HRM
•    Sustainable workforce and diversity
•    Sustainable workforce and employee welfare
•    Sustainable workforce and abuse or inhumane treatment of employees
•    Bribery and corruption and sustainable workforce
•    Conflict(s) of interest, employee relations and sustainability
•    Employee development and sustainability of workforce
•    Flexible working hours and sustainable HRM
•    Harassment at workplace and sustainability
•    Mediators and moderators of employee relations in sustainable organizations
•    Comparative employee laws and impact on sustainable HRM practices
•    Role of trade unions and sustainable HRM practices
•    Sustainable employee relations and its impact on society and environment
•    Employee relations in government and non-government organizations under the sustainable HRM practices


Manuscript submission

The deadline for submissions is January 7, 2019. All submissions will undergo double-blind peer review.
Submissions to Employee Relations are made using ScholarOne Manuscripts, which can be found here:
Author guidelines for the journal can be found here:
The editors of the Special Issue welcome discussion of initial ideas for articles via e-mail to: Madasu Bhaskara Rao ( before July 31, 2018.



Befort, S.F and Budd, J.W. (2009). Invisible hands, invisible objectives: Bringing workplace law and public policy into focus. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Boselie, P. (2009). A balanced approach to understanding the shaping of human resource management in organisations. Management Revue, 20(1): 90–108.

Boxall, P. and Purcell, J. (2008). Strategy and human resource management, 2e, New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Boxall, P., and Purcell, J. (2016). Strategy and Human Resource Management, 4e, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Budd, J.W. (2004). Employment with a human face: Balancing efficiency, equity, and voice. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

Budd, John, Gollan, Paul J., and Wilkinson, Adrian (2010). New approaches to employee voice and participation in organizations. Human Relations. DOI 10.1177/0018726709348938

Delbridge, R., and Keenoy, T. (2010). Beyond managerialism? International Journal of Human Resource Management, 21(6): 799–817.

Dundon, T. and Gollan, P.J. (2007). Re-conceptualizing voice in the non-union workplace. International Journal of Human Resource Management, 18:1182-98.

Ehnert, Ina. (2009). Sustainable Human Resource Management: A conceptual and exploratory analysis from a paradox perspective. Heidelberg: Springer Science & Business Media.

Ehnert, Ina; Parsa, Sepideh; Roper, Ian; Wagner, Marcus and Muller-Camen, Michael (2015). Reporting on sustainability and HRM: A comparative study of sustainability reporting practices by the world's largest companies. The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 1-21,

Evans, P.A.L. (1999). HRM on the edge: A duality perspective. Organization, 6(2):325-338.

Francis, H., and Keegan, A. (2006). The changing face of HRM: In search of balance. Human Resource Management Journal, 16(3): 231–49.

Freeman, R.B. and Rogers, J. (2006). What workers want, updated edn. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

Freeman, R.B., Boxall, P. and Haynes, P. (2007). Eds. What workers say: Employee voice in the Anglo American world. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

Godard, J. (2001). High performance and the transformation of work? The implications of alternative work practices for the experience and outcomes of work. Industrial and Labor Relations Review, 54:776-805.

Gollan, P.J. (2006). Employee representation in non-union firms. London: Sage.

Greenwood, M. and  Van Buren, H. J. (2017). Ideology in HRM scholarship: Interrogating the ideological performativity of ‘New Unitarism’. Journal of Business Ethics, 142(4): 663-678.

Marescaux, Elise., De Winne, Sophie De. And Forrier, Anneleen. (2018). Developmental HRM, employee well‐ being and performance: The moderating role of developing leadership. European Management Review.

Mariappanadar, Sugumar and Kramar, Robin, (2014), Sustainable HRM, Asia-Pacific Journal of Business Administration, 6(3):206 – 224.

Paauwe, J. (2007). HRM and Performance: In Search of Balance. Tilburg: Tilburg University.

Ramsay, H., Scholarios, D. and Harley, B. (2000). Employees and high‐ performance work systems: Testing inside the black box. British Journal of Industrial Relations, 38, 501-531.

Schuler, S. Randall, Jackson, E. Susan and Tarique, Ibraiz (2014). Comparative Labour Law and Industrial Relations in Industrialized Market Economies. Kluwer Law International, the Netherlands.

Ulrich, Dave (1997). Human Resource Champions: The Next Agenda for Adding Value and Delivering Results. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Business School Press.