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Stronger regulation needed on employee voice, says HR professor

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Employee voice is a basic “human right” and there should be harder regulation around making sure it gets heard, an HR professor has said.

Tony Dundon, head of management discipline at the National University of Ireland, Galway, added that being a member of a trade union was also a human right.

“We’ve had a soft regulatory approach when what is required is a harder regulatory approach,” he said. “There’s evidence this is more beneficial.

“We can demonstrate that voice adds value, but there’s a tension about what it means. This right needs to be strengthened. We don’t sit here saying ‘equal opportunities have value’; we should be saying the same about voice, it’s just a right.”

Dundon was speaking at the CIPD event Voice and Value at the London School of Economics on Friday.

Also speaking at the event was David Coats, director of WorkMatters Consulting. He said the problem was many businesses don’t view employees as “citizens”, rather than “human resources”.

“People at work are not simply human resources,” he said. “They are citizens who have the right to be informed and consulted. We have to recognise that the balance of power matters, and that we have a catastrophic imbalance of power in most UK workplaces.”

Gill Dix, head of research and evaluation at Acas, cited the Engage for Success movement as valuable in making sure employee voice is heard, but cautioned that change in many organisations won’t be easy.

“It’s harder to go down the engagement road and engagement is hard to sustain,” she said. “Command and control is a much easier route.”