What does an Employee Relations Specialist do?

An employee relations specialist is someone who monitors various aspects of employee performance and well-being for a company or government agency. In addition, this professional frequently investigates and coordinates disciplinary actions, discrimination or harassment claims, and labor disputes. In small businesses, an employee relations specialist may handle these and other responsibilities, but in a large corporation or government agency, these responsibilities are often handled an entire department. He or she works in the human resources department most of the time, but in some organizations, this position is located in the legal department.

Liaison is one of the most basic responsibilities of an employee relations specialist. Employee complaints and concerns, as well as requests for information, guidance, and counseling, are typically handled this person. The specialist will determine the best course of action after reviewing the organization’s policies and any applicable laws. Employees, management, benefits coordinators, labor unions, mediators, and attorneys all benefit from this specialist’s assistance. The specialist may also be consulted for clarification of company policies, safety and health programs, and disciplinary actions in his or her capacity as a liaison.

Employee relations specialists may serve as intake counselors for employees dealing with drug and alcohol addictions, health issues, or other personal issues that may interfere with their work lives in some organizations. If the company has an employee assistance plan, the employee relations coordinator takes care of intake and, if necessary, refers employees to additional counseling and treatment. Employees may be able to find outside resources for legal or marital issues with the help of specialists in this field. They might be in charge of the company’s health and wellness programs, as well as smoking cessation programs. Many businesses find that assisting employees with personal issues results in a healthier and more productive workforce.

Discipline and involuntary termination of employment are common occurrences for employee relations professionals. Typically, the specialist will review company policy and advise management on the best next course of action. In the event of an involuntary termination, the employee relations specialist may be tasked with final paperwork administration and conducting an exit interview. When employees lose their jobs due to outsourcing or automation, some organizations provide retraining or job placement assistance.

Discrimination claims based on race, religion, gender, age, and disability are frequently handled the employee relations department. In the United States, for example, the Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibit discrimination in certain circumstances, and the company’s EEO compliance officer is usually a human resources specialist or manager. This position may also be in charge of providing training and guidance to employees on how to avoid discrimination or the appearance of discrimination. If the company has a policy against sexual harassment in the workplace, this specialist will look into these types of complaints and, if necessary, recommend disciplinary action. As a preventative measure, he or she may also be in charge of conducting the company’s harassment awareness training.

Labor relations specialists are specialists who deal primarily with disputes between employees and management. This expert could act as a first-step mediator, attempting to resolve minor issues before they escalate into major ones. If the employees are members of a union, the labor relations specialist may be able to assist with labor contract and collective bargaining agreements negotiations. A labor relations specialist may be hired the labor union to negotiate on behalf of the employees.

Most entry-level jobs necessitate some college education, usually a bachelor’s degree; higher-level specialists usually have a master’s degree. Applicants typically have a degree in human resources or labor relations, but a general business degree may be sufficient in some cases. Employee relations specialists must have exceptional communication and interpersonal skills on a personal level. They should be patient, pleasant, and understanding, as well as able to maintain calm in tense or angry situations. Because this type of worker deals with sensitive and highly personal information on a daily basis, he or she must be mature and nonjudgmental in maintaining confidentiality.