Principal Industrial Relations Officer

You can often tell a successful business organisation by the state of its employee relations. A happy worker is a good worker.  Many firms have advisors, or industrial relations officers, who ensure that there is a stable and effective framework for the conduct of fair employer/employee relations.  They get great satisfaction from helping to solve difficult and sensitive situations.  All local authorities have human resource or personnel departments in their corporate directorates. This is where the Industrial Relations Officer is located.

Work Environment
It is an office-based job involving some travel to various locations - all service sections within the council, schools, depots, regional meetings, national conferences and seminars.  A smart appearance is required. Though it is usually face-to-face interaction, officers also use computers in their work.

Daily Activities
This is a key post within human resources that provides advice and guidance to managers in all council services, schools and further education colleges. The work includes employment law advice, advising on disciplinary and grievance cases, policy development and trades union consultation.

There are day-to-day priorities arising from telephone and written queries which require action involving trades union negotiations (pay and conditions, possible victimization etc) and disciplinary cases where managers need advice. Sometimes solicitors, local councillors and MPs are consulted. Officers will occasionally attend industrial tribunal hearings to see that fair play is observed.

On an on-going basis, industrial relations officers will keep an eye on any developments in employment legislation that might provide opportunities for improving service efficiency and reduce operating costs. They will also need to be aware of any changes affecting workers' rights.  IR officers work on special projects such as the development of employees' use of electronic communications, telephones, e-mail and the internet and how it affects their working conditions. They work on their own initiative in developing policies but liaise closely with fellow team members to meet annual targets for the management of human resources - the council's workforce.

Skills & Interests
To do this job well you need:

  • attention to detail;
  • confidence;
  • ability to get on with people from different backgrounds;
  • diplomacy.

You also require common sense and a respect for justice.

Entry Requirements
Depending on the level of the post these could range from A-Levels, degrees and professional qualification of Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.  Lower posts would take entrants with GCSEs and day release Business Studies or the equivalent, leading to a professional qualification (CIPD).  Relevant experience in private sector human resource management is an advantage.  It is expected that any level of entry would entail working towards CIPD membership.

Future Prospects & Opportunities
These are improving with the enhanced profile of human resource management. There is a wide range of opportunity in industrial relations. Promotion is dependant on qualifications, experience, flexibility and adaptability. There are similar posts in the private sector.  The top job is Head of Human Resources, Director or Assistant Chief Executive.  You can move sideways into related areas of work such as Recruitment, Performance Management and Development, Training, Consultancy.

Further Information & Services
Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development
Chartered Management Institute

You may find further information about this area of work through Careers Wales ( or in your local library, careers office or school careers library.

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