The term labour relations, also known as industrial relations, refers to the system in which employers, workers and their representatives and, directly or indirectly, the government interact to set the ground rules for the governance of work relationships.
It also describes a field of study dedicated to examining such relationships.
The field is an outgrowth of the industrial revolution, whose excesses led to the emergence of trade unions to represent workers and to the development of collective labour relations.
A labour or industrial relations system reflects the interaction between the main actors in it: the state, the employer (or employers or an employers association), trade unions and employees (who may participate or not in unions and other bodies affording workers representation).
Employees traditionally shared work schedule and common workplace have increasingly given way to more varied working hours and to the performance of work at varied locations, including home, with less direct employer supervision.
What have been termed atypical employment relationships are becoming less so, as the contingent workforce continues to expand.
There is general agreement, however, that the field embraces collective bargaining, various forms of workers participation (such as works councils and joint health and safety committees) and mechanisms for resolving collective and individual disputes.
The wide variety of labour relations systems throughout the world has meant that comparative studies and identification of types are accompanied by caveats about the limitations of over-generalization and false analogies.
Moreover, there is another constant: the economic dependence of an individual worker on an employer remains the underlying fact of their relationshipone that has serious potential consequences when it comes to safety and health.
The employer is seen as having a general duty to provide a safe and healthful workplace and to train and equip workers to do their jobs safely.