Industrial Relations Research Unit and Institute for Employment Research

Industrial Relations Research Unit 

The Industrial Relations Research Unit (IRRU) is one of the major centres for the study of industrial relations in Europe. Established in 1970, our Advisory Committee includes senior officials of the DTI, CBI, TUC, and Acas.

Our objectives

  • Promote understanding of industrial relations through long-term, interdisciplinary research
  • Contribute to the policy-making of public administrators, employers and trade unions by improving the quality of data and analysis
  • Be a major international as well as national centre promoting the subject
  • Contribute to research-led industrial relations teaching within WBS.

Our five decades of empirical research and theoretical reflection on the ever-changing world of work has led to two robust propositions that characterise our approach. Firstly, the dynamic, undetermined nature of employment constrains HR strategies and, in particular, unilateral ones. Secondly, the labour market, far from working anonymously, is affected by people’s agency and its governance has major societal, economic and political implications. In other words, human resources are too serious a stake to leave them to management alone.

Our research can be grouped into three main areas of investigation:

Employment relations strategy, including research on:

  • Employee voice, skills and high-performance works systems
  • Employee board participation effects on pay policies and CEO remuneration
  • Indicators of HR practices for the financial market
  • Representation strategies of precarious workers
  • Wage setting in the Eurozone
  • Responses to the national living wage in SMEs
  • Professionals’ voice and outsourcing.

Globalisation and work, including research on:

  • Labour market regulations and management of labour migration
  • Employee voice and health and safety in the global garment industry
  • Employee responses to relocation of production
  • Transfer of employment practices in multinational companies
  • EU employment policies on flexibility, security and inclusion.

Equality and diversity, including research on:

  • Collective bargaining and equality
  • Employee reps and disabled workers
  • Migrant labour and modern slavery.

Since 2014, IRRU, in collaboration with the IER, established the UK national centre for the EU observatory, EurWORK, looking at industrial relations, working conditions and restructuring, supplying features and reports on national development, and thematic comparative analysis. Recent articles contributed by members of the IRRU to EurWork include (£400,000, Kispeter, Meardi, Hoque, Hogarth):

Director of the IRRU: Professor Kim Hoque.

Institute for Employment Research

The Institute for Employment Research (IER) is closely linked to Warwick Business School through participation in the School’s Research, Engagement and Impact Committee and its Impact Sub Committee, and through joint provision with the School’s Industrial Relations Research Unit (IRRU) of the EU’s UK Observatory for labour markets.

The IER is explicitly responsive to policy needs, with its funding secured mainly from UK government departments and EU agencies. Our recent national success as a lead partner in ESRC Productivity Institute (Driffield, Roper, Surdu, Warhurst, £32 million, 2020-25) highlights how our School Research Centres and University GRPs (Productivity and the Futures of Work) collaborate and develop partnerships with other universities to impact UK’s economic performance.

The University’s Productivity and the Futures of Work Global Research Priority is led by Professor Giuliana Battisti, with Professor Chris Warhurst leading the Futures of Work Theme. For more information on the Productivity and Futures of Work GRP, please see here.

Director of IER: Chris Warhurst.

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