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Industrial Relations Research Unit

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A leading European centre for research and analysis on the employment relationship

It is with great sadness that the Industrial Relations Research Unit has learned of the death of Professor William (Willy) Brown, CBE, a former Director of IRRU and longstanding Chair of its Advisory Committee. Willy joined Warwick's School of Industrial and Business Studies (the precursor of Warwick Business School) in 1968 and was one of the earliest members of IRRU. He later served as Director and, after moving to the University of Cambridge, he was a founding member of the Low Pay Commission, and became a member of the ACAS Council, as well as being a longstanding member and then Chair of the IRRU Advisory Committee. Willy’s service and immense contribution to the field of Industrial Relations, and the inspiration he provided for several generations of IR scholars, will be greatly missed by all who knew him.

A full obituary, in the Guardian, can be found at:


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:

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. Equality and diversity, including research on:

· Collective bargaining and equality

· Employee reps and disabled workers

· Migrant labour and modern slavery.

The IRRU, in collaboration with Warwick’s Institute for Employment Research, is 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:

· Living and working in United Kingdom

· Low take-up of Shared Parental Leave scheme

· Taylor Review recommendations and the mixed reactions of the social partners

· Latest working life developments in the UK

· Fall in Employment Tribunal claims linked to introduction of fees

· Mixed reactions to the new apprenticeship levy

· Prisons officers protest over staff shortages and safety concerns

· Government launches consultation on worker representatives on company boards.


Director of the IRRU: Kim Hoque

irruoffice at wbs dot ac dot uk
t: +44 (0)24 7652 4503

Related programmes

PhD programme

MSc Human Resource Management & Employment Relations

Related events

View forthcoming IRRU seminars and events.