Handbook of Research on Comparative Human Resource Management
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Handbook of Research on Comparative Human Resource Management

Edited by Chris Brewster and Wolfgang Mayrhofer

This unique and path-breaking Handbook explores the issue of comparative Human Resource Management (HRM) and challenges the notion that there can be a ‘one best way’ to manage HRM.
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Chapter 12: Comparative Analysis of Employment Contracts

Paul Sparrow


Paul Sparrow This chapter looks at the nature of employment contracts through a comparative lens. The study of employment contracts is for Tsui and Wang (2002) one of five lenses that have been used to examine the employment relationship. Employment contracts were seen in terms of discussion of the labour contract and the compensation or incentive contract, i.e. a primarily economic and legalistic orientation. The broader topic of the employment relationship, which study of employment contracts provides some insight into, has also been studied from psychological, administrative employer–employee exchanges, workforce governance and human resource management perspectives. Here we are concerned with comparative insight into the nature of the employment contract – a construct to be defined in the next section. First, however, it is worth briefly reminding ourselves of the journey that such comparative research has been on. The earliest comparative human resource management (HRM) researchers, such as Pieper (1990), were aware that attention needed to be given to national differences in the scope of employment legislation in terms of its potential impact on factors as diverse as recruitment and dismissal, formalisation of educational certification, pay, health and safety, the working environment, hours of work, forms of employment contract, consultation and co-determination rights. Whitley (1992) drew attention to the need to understand how the role of the state, financial sectors, national systems of education and training, and labour relations systems combined to create unique ‘logics of action’ in each country. As the field of comparative HRM developed, Sparrow and Hiltrop...

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