Trainee should be able to;
- -Explain the concept of staff welfare and benefits
- -Explain elements of staff welfare and benefits policy
- -Describe procedure for administration of staff insurance schemes
- -Describe the procedure for administration of retirement benefits schemes
Employee welfare measures are also known as fringe benefits and services. The International Labour Organization (ILO) defines labour welfare as a term which means services, facilities and amenities as may be established in or outside the vicinity of undertakings to enable the persons employed in them to perform their work in healthy, congenial surroundings and to provide them with amenities conducive to good health and high morale. Employee Welfare can also be defined the efforts to make life worth living for workmen and is provided over and above the wages.. According to Todd “employee welfare means anything done for the comfort and improvement, intellectual or social, of the employees over and above the wages paid which is not a necessity of the industry.
Welfare services may be provided for matters concerning employees which are not immediately connected with their jobs although they may be connected generally with their place of work. These matters will include individual services relating to employees’ welfare such as private help with counselling on personal problems, assistance with problems of health or sickness and special services for retired employees. Group services may include the provision of social and sporting activities and restaurants. Child-care facilities may be provided for individual employees but on a collective basis.
Objectives of Employee welfare
Objectives of Employee Welfare Employee welfare is in the interest of the employee, the employer and the society as a whole. These objectives of employee welfare are: To provide better life and health to the workers; To relieve workers from industrial fatigue and to improve intellectual, cultural and material conditions of living of the workers; It reduces labor turnover and absenteeism; Welfare measures help to improve the goodwill and public image of the enterprise; It helps to improve industrial relations and industrial peace; It helps to improve employee productivity; and It improves the loyalty and morale of the employees
Theories of Employee Welfare
There are several theories relating to welfare. These include: The Police Theory which is based on the contention that a minimum standard of welfare is necessary for labourers. Here the assumption is that without policing, that is, without compulsion, employers do not provide even the minimum facilities for workers; The Religious Theory based on the concept that man is essentially a religious animal. The Philanthropic Theory based on man’s love for mankind; Trusteeship Theory also called the Paternalistic Theory of Labour Welfare which is based on the fact that the industrialist or employer holds the total industrial estate, properties, and profits accruing from them in a trust.
The Placating Theory argues that timely and periodical acts of labour welfare can appease the workers. They are some kind of pacifiers which come with a friendly gesture; The Public Relation Theory which provides the basis for an atmosphere of goodwill between labour and management, and also between management and the public, labour welfare programmes under this theory, work as a sort of an advertisement and help an organization to project its good image and build up and promote good and healthy public relations; and The Functional Theory also called the Efficiency Theory which is based on the fact that welfare work is used as a means to secure, preserve and develop the efficiency and productivity of labour, It is obvious that if an employer takes good care of his workers, they will tend to become more efficient and will thereby step up production.
Types of Employee Welfare Schemes
Welfare services fall into two categories: individual or personal services in connection with sickness, bereavement, domestic problems, employment problems, and elderly and retired employees; group services, which consist of sports and social activities, clubs for retired staff and benevolent organizations. Whether individual or group, employee services will either be intramural or extramural; or statutory or voluntary. Intramural services are provided within the organization like Canteen, Rest rooms, Uniform etc. Extramural are provided outside the organization like Housing, Education, Child welfare, Leave travel facilities, Interest free loans etc. Statutory welfare services are those provided for in various pieces of labor legislation. While Voluntary welfare services includes those activities which are undertaken by employers for their voluntary work.
The statutory welfare schemes include provision of: safe Drinking Water at all the working places; Facilities for sitting; First aid appliances; adequate Latrines and Urinals: proper and sufficient Lighting; adequate Washing places; adequate Changing rooms; Rest rooms; Harassment Policy as well as Maternity & paternity Leave.
Non statutory welfare schemes include: Personal Health Care (Regular medical check-ups) provided by some companies; Flexi-time that provide employees an opportunity to work with flexible working schedules; Employee Assistance Programs like external counseling service so that employees or members of their immediate family can get counseling on various matters; Medical Insurance Scheme; Employee Referral Scheme to encourage employees to refer friends and relatives for employment in the organization and Canteen facilities.
The basic elements of labor welfare measures are: Labor welfare includes various facilities, services and amenities provided to workers for improving their health, efficiency, economic betterment and social status; Welfare measures are an addition to regular wages and other economic benefits available to workers due to legal provisions and collective bargaining; Labor welfare schemes are flexible and ever changing. New welfare measures are added to the existing ones from time to time; Welfare measures may be introduced by the employers, government, employees (trade unions) or by any social or charitable agency. The purpose of labor welfare is to bring about the development of the whole personality of the workers to make a better workforce, improve the lot of the working class and thereby make a worker a good employee and a happy citizen; and Employee welfare is an essential part of social welfare. It involves adjustment of an employee’s work life and family life to the community or social life.
The most important characteristics of employee benefits are: They are not directly related to merit but they often improve with status and length of service; they do not necessarily benefit all employees e.g. a person who has good health will not benefit from medical schemes; they are not universal. Large company’s usually have a wide range of fringe benefits while small company’s tend to have very few or none at all; Once established they are difficult to abolish and become accepted by the employees as a normal condition of service rather than a benefit; They do not necessarily attract candidates to an organisation but it is possible they discourage employees from leaving; and They probably increase job satisfaction but will certainly bring dissatisfaction if they are inconsistently and carelessly administered.
Importance of Welfare Schemes
The very logic behind providing welfare schemes is to create efficient, healthy, loyal and satisfied labor force for the organization. The purpose of providing such facilities is to make their work life better and also to raise their standard of living. The important benefits of welfare measures can be summarized as follows: to provide better physical and mental health to workers and thus promote a healthy work environment; Facilities like housing schemes, medical benefits, and education and recreation facilities for workers’ families help in raising their standards of living which makes workers to pay more attention towards work and thus increases their productivity; Workers take active interest in their jobs and work with a feeling of involvement and participation resulting to a stable labour force. In addition, employee welfare measures increase the productivity of organization and promote healthy industrial relations thereby maintaining industrial peace and to a greater extent reduce social evils prevalent among the labors such as substance abuse, etc.
The objectives of the employee benefits policies and practices of an organization are to: provide an attractive and competitive total remuneration package which attracts and retains high-quality employees; provide for the personal needs of employees; increase the commitment of employees to the organization; and provide for some people a tax-efficient method of remuneration. Normal benefits provided by a business seldom make a direct and immediate impact on performance. They can, however, create more favourable attitudes towards the business which can improve commitment and organizational performance in the longer term.
Benefits are any perks offered to employees in addition to salary. The most common benefits are medical, disability, and life insurance; retirement benefits; paid time off; annual holidays; and other fringe benefits. Benefits can be quite valuable for example medical insurance can costly hence it’s important to consider benefits as part of your total compensation. The main types of employee benefits are:
These are generally regarded as the most important employee benefit. Retirement benefits are funds set aside to provide people with an income or pension when they end their careers. Some are statutory while others are voluntary. Retirement plans fit into two general categories: defined benefit plans and defined contribution plans. A defined benefit plan guarantees a certain payout at retirement, according to a fixed formula which usually depends on the member’s salary and the number of years’ membership in the plan. A defined contribution plan will provide a payout at retirement that is dependent upon the amount of money contributed and the performance of the investment vehicles utilized. Retirement benefits schemes are defined as any scheme or arrangement under which persons are entitled to benefits in the form of payments, determined by age, length of service, amount of earnings or otherwise and payable primarily upon retirement, or upon death, termination of service.
- b) Personal security
These are benefits which enhance the individual’s personal and family security with regard to illness, health, accident or life insurance. Medical insurance covers the costs of physician and surgeon fees, hospital rooms, and prescription drugs. Coverage can sometimes include the employee’s family (dependents).Employers usually pay all or part of the premium for employee medical insurance. Disability insurance covers all or part of the income that is lost when a worker is unable to perform their job because of illness or injury. They cover two main types of disability (disablement): temporary disablement (incapacity) and permanent incapacity that provides benefits to an employee when a long-term or permanent illness, injury, or disability leaves the individual unable to perform his or her job. Life insurance protects employee’s family in case of death. Benefits are paid all at once to the beneficiaries of the policy usually a spouse or children. Company-sponsored life insurance plans are standard for almost all full-time workers in medium and large firms across many countries.
- c) Financial assistance
These may include provision of company loans, house purchase schemes, relocation assistance and discounts on company goods or services.
- d) Personal needs
These are entitlements which recognize the interface between work and domestic needs or responsibilities, e.g. holidays and other forms of leave, child care, career breaks, retirement counseling, financial counseling and personal counseling in times of crisis, fitness and recreational facilities. Paid time off (also referred to as PTO) is earned by employees while they work. The three common types of paid time off are holidays, sick leave, and vacation leave.
- e) Other benefits
Employees are literally the life of the business. Losing employees as a result of death, disability or certain illness can significantly impact business operations. Thus, organizations purchase employee insurance as part of their risk management strategy. Others offer insurance as part of their benefits package. In some countries, employee insurance is mandatory. Although insurance is considered an expense, it is necessary to attract good employees and avoid unforeseen expenses which could ultimately be higher than the premiums you paid for. There are basically three types of insurance employers can provide their employees: life insurance, disability insurance and health insurance.
Life insurance provides life protection for employees. This insurance plan will pay a lump sum amount (sum insured) when any of the following events happen to the insured employee during the period of the insurance: death due to any case; total and permanent disability; or terminal illness. Life insurance can be purchased on the group with a set limit for the group or set limits by job or class. The coverage is term, is reasonably priced and is available while the individual is employed by the company.
Health insurance is an important part of an employee benefit package. Sickness can be emotionally draining for workers, especially if they do not have enough funds to pay for medical bills. Even after he recovers, a worker may worry about how to settle hospital bills. Anxiety may just get them sick again. Health insurance avoids those costly employee sick days. In Kenya, health insurance under the National Hospital insurance Fund (NHIF) is mandatory.
Health insurance is the most common of all employee insurance packages that employers create for their staff. Human resource managers need to understand the fact that motivated employees are naturally more productive than their less motivated counterparts. Accordingly, employee benefits such as health insurance are critical to the success of any organization, particularly because such benefits make the staff members to feel that their efforts and contributions in the company are being recognized and rewarded. This comes with various advantages for both the employees and the company offering the said reimbursements.
If an organization has employees that travel a lot, then consider getting a travel insurance plan. Business owners should make sure that they and their employees are covered by a comprehensive travel insurance policy that will cover medical and evacuation expenses. Such costs could cripple an employee’s finances and he or she may look to the employer to cover these medical costs, especially if they are on company business. If employees are traveling more than one time per year, a multi-trip travel insurance plan may be the most cost effective travel insurance plan.
Because of rising insurance premiums, some companies have asked employees to co-share the cost with employees. There are many insurance companies with many different types of plans and options, hence it is important to research on the best insurance company for your organization and employee’s needs.
Benefits of Employee Insurance
There is no doubt that health insurance, along with other forms of employee incentives, plays a key role in motivating employees, which in turn translates to more productivity. When employees feel that their contributions to the growth of their employer are being appreciated, they derive job satisfaction. This is critical to their performance and increases their probability of continuing to offer their services to the employers, without harboring thoughts of leaving for greener pastures. Besides, employee insurance means that workers have access to affordable and readily available, high quality preventive healthcare. This implies that employees wellness is maintained, and that they are healthy hence able to attend to their roles in the company. Cases of absenteeism due to health-related issues are thus reduced.
A company which invests in insurance among other employee benefits positions itself to attract quality employees, resulting in an enviable workforce that translates to increased productivity and profitability. Quality employees are also associated to efficiency within any organization.
It is always a good idea to afford employees a set of benefits which will motivate them. This is because the workers feel that they are appreciated as a part of the organization. This results in motivation on the part of employees. This way, the staff members invest their efforts towards the success of their organization.
Employee retention is another benefit associated with employee insurance. When workers are afforded a reliable health insurance among other benefits, they develop a positive attitude towards their employers and are motivated to continue offering their services. This eliminates chances of employees leaving the firm for other employers who could be having more attractive employee benefits. This is especially essential since it helps the company to avoid brain-drain and retain its talented and experienced workers. Another benefit that a company can derive from insuring its workers is tax advantages. In some states, companies can offer their employees health insurance benefits and profit from tax cuts, which reduce their out-of-pocket costs per se.
A pension is a fixed sum to be paid regularly to a person, typically following retirement from service. There are many different types of pensions, including defined benefit plans, defined contribution plans, as well as several others. Pensions should not be confused with severance pay; the former is paid in regular installments, while the latter is paid in one lump sum.
The terms retirement plan and superannuation refer to a pension granted upon retirement of the individual. Retirement plans may be set up by employers, insurance companies, the government or other institutions.
A pension created by an employer for the benefit of an employee is commonly referred to as an occupational or employer pension. Occupational pensions are a form of deferred compensation, usually advantageous to employee and employer for tax reasons. Many pensions also contain an additional insurance aspect, since they often will pay benefits to survivors or disabled beneficiaries
Occupational Pension Schemes
An occupational pension scheme is an arrangement under which an employer provides pensions for employees when they retire, income for the families of members who die, and deferred benefits to members who leave. A ‘group scheme’ is the typical scheme which provides for a number of employees. The reasons for having a worthwhile pension scheme are that it: demonstrates that the organization is a good employer; attracts and retains high-quality people by helping to maintain competitive levels of total remuneration; and indicates that the organization is concerned about the long-term interests of its employees.
Occupational pension schemes are administered by trusts which are supposed to be outside the employer’s control. The trustees are responsible for the pension fund from which pension benefits are paid. The pension fund is fed by contributions from employers and usually (but not always) employees. The size of the fund and its capacity to meet future commitments depend both on the size of contributions and on the income the trustees can generate. They do this by investing fund money with the help of advisers in stocks, shares and other securities, or through an insurance company. In the latter case, insurance companies offer either a managed fund (a pool of money managed by the insurance company for a number of clients) or a segregated fund which is managed for a single client.
An occupational scheme in which employees aw well as employers make contributions is called a contributory scheme. Pensionable earnings are total earnings from which may be excluded such payments as overtime or special bonuses. The level of contributions varies considerably, although in a typical contributory scheme, employees would be likely to contribute about five per cent of their earnings and employers would contribute approximately twice that amount. A scheme that has been approved by the ministry of finance is called an approved scheme and Members of such a scheme and their employers obtain full tax relief on their contributions. The company also recovers tax on its contributions and the income tax deductible
Pension Industry in Kenya
The Pensions Act, Cap 189 (Revised 2009), provides for the granting and regulating of pensions, gratuities and other allowances in respect of the public service of officers under the Government of Kenya. In addition there are private retirement benefits schemes governed by the Retirement Benefits Act, 1997(Revised 2010) through which private employers and their employees as members make contributions towards retirement. A Retirement Benefits Authority was established for the regulation, supervision and promotion of retirement benefits schemes, which have been largely taken up by formal employers and workers.
In case of formal workers, the rules provide that on the death of a member the lump-sum benefits payable from the scheme shall be paid to the nominated beneficiary, and if the deceased member has not named a beneficiary then the trustees shall exercise their discretion in the distribution of the benefits to the dependants of the deceased member.
The retirement benefits industry in Kenya is composed of the civil service scheme, the National Social Security Fund (NSSF), occupational schemes and the individual pension schemes. The coverage of the pension schemes is currently estimated at less than 15% of the total labour force. The NSSF has the highest proportion of membership at 67% with estimated membership of 800,000 followed by the civil service pension scheme at 22%. The occupational retirement benefits schemes and individual retirement benefits schemes, which are currently about 1350, account for about 11% of total scheme membership in the country.
Prior to 1997, the retirement benefits industry was unregulated with the only regulations governing the sector being those in the Income Tax Act and Trust Laws which were very broad. Some of the problems that faced the pension industry which led to the enactment of the Retirement Benefits Act in 1997 include: Mismanagement of schemes’ funds; Schemes were not adequately funded; Arbitrary investment of funds without independent professional advice; Records and books were not well kept; lack of protection of the interests of members and dominance of sponsors (employers) in scheme affairs and many schemes were run through insurance companies that tended to operate in a non-transparent manner. Hence many investment decisions were made in the best interest of vested parties and not in the interest of members or of the economy as a whole.
Employee Provident Fund (EPF) is an employee benefit scheme generally prescribed by a statutory body of the government which provides facilities to the employees of an organization with regard to medical assistance, retirement, education of children, insurance support and housing. Provident fund means a scheme for the payment of lump sums and other similar benefits to employees when they leave employment or to the dependants of employees on the death of those employees, while in a pension fund a proportion of the retirement fund is paid as lump sum at retirement and the remainder paid out as periodical payments.
Provident fund vary by country, but in general their purpose is to provide financial support for those who meet the plan’s defined retirement age. Governments set the age limit at which withdrawals are allowed to begin (penalty-free), though some pre-retirement withdrawals may be allowed under special circumstances, such as for medical emergencies.
If a worker dies before receiving benefits, his or her surviving spouse and children may be able to receive survivors’ benefits from the provident fund. Some countries also allow individuals to receive an early payout if they emigrate to another country. Those who work past the minimum retirement age may face restricted withdrawals until full retirement.
Retirement Benefit Scheme can be classified into: Defined Contribution and Defined Benefit schemes. Defined contribution Schemes are arrangements where the retirement benefit is not known or defined in advance. Rather the level of retirement income receivable on pay-out date is related to the: level of contributions made over the accumulation period; the charges deducted by the product provider; the investment returns of the fund during the accumulation phase; and the annuity rates at retirement. Member’ and employer’ contributions are fixed either as a percentage of pensionable earnings or as a shilling amount, and a member’s retirement benefits has a value equal to those contributions, net of expenses accumulated in an individual account with investment return and any surpluses or deficits as determined by the trustees of the scheme.
A defined benefit (DB) Scheme is an arrangement where the benefits, which are ordinarily determined by the scheme rules, are defined in advance. Benefits are often related to the final salary and/or years of service of the employee. The main risk for beneficiaries is the solvency of the employer so as to be in a position to meet the promised benefits. Hybrid Schemes seek to combine features of DB and DC schemes in some way and can take a variety of forms. For purposes of categorization, hybrid schemes are DB schemes because of the promises they make to members.
Individual Retirement Benefits Schemes in Kenya
IRBS also known as Personal Pensions Plans (PPPs) are recognized independent legal entities established for the sole purpose of operating a retirement savings fund. Regardless of the sponsor, the assets of the IRBS are kept separate from the assets of the sponsors usually under the name of the scheme. The scheme has to be registered with the Retirements Benefits Authority and must constitute a Trust and Deed as the legal structure upon which the scheme is governed. The provisions of the Trust Deed and Rules must necessarily comply with the Retirement Benefits Act provisions. The scheme must appoint trustees who are fully liable and accountable to all matters regarding the scheme.
IRBS are open to the general public regardless of employment or income affiliations and have a wide geographical branch network for easy accessibility. IRBS are however most convenient for all those willing to save for their retirement and have limited access to any other scheme. These include, workers in companies where the employer fail to set up an occupational scheme; very small companies where setting up an occupational scheme is not viable; self employed professionals including lawyers, architects, doctors and accountants; business people and the informal sector; and, anyone who needs to make additional savings for their retirement. Employers who are unable to start their own schemes are encouraged to enjoin their employees as a group to own preferred scheme and also make contributions on behalf of their employees. The employers will be required to periodically remit the contributions collectively for all members to the plan.
In 2003, the government harmonized the IRBS terms with those of occupational schemes. Upon registration with the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA), members enjoy a tax exempted lump-sum benefits payout on exit of Kshs 48,000 per year of savings for a maximum of ten years; tax deductible contributions up to the given limit of Kshs 17,500 at that time, which has since then gone up to Kshs 20,000, and investment returns tax exempted.
Factors That Influence Participation in Personal Pension Plans
A number of factors come into play in influencing participation by individuals in Pension schemes. These include: Age, educational background, occupation, gender, number of children, marital status, homeownership, individual expectations of future financial position. In addition, there are other factors such as pension education, alternative investments, government policies and existence of employer based occupational schemes, some of which are discussed below.
The young cohorts purchase personal pensions to take advantage of compound interest effect which increases the financial value of contributions. The necessity to keep old age savings for financial security in retirement becomes more vivid as individuals grow old. Individuals and households with a higher propensity to save and keep other forms of saving have a higher propensity to make additional voluntary contributions for retirement. Such individuals generally start saving at an earlier age enabling them accumulate more assets. Individuals with no pension savings are most likely not to have other forms of savings.
Individuals with higher incomes and financial assets besides having the capacity to save place a higher discount factor for the future and would therefore save for retirement. Low income earners have a low capacity to save and low discount factor for the future. They would place higher present value for consumption. Married households are more likely to save than singles as a way of building up assets. Saving practices rise with educational attainment. The more educated the individual the more appreciative of role of saving for retirement. Education attainment is specific to saving for retirement because the more educated individuals the more appreciative and the more their understanding on importance of keeping savings for retirement.
Education campaign is a communication that seeks to influence behavior. The benefits of saving for retirement as a wise choice, if well articulated, have positive outcomes in retirement savings. A few hours of general pension education increases the tendency to save a lot, although the effects diminish or reverse with time. Personal pensions are affordable alternative options for employers to enjoin their employees to the retirement benefits schemes, when employers are unable to set up occupational schemes for their employees. Employees caught up in such a predicaments can then save for their retirement benefits. On the other hand, employers provided pension schemes act as disincentive to individuals to make voluntary contributions to pensions.
Government policies influence participation in personal pensions. Favourable policies attract greater participation and unfavourable policies tend to discourage participation. When returns on pensions are lower than alternative investments, members are motivated to evade contributions or altogether withdraw from membership. A low rate of return on a defined contribution scheme in comparison to what the worker could have earned acts as a hidden tax that workers seek to evade. Fixed expenses charged against individual accounts, or high administration expenses are factors that cause the low rate of return to arise. Because of the better rate of return elsewhere individuals opt to save in alternative ways.
Advantages of Pension Plans
i)Portability of Benefits
Pensions are defined contribution based which favours easy portability of benefits whenever members change jobs without loss in benefit value.
- ii) Tax efficient way of saving
Pensions offer a tax efficient way of saving for retirement. Because pension savings are long term in nature, governments provide fiscal incentives to attract savers. Commonly, governments directly exempt savings in the pensions and investment incomes from taxation. In some instances for every given amount of savings with the pension the Government tops up or matches by a given percentage of the contribution.
iii) Contributions to National Savings
Debate on whether promotion of voluntary savings to pensions enhances new savings or crowd out personal savings has been ongoing. It is deduced that because pension savings enjoy favourable tax treatment, personal pensions increase the net return to saving. However, income-substitution determines the net effect on savings. Whereas the favourable tax application for pension savings acts as an attraction for individuals to save more pension savings, to the extent of substituting other savings,
Disadvantages of Personal Pension Plans
When the costs of maintaining a persona pension account is fixed, not varying by the amount in the account, then they end up penalizing low income workers in terms of charges for expenses. Low income workers with small accounts generally bear higher charges relative to their account balances than high income workers. This causes the net rate of return on pension’s accounts to be higher for large accounts. This is made worse when charges are waived for large account balances or the fee diminishes as a percentage of the account balance as the account balance grows.
Where charges on pensions are on a continuous basis, the low income workers are again disadvantaged. Lower income workers are more likely to be in the labor force intermittently and they are more likely to be at times unemployed. Charging this group of individuals for periods when they genuinely are not financially capable of making their regular contributions is by itself retrogressive.
In cases where members of members move in and out of the formal sector, eventually returning to rural areas, because of lack of knowledge as to how to claim benefits or because of difficulty in claiming benefits, many never claim benefits to which they are eligible.
Choosing a Personal Pension Plan
Since Individual Retirement Benefits Schemes (personal pension plans) are private in nature and many in existence, it is necessary for individuals to shop around for the one that best suits their needs. When choosing a personal pension plan, individuals compare schemes by considering the following:
- personal circumstances and plans for the future
- the reputation of the company directors and shareholders,
- technical capacity of the provider
- Customer care and Services e.g. do they offer personalised services
- record keeping
- Past results taking note that past performance does not guarantee future success.
- what were the causes of failure if any administrative costs
- penalties and charges imposed when one is not able to make regular contributions due to, for example, loss of employment, illness or career break
- contribution payments – whether regular amount of contributions are to be paid for a given number of years or one has the flexibility to change the amount and whether it is at a cost
- whether one can participate in selecting investments of the funds
- extras such as educational programs, annual general meeting
- Outline the characteristics of employee benefits
- Discuss the procedure for administration of employee benefits scheme
- Describe the procedure for administration of pension schemes
- Explain the benefits of employee welfare services to an organization
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- Dessler& Cole (2011), Human Resources Management in Canada (11th Ed) Pearson Canada Inc.
3.Joshi, M.,(2013),Human Resource Management (1st Ed), Manmohan. Bookboon.com