Applications for this job have closed. Try searching for similar jobs.

Head of Employee Relations

Southeastern Railway

Location: Greater London

Job Type: Full time


Job Introduction

What is the job about?

Change, change and change …. And some more change. You will be part of the team that delivers the industry changes at Southeastern. You’ll also: support the implementation of rolling stock (trains to you and me!), influence the internal communication and engagement strategy, assist in developing management capability and employee involvement and ensure that case management becomes employee focussed, agile and timely.

Where will I work?

You’ll get to manage your own time. You can spend your time at home, in the office or in an internet café if it suits your style. You’ll need to travel across Kent on a fairly regular basis and you’ll need to get out and about to speak to frontline colleagues, managers and union representatives.

If you want …. It could even be part-time.

Hear more about the views of our people.

Role Responsibility


To drive change and improvements in working practices through effective trades union and employee engagement. To understand, influence and suggest ways of improving business processes and employee involvement to make Southeastern a better place to work. Responsible for maintaining a positive relationship with employees and the trades unions whilst ensuring the consultation/negotiation of all change programmes, HR policies and procedures are undertaken in accordance with the procedural agreements. Overseeing case management to ensure effective resolution for employees and the business.


  • Identify employee relations implications of the short / long term company plans highlighting perceived problem areas. Develop an employee relations strategy to meet the company’s objectives whilst mitigating risk.
  • Take the lead role in all planning all significant staff restructuring initiatives, maximising the benefits for the company whilst ensuring that effective communications takes place at all levels.
  • Ensure the correct application of the collective bargaining procedures and interpretation of employees’ terms and conditions ensuring maximum cost benefits to the company whilst avoiding any unnecessary delays.
  • Assist in the development of the individual case management strategy by ensuring that high profile cases are managed, other cases are resolved quickly and lessons are learnt.
  • Assist line managers in the interpretation of agreements relating to employees’ pay, terms and conditions ensuring timely implementation and consistent application.
  • Organise and chair regular Company Council meetings ensuring that all issues are addressed in a timely manner.
  • Support the business leads by either chairing or actively facilitating negotiations and consultations with the Trade Unions and Company Councils on Company wide issues including annual pay and conditions reviews.
  • Act as the point of contact for Trades Unions, responding to items of correspondence in a timely manner and progressing all issues with relevant directorates.

The Ideal Candidate

Is it for me?

You can view this role through an old fashioned and traditional lens. You could also read the newspaper headlines and draw the conclusion that this is all about managing agreements, managing a dispute and changing terms and conditions.

Of course, there will be elements of this and you will need to be comfortable with looking at the detail and understanding what proposals mean for the business and people. But what the role is really about is about being central to delivering change. Expertise in industrial relations and policies will not be enough. Your key focus will be on influencing people at all levels of the organisation, the trades unions and industry partners.

It is an exciting opportunity to ensure that business improvements are delivered for customers in a way that engage staff. You don’t have to be an extrovert but you need to be confident and persuasive – you need to get involved early on and ensure colleagues and the unions are considered as part of change. If your preference is to sit on the side-lines draft papers and respond when asked a specific technical question then this role is not for you.

Do I need railway experience?

It would be helpful but is not essential. However, you will need experience of working with trades unions on collective issues and change. If you’ve focussed on individual cases and assisted in restructuring to date then that probably won’t be enough on its own. Transferrable skills obtained from experience in logistics, airlines, buses, NHS, Royal Mail, BT, water, power, retail, construction or similar would be an advantage.

Skills, experience and knowledge

  • Excellent interpersonal skills and the ability to perform effectively in a consultancy role, as well as to influence decision-makers.
  • Strong negotiation skills.
  • Resilient and able to operate under pressure and deal with difficult situations.
  • Good planning and organisational skills.
  • Problem Solving- Identifies potential difficulties and causes, generating workable solutions and making rational judgements.

Package Description

Southeastern recognises the value of every individual employee and offers benefits that reflect this.

As well as a generous salary, we offer an comprehensive benefits package which includes;

  • A Contributory Final Salary Pension Scheme
  • Free rail travel on Southeastern and GTR rail services (extends to family members for leisure/educational travel)
  • After a qualifying period, reduced rate travel on other train operators, including European services
  • Up to 25 days annual leave entitlement (plus bank holidays)
  • Private healthcare
  • Access to an array of discounts for retail and leisure products through our benefits scheme.
  • Family friendly benefits including enhanced maternity/paternity leave, parental leave and carers leave.

Sadly other companies will pay more - let’s be honest! We want to know about your skills, experience and passion. The salary will be circa £85-90K. The opportunity, support and colleagues will make this job for you!

The rules bit …

If you have been unsuccessful in the recruitment process for the same/similar position you will not be eligible to apply for a period of 6 months from that date. The job has not been advertised for over a year so you’ll be ok!

All offers of employment are subject to us obtaining satisfactory references (covering all education, training, employment and unemployment in the preceding 5 years and any previous railway employment). We will also complete right to work in the UK and criminal record checks. This is to ensure we are employing the best person for the role and to protect our customers, colleagues and our reputation. There will also be a pre-employment medical. We are unable to offer sponsorship to work in the UK.

This post will close before the intended closing date should sufficient number of suitable applications be received. Therefore, if you are interested in applying for this role, we suggest that you do so at the earliest opportunity to avoid disappointment.

Please refer to the Head of Employee Relations Candidate Experience Pack, for full information about the role.

Our 2022 Successes

About the Company

The standard blurb…

Southeastern is one of the busiest commuter rail companies in the UK running more than 2,000 trains, and carrying nearly 600,000* passengers every day between London, Kent and East Sussex.

Just over 4,500 employees - mostly from the communities that we serve - work together to provide this vital service and we are looking to expand our successful team. We have a strong set of values that shape the way we run our business and guide our staff in delivering what our customers need. These are:

  • We aim to be the best
  • We make the difference together
  • We care passionately about our people and our passengers

Southeastern are proud to work with some fantastic organisations and our recent accreditations are part of our journey to becoming an even better place to work. We continue to work across the industry and forge closer working with Network Rail

*now nearer 470,000 …. The pandemic continues to affect how we all work and travel!

We welcome and encourage applications from people of all backgrounds

We are going to do this recruitment a bit differently. We are going to involve our colleagues in your interview. The final stage will involve a presentation or a challenge for you to address. Whether you have worked in rail all your life or you want to come and see what it is about we want to hear from you. We want a workforce as diverse as the communities we serve and for you to meet our people as part of the process.

What you should really know about working at Southeastern

Winner of Rail Business of the Year 2023 as well as being highly commended in both the Diversity and Inclusion and the Wellbeing in Rail categories

Ranked as part of the 5% club in the Apprenticeships Top 100 Employees 2022. The country’s most outstanding apprenticeship employers for 2022 were recognised for their vital work boosting career opportunities for more people

Currently seeking assessment against the Investors in People ‘We Invest in Apprentices’ accreditation and already hold Gold accreditation against the other two IiP Standards: We Invest in People and We invest in Wellbeing

Financial Times Diversity Leaders ranking for 2023 comprising 850 companies across Europe seen to do more than just talk about their commitment to diversity and inclusion taking action to promote change and create an inclusive environment

Named in The Sun's Top 8 menopause-friendly employers (in 2022)

Won the Women in Rail Top Employer award in both 2020 and 2022.

Learn more about our exciting apprenticeship programmes.

SE Trains Limited