In the first of two articles, I consider the “say:do” gap that has emerged, in recent years, in people management policy and practice, between an engagement and employee-orientated HR philosophy and unilateralist employer and cost-driven practice, which has furthered economic inequality in the UK, and resulted in an increasingly differentiated and divided two-tier workforce. In this first article, I examine the contradictions and how they have come about within HR functions and policies, returning us, in some senses, to a Victorian approach. In the second article, I consider how the contradictions can be addressed and suggest ways forward (or is that back?) towards a more genuinely people-focused approach than can be applied and practised in our current climate.

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