Not so long ago it would have been considered a dirty word. After all today we are all about ,”trust” and “empowerment “ so implying that employees are not sensible enough to act responsibly or worse can’t be trusted to act in their own best interests is not going to go down well. But if we think of modern paternalism as an employer who thinks they should look after their employees, have a concern for their wellbeing not just their attendance, an employer who values their employees then paternalism is not so objectionable.
The motivation might be morally based as in wanting to make money without exploiting employees or it might simply make good business sense as away of stabilising the workforce in the face of increased turnover and attrition. Of course we still have policies and procedures in place that restrict the actions of employees, which some may find bureaucratic and chaff against like Equality , Diversity and Inclusion recruitment policies. In the same way some drivers resented the introduction of the compulsory wearing of seat belts.
Modern Paternalism is about treating employees well. Old style paternalism was places like the Bournville model village where the employer build good quality housing for employees as part of a concern for their health and well being but the village even today does not have a pub! New style paternalism and treating employees well involves investing in managers people management skills. Because the most significant factor in determining whether employees feel valued by their organisation is their perception of their treatment by their line manager.
When an organisation seeks to look after its employees it will look to the HR team to steer managers in the right direction. HR will provide good advice and support but whether managers take note will depend on the status HR has within the organisation.
So the return of paternalism is bound up with a resurgent HR.