The Regulation of Professional Conduct
As the regulatory body for Human Resources Management in Ontario, the overarching objective of HRPA’s regulatory organization is to protect the public by ensuring that Human Resources professionals in Ontario are competent and act in an ethical manner.
The regulation of professional conduct is accomplished in many ways, by ensuring that members of the profession are of good character, by providing guidance and educating members to members as to what constitutes appropriate professional behaviour, and by having a robust complaints and discipline process that deals with situations where a member may have conducted himself or herself in an inappropriate manner. All of these require, however, a clear statement of what is and is not appropriate processional behaviour. Codes of ethics, rules of professional conduct, and standards of practice are such statements
Guidance with respect to professional conduct
Setting standards of practice for members of the Association is an important aspect of HRPA’s regulatory responsibilities. It is one of the three main tasks for professional regulation: (1) setting standards for who may enter the profession; (2) setting standards of practice for those working in the profession; and (3) disciplining members who fail to meet the standards of the profession.
The Human Resources Professionals Association of Ontario Act, 1990, states the following:
4.—(1) The board may pass by-laws as necessary to conduct the business and carry out the objects of the Association including,
(c) regulating and governing the conduct of members of the association in the practice of their profession, by prescribing a code of ethics, rules of professional conduct and standards of practice.
Therefore practice standards and practice guidelines as defined here are prescribed by the Board of HRPA pursuant to the Human Resources Professionals Association of Ontario Act, 1990.
Code of Ethics, Rules of Professional Conduct, and Standards of Practice
Code of ethics, rules of professional conduct, and standards of practice are similar in that they all pertain to regulation and governance of member conduct; yet each is somewhat different from the other. Code of ethics set out the principles that guide member conduct. As such, codes of ethics tend to be more directional than specific. Rules of professional conduct define member behaviours that are specifically prescribed or proscribed. Roles of conduct define the ‘dos and don’ts’ of professional practice. Standards of practice refer to detailed guidelines for specific professional activities. One can think of codes of ethics, rules of professional conduct, and standards of practice as falling along a continuum of specificity—with codes of ethics being at the broad end and standards of practice being at the narrow end. All three levels of specificity are useful.
The HRPA Rules of Professional Conduct
The HRPA Rules of Professional Conduct set out the duties of Human Resource Management professionals toward employer or clients, employees, other professionals, the profession, and the public. These Rules apply to all members of HRPA, whether they are responsible for Human Resources Management policies for an organization or act as consultants to organizations, whether as employees of the organization, or whether as independent practitioners providing services to organizations.
How the Rules are organized
The Rules are organized into chapters and divisions. The first three chapters provide basic definitions; Chapter IV provides rules organized according to the seven principles of the Code of Ethics; Chapter V provides general duties which were not covered in Chapter IV; Chapters VI through VIII provides specific duties organized by roles; finally, Chapter IX provides rules that relate to the member’s relation to the Association.
CHAPTER I DEFINITIONS
CHAPTER II DEFINITION OF THE PRACTICE OF HUMAN RESOURCES MANAGEMENT
CHAPTER III APPLICABILITY
CHAPTER IV THE HRPA CODE OF ETHICS
DIVISION I COMPETENCE
DIVISION II LEGAL REQUIREMENTS
DIVISION III DIGNITY IN THE WORKPLACE
DIVISION IV BALANCING INTERESTS
DIVISION V CONFIDENTIALITY
DIVISION VI CONFLICT OF INTEREST
DIVISION VII PROFESSIONAL GROWTH AND SUPPORT OF OTHER
CHAPTER V GENERAL DUTIES TOWARD EMPLOYERS, CLIENTS, EMPLOYEES, THE
PROFESSION, AND THE PUBLIC
CHAPTER VI SPECIFIC DUTIES WHEN EMPLOYED BY ORGANIZATIONS
CHAPTER VII SPECIFIC DUTIES WHEN ACTING AS AN INDEPENDENT PRACTITIONER
DIVISION I DUTIES WHILE CARRYING OUT AN ENGAGEMENT
DIVISION II PROFESSIONAL LIABILITY AND INSURANCE
DIVISION III FEES
DIVISION IV USE THE NAME OF THE MEMBER OF THE ASSOCIATION IN THE
DIVISION V CONDITIONS, OBLIGATIONS AND PROHIBITIONS IN RESPECT OF
CHAPTER VII SPECIFIC DUTIES WHEN MANAGING OR SUPERVISING OTHERS
CHAPTER VIII SPECIFIC DUTIES WHEN REPRESENTING AN INDIVIDUAL OR AN
CHAPTER IX THE MEMBER'S RELATIONS WITH THE ASSOCIATION IN THE PRACTICE OF
HIS OR HER PROFESSION
DIVISION I IDENTIFYING ONESELF AS A MEMBER OF HRPA
DIVISION II HONESTY IN APPLICATIONS FOR REGISTRATION OR CERTIFICATION
BY THE ASSOCIATION
DIVISION III COMPLIANCE WITH THE REGULATORY AUTHORITY OF THE
DIVISION IV MANDATORY SELF-REPORTING OBLIGATIONS
What the Association expects of its members in regards to the Rules of Professional Conduct
Members of HRPA are required to sign off on the Rules annually upon membership renewal. Annually members of HRPA must attest to the fact that they have read, understood, and agreed to abide by the Rules of Professional Conduct. The Association suggests that this is an appropriate time for each member to re-read the Rules and to consider his or her professional practice in light of the Rules.
Practice standards and practice guidelines
Practice standards and practice guidelines refer to specific guidance issued by HRPA and directed to its members pertaining to specific areas of professional practice. The essential difference between practice standards and practice guidelines is in the degree of prescriptiveness; practice standards are mandatory standards of practice that all members must follow, practice guidelines are recommended or suggested practices that members are expected to consider but may not follow depending on the circumstances. Failure to abide by a practice standard, or failure to consider a practice guideline, may be grounds for professional misconduct. When a practice guideline is not followed, the member may be expected to justify, if required to do so, departures from recommended practices.
The intent of practice standards and practice guidelines is not to put unnecessary restriction to the practice of members; rather, practice standards and practice guidelines are issued by HRPA in the public interest. Protection of the public remains the essential objective of practice standards and practice guidelines.
All practice standards and practice guidelines are prescribed by the Board of HRPA.
The essential difference between practice standards and practice guidelines is how prescriptive the guidance. Practice standards are meant to be prescriptive; that is, it is intended that there would be very little latitude for interpretation in the application of the practice standard. Practice guidelines, on the other hand, are intended to provide guidance which is less prescriptive. Here, professionals are given greater latitude in the application of the guideline taking into account the specific circumstances. Perhaps another way of describing the difference between practice guidelines and practice standards is that practice standards will use verbs such as ‘shall’ or ‘most’ whereas practice guidelines will use verbs such as ‘should’ or ‘might.’
Although the degree of prescriptiveness is different, both practice guidelines and practice standards have the same objective which is to protect the public. In regards to a practice standard, the Board of HRPA is clear that not adhering to the prescribed practice is detrimental to the public interest. In regards to practice guidelines, the Board of HRPA believes that not adhering to the practice guideline will usually, though not always, be detrimental to the public interest.
All members are required to makes themselves aware of practice standards and practice guidelines, and to apply these standards and guidelines to their practice. Ignorance of a specific guideline or standard is not a valid reason for failing to apply a relevant guideline or standard. When a guideline or standard is approved by the Board of HRPA, the Registrar shall endeavour to make all members aware of the guideline or standard. Nonetheless, the responsibility for being aware of and applying the guideline or standard remains with the individual practitioner.
In keeping with the approach of self-regulation, practice standards and practice standards are developed with significant input of practicing professionals. A process for the development of practice standards and practice guidelines is given below, although deviations from this process may occur from time to time. However, all practice standards and practice guidelines are approved by the Board of HRPA.
Components of a Practice Standard or a Practice Guideline
- Title - of Practice Standard
- Introduction – what the purpose of the standard is
- Standard Statements and Indicators – a statement identifying the standard of a key component of the standard along with corresponding indicators that describe the human resources professionals accountabilities regarding the standard
- Supporting Practices – strategies that the human resources professional can use to support the practice standard
- Resources – references for the human resources professional to access related to the specific practice standard; this can include relevant legislative requirements that may impact or affect the human resources professional achieving the practice standard
Steps in Developing Practice Standards and Guidelines
- The need for a new practice standard or guideline, or for the revision of an existing one, is defined through inquiries made to the Association, complaints or other communication from members or from the general public. Emerging trends in human resources or the workplace environment may demand the development of new standards or guidelines. New or amended legislation may also require the revision of existing standards or guidelines.
- The Professional Standards and Regulation Committee appoints a task force comprised of members with specific interest and/or expertise in the area to develop the practice standard or guideline
- Practice Consultants, with expert professional assistance if required, conduct a literature search and consult with key informants
- A literature search and consultation with key informants is carried out to inform the development of a practice standard or guideline, and to incorporate current evidence-based information.
- Task force members, with expert professional assistance if required, develop a draft standard or guideline. The task force may make a recommendation as to whether the guidance should be a practice standard or a practice guideline.
- The Professional Standards and Regulation Committee may consult with HR practitioners and other stakeholders as appropriate to gather feedback on the proposed practice standard or practice guideline. Consultation can occur through a number of means such as member surveys and focus groups. The standard or guideline is then revised as a result of the feedback obtained.
- A final draft of the proposed practice standard or practice guideline is prepared by the Professional Standards and Regulation Committee for approval by the Professional Standards and Regulation Committee and recommended to the Board of Directors for approval.
- The final practice standard or practice guideline is then communicated to the members.