The HRPA is the regulatory body of the HR profession in Ontario, but much of the public is unaware that HR is a regulated profession. This year, the HRPA set out with an Ad campaign to raise awareness of the HRPA, but there is certainly more work to be done.

To better understand why regulation is important and how it benefits HR professionals and protects the public, the HRPA turned to in-house expert, Claude Balthazard, PhD., C.Psych, CHRL, for an overview on professional regulation. Bookmark this page for a basic understanding of professional regulation.

Q.   Many people may be surprised to find out that HR is a regulated profession in Ontario. Why is that?

This is actually not unique to the HRPA. A few years ago, the Law Society conducted a poll and it turns out many Ontarians were not very familiar with the Law Society of Ontario.”

While the HRPA has been in operation in one form or another since 1936, its regulatory role is tied to two pieces of legislation, namely the  Human Resources Professionals Act, 1990 and the Registered Human Resources Professionals Act, 2013, which officially recognized HRPA as a Tier 1 regulator just 8 years ago.

“Professional regulation is just not top of mind for most. This kind of recognition will take time to establish.”

Q.   What is professional regulation?

Professional regulation is when an organization makes an agreement with the government to make the promotion and protection of the public the ultimate purpose of the organization, and to do so by governing and regulating the practice of its members, firms, and students. As a regulatory body, we ensure HRPA members, firms, and students practice the profession in a competent and ethical manner through our codes, guidelines, and standards.”

Q.   Can anyone call themselves an HR professional?

Title protection is narrower than many realize. Anyone can call themselves an accountant; just don’t call yourself a Chartered Professional Accountant,” unless you have your CPA designation.

“The same goes with HR professionals.” HRPA membership distinguishes HR Professionals as regulated professionals, and “the CHRP, CHRL and CHRE designations indicate that the registrant has met established criteria and requirements.”

HRPA members can take advantage of our ongoing calendar of events, offered on an ongoing basis by the HRPA and our Chapters.

Q.   Why is it important for the HR profession to be regulated? Why did the government of Ontario choose to regulate the HR profession in the province?

Government thinks of professional regulation as a form of consumer protection.  The Ontario Legislature decided that the practice of Human Resources should be regulated to protect the public.” 

“The incompetent and/or unethical practice of Human Resources can lead to real harms for the public, employees and employers alike.”

These harms can include loss of productivity, physically unsafe workplaces, toxic workplaces, harassment, bullying, violence, employee rights violations and many more.

These harms can result from risks inherent in the practice of Human Resources. Some common issues include:

  • Providing poor advice as a result of incomplete understanding of the law
  • Mishandling of workplace investigations
  • Breaches of confidentiality

“Professional regulation, is essentially managing these and other like risks to the public.”

For more information on risk, see The Role of Risk and Harm in the Evolution of HR.

Q.   How does HR regulation protect employees and employers from these risks?

The HRPA helps protect both employees and the companies they work for “by ensuring that Human Resources professionals registered with HRPA are competent and conduct themselves in an ethical manner.”

Q.   How does the HRPA regulate HR professionals? How do the Rules of Professional Conduct, and Complaints, Disciplinary & Capacity processes apply?

The HRPA regulates HR professionals through four key functions:

  1. Registration and certification— We ensure that only individuals with the necessary qualifications can register with or be certified by the HRPA.
  2. Quality assurance— We ensure that registrants comply with the standards set by the HRPA through Continuing Professional Development, professional guidance, and practice inspections.
  3. Complaints, Discipline, Capacity, and Review—We deal with registrants who may have failed to live up to the standards of the HR profession in order to protect the public from any further harm.
  4. Stakeholder education— We manage relations with stakeholders to develop and maintain public confidence in the HR profession and our regulatory practice.

You can click here to learn more.

Q.   Are there any drawbacks to professional self-regulation? What commitments do our members make by registering?

Drawbacks is a funny word.”

“It’s a bit like parenthood— having kids comes with responsibilities but we wouldn’t necessarily call these responsibilities drawbacks.”

“Being a regulated profession is the same. There are some responsibilities that come from being professionals governed by public act, but those are responsibilities and accountabilities we have chosen to accept. At the end of the day, HRPA and its members commit to protecting the public from harm and accept to be accountable for such.”

Q.   How does regulation benefit our members?

Richard Steinecke is one the most respected professional regulation lawyers in Canada. In 2010, when our Act was first introduced in the Legislature, Steinecke noted seven benefits for registrants.”

There are benefits that members can take advantage of at a micro or personal level, such as gaining status or recognition. There are also macro level advantages that members benefit from through the power of the HRPA as a regulatory body, or from being part of a larger community of HR professionals. These are detailed below:

1. Status.  If you’re registered to the HRPA and have an HRPA designation, you can legally use those designations (CHRP, CHRL, CHRE) in your title. These designations signal to clients and employers that you have the knowledge and expertise needed to excel in the HR profession.  

2. Recognition.  As a member, the public will have greater confidence in your practice. They can easily find you listed on the HRPA’s public registrar, demonstrating that you meet best practice standards and qualifications in HR.

3. Stakeholder Support. When you’re part of a regulatory body like the HRPA – with the purpose of protecting public interest – access to government is so much easier. Your voice is amplified.

4. Reputation.  We protect the reputation of the HR profession through our disciplinary measures and standards. We know that a small number of “bad apples” can ruin the entire “barrel”- giving HR professionals a bad name.

5. Support. You’re supported in your work through our conduct, resources, and community. There are times when employers and clients may try to pressure practitioners to cut corners or do something that is unethical – but having a regulatory body like the HRPA in your corner can make all the difference.

6. Consistency. Having a statutory body with effective regulatory tools can ensure that all members are effectively regulated to the same standard.

7. Authority.  Life tends to be easier for everyone when there is clarity and certainty. The HRPA is the authority on the practice of HR giving you a defined roadmap for your practice. Essentially, members benefit from a regulatory body that can provide guidelines and standards that are backed by the government.

“However, these benefits only accrue if we deliver on our commitment to make the promotion and protection of the public interest our core purpose and objective.”

** Answers have been modified and edited for clarity.

*CIPD (2015). HR Professionalism: What do we stand for? Although competence is important, it is ethics that sets us apart from non-professional occupation.”