HRPA receives very few professional complaints against our members and students. In fact, we regularly have the lowest rate of complaints among all professional regulatory bodies in Ontario.
Is this a good or bad thing?
What we make of this low rate of complaints depends on what we think the reasons are. Here are two possibilities:
- The low rate of complaints is an accurate reflection of the actual rate of incompetence and misconduct amongst registered HR professionals.
- The incidence of professional misconduct or incompetence is actually higher than the number of complaints reported to the HRPA but that such professional misconduct or incompetence is underreported for various reasons.
The implications of these two explanations are quite different.
When we look at the first explanation, it could be argued that registered HR professionals are, as a group, more ethical and/or competent than members of other professions. While there is no evidence to support or dispute this statement, it does seem unlikely that HR professionals are, as a group, inherently more competent or ethical than members of other professions. Alternately, one could argue that there is something about Human Resources work that makes it more unlikely that HR professionals could or would exhibit misconduct or incompetence. In other words, that the practice of HR poses little risk to the public because of the nature of the work itself.
But either of the above is problematic and not entirely accurate. First, it would mean that HR professionals are in no need of regulation. This would imply that the Ontario Legislature made a big mistake in passing the Registered Human Resources Professionals Act, 2013 since the only reason to enact professional regulation legislation is to manage the risks to the public stemming from the practice of the profession. HRPA’s primary mandate is to promote and protect the public interest by governing and regulating the conduct/practice of students, members and firms. And if the risks posed to the public are truly so low that there are only a handful of complaints per year, the responsibilities imposed by statutory professional regulation on HRPA members would be difficult to justify.
The other possibility is that the incidence of professional misconduct or incompetence is actually significantly higher but that such professional misconduct or incompetence is underreported for any of a number of reasons:
- The public is not aware that HR professionals registered with HRPA are regulated and that HRPA is the professional regulatory body that will hear their complaints,
- The public doesn’t understand what constitutes misconduct or incompetence on the part of registered HR professionals,
- The public doesn’t know how to file a complaint against a member of the profession, or that the process appears to be difficult,
- Potential complainants feel that filing a complaint is just not worth the hassle,
- The fear that the HR professional against whom the complaint was made would retaliate against the complainant,
- The public has little or no confidence that the HRPA take the complaint seriously or that the HRPA will act to ‘protect its own,’
- As many HR professionals work in an organizational context, misconduct or incompetence may be dealt with by management rather than the professional regulatory body,
- Complainants prefer to complain in another venue (e.g., complain to management, civil suit, Ontario Human Rights Tribunal, Ministry of Labour),
- In many instances, HR professionals do not deliver their service in a ‘one-to-one’ context, the parties harmed by the actions of a Human Resources professional may not know who was responsible or in some cases the parties harmed by the actions of a Human Resources professional may not even know that they have been harmed.
Any or all of the above could explain why rates of complaints at HRPA are low. A key idea here is that the rate of complaints may be a poor indicator of the rate of misconduct and incompetence amongst registered HR professionals. In other words, the low rate of complaints at HRPA does not mean that there is a low rate of misconduct and incompetence among registered HR professionals. Although there may be good reasons why the rate of complaints for HR professionals may be on the low side, there’s a possibility that that the current rate of complaints is lower than it could or should be and it’s something HRPA will continue to actively explore.
- Visit Professional Regulation Demystified to learn more about the importance of professional regulation.
- Access HR Practice Guidelines: HRPA’s Practice Standards and Practice Guidelines importantly supplement the Code of Ethics and Rules of Professional Conduct. Practice standards define the minimum expectations/standards of professional practice that registered members, firms and students must follow to ensure safe and effective practice as it relates to the specific topic area.
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