At the HRPA, our primary purpose as a regulatory body is to protect the public interest.

But how should we understand ‘protecting the public interest’? What’s HRPA’s role in all of this? And what does this have to do with registered HR professionals? Here’s the breakdown of what protecting the public interest means for HRPA and registered HR professionals:

Let’s quickly define the public interest

The public interest may be understood as the greater good or what benefits all Ontarians.

How HRPA protects the public interest

In a nutshell, HRPA sets codes and standards to help our members (HR professionals that are registered with the HRPA) practice HR competently, professionally, and ethically – and ultimately in a way that benefits the public.

We also provide consistency in professional standards for registered HR professionals through our Rules of Professional Conduct and Code of Ethics, so that every HR professional wouldn’t resort to setting their own standards of competence, practice and standards.

Ultimately, it’s important to remember that the HRPA’s job is to protect the public by setting the overarching standards for proper HR practice, not registered HR professionals. Otherwise, if HR professionals developed their own rules of conduct, there’ll likely be differing perspectives on what that means – and, as we’ll see in the next section, may cause serious damage to the public and HR profession.

Consequences of NOT protecting the public interest

HR professionals have a profound influence in workplaces. But like so many other workers in influential positions, much can go wrong when there are no clear standards in place.

Risk-based regulation is simply an approach to professional regulation that defines public protection as reducing risks to the public that stem from the practice of HR. It starts with identifying what can go wrong and then working hard to make sure that things don’t go wrong.

As it turns out, a lot can go wrong in HR:

  • Discrimination in the workplace; Human Rights violations (i.e. sexism, racism, ableism etc.)
  • Untenable and unsafe working conditions including an environment that jeopardizes employee health and safety on a mental, emotional and/or physical level
  • Unfair recruitment, retention and dismissal practices and tactics
  • Harassment, abuse, threats, bullying and violence in the workplace
  • Toxic work environments that become a breeding ground for unproductivity, gossip and burnout

And don’t forget that when HR misconduct goes unchallenged or unnoticed it’s not only bad for the public – it’s bad for the HR profession. Those professionals who fail to live up to standards of the profession may be few, but they can put a big dent in the public’s confidence in the HR profession.

A partnership in protecting the public interest

It starts with our members viewing their relationship with HRPA as a partnership rather than viewing HRPA as a coercive force that doles out harsh punishments to HR professionals who don’t obey.

The fact is we can’t monitor registered HR professionals 24/7. HRPA can’t be there when registered HR professionals are providing their services.

Instead, HRPA’s job is to be an influencer, one that establishes what a competent and ethical HR practice looks like through our Rules of Professional Conduct and Code of Ethics – and gives opportunities for misconduct to be reported through our Complaints, Disciplinary and Capacity process to keep the public safe.

Which means registered HR professionals must be the implementers. The only way professional regulation can work is when registered HR professionals care about putting HRPA’s guidance and standards into practice on their own – and are committed to being the voice of empathy, ethics and reason in the workplace.

Bottomline: As professionals, we want to protect the public from harm, because that’s what being a professional is all about. This doesn’t mean we’re responsible for ensuring that bad things do not happen to employees and employers. Some employees will need to be terminated for one reason or another, some employers will struggle.

Rather, HR professionals can be held accountable for failing to meet the standards of the profession. Standards that were put in place to protect the public interest.

Learn more about protecting the public interest here.