What can HRPA members expect of their professional regulatory body?

By Claude Balthazard, Ph.D., C.Psych., CHRL
Vice-President, Regulatory Affairs and Registrar at HRPA

HRPA is a dual-object professional organization—it is both the professional association and the professional regulatory body for Human Resources professionals in Ontario. The essential difference between a professional association and a professional regulatory body is that the professional association serves the members whereas the professional regulatory body serves the public.

Professional associations and professional regulatory bodies think of their members differently as well. Professional associations think of their members as clients.  Professional regulatory bodies look at their members as the subjects of regulation.  Not that this is a matter of choice—legislation mandates that professional regulatory bodies put the protection and promotion of the public interest above all other objects.

So then, the question may be ‘as a member when do I know that I am dealing with my professional association and when do I know that I am dealing with my professional regulatory body?’ There are different ways of answering that:

  • Anything that is done with the primary object of promoting and protecting the public interest relates to the professional regulatory body;
  • Anything that involves the exercise of powers delegated through the Registered Human Resources Professionals Act, 2013, relates to the professional regulatory body;
  • Anything that has to do with the establishment, maintenance, development, and enforcement of standards—be they standards of qualification, standards of practice, standards of professional ethics, or standards of knowledge, skill and proficiency– relates to the professional regulatory body;
  • Anything related to registration, certification, quality assurance, complaints and discipline, and the public register relates to the professional regulatory body.
  • Any email or letter that contains the phrase ‘pursuant to the authorities under the Registered Human Resources Professionals Act, 2013,’ relates to the professional regulatory body.

So let’s get back to the question at hand—what can members expect of HRPA as their professional regulatory body?

Members of HRPA can expect the following from their professional regulatory body:

  1. A steadfast commitment to the promotion and protection of the public interest
  2. Measured and considered use of statutory powers
  3. Procedural fairness
  4. Equal treatment
  5. Transparency
  6. Responsiveness

1. A steadfast commitment to the promotion and protection of the public interest

Everything that a professional regulatory body does should find its justification in the promotion and protection of the public interest. This should be no surprise, it is required by law.  This is not as straightforward as it sounds, however.  The public interest is a difficult concept to pin down.  It is easy for the public interest to become a reason given for other more self-serving agendas.  What it means to promote and protect the public interest is a perennial topic among professional regulators.

It does not serve the Human Resources profession well if its professional regulatory body is not seen to act in the public interest.

Unfortunately, the reality is that there is a high level of skepticism among the public and in the media as to whether self-regulation is an effective approach. In fact the phrase regulatory capture was coined to refer to the situation where regulators identify with and advance the interests of the regulated over the interests of those who were intended to be protected by regulation.

As a professional regulatory body, HRPA must not only avoid any bias, it must avoid any appearance of bias.  Professional regulatory bodies must be seen to be incorruptible.  Any appearance that the professional regulatory body is beholden to any commercial interest or special interest group is deadly for the perception of impartiality.

Members can expect that as a professional regulatory body, HRPA will be guided by the promotion and protection of the public interest and that HRPA will avoid any activity or relationship that would or could lead to the appearance of bias.

2. Measured and considered use of statutory powers

The Regulated Human Resources Professionals Act, 2013, gives HRPA significant regulatory powers—but with such powers comes significant responsibility to use these powers in a measured and considered manner.  The fact that such powers are statutory means that, if needed, the courts will support the enforcement of policies established by HRPA.  It also means that all regulatory decisions made by HRPA’s adjudicative committees and staff are subject to judicial review by the courts.

The powers in the Regulated Human Resources Professionals Act, 2013, were delegated by the Legislature because it felt that such powers would be necessary or beneficial for HRPA to have in order to fulfil its public protection mandate.  HRPA cannot shy away from using statutory powers when the use of such powers is called for.

HRPA as a professional regulatory body will never act capriciously. HRPA will use sound decision-making processes in arriving at its regulatory policies.

Members can expect that the exercise of statutory powers by HRPA is done in a correct and responsible manner.

3. Procedural fairness

Procedural fairness is also known as due process. There are two key characteristics of procedural fairness: (1) that all parties have the opportunity to be heard, and (2) that any decision be made by an impartial judge or panel.

What is not always well understood is that adjudicative decisions made at HRPA are made by committees, which are independent of HRPA. HRPA establishes the committees and appoints individuals to these committees—but the adjudicative committees are independent of HRPA’s Board or staff and even have access to their own independent legal counsel.

Furthermore, when the Act calls for the conduct of hearings, such hearings fall under the rules set out in the Statutory Powers Procedure Act, 1990.  This Act sets out the standards of procedural fairness that these hearings must meet.

All in all, members can expect the highest standard of procedural fairness should they be involved in any adjudicative process at HRPA.

4. Equal treatment

Equal treatment refers to a number of different things. For instance, HRPA has strict adherence to published deadlines.  The reason for that is that it is in the nature of some to abide by published deadlines whereas others will expect exceptions to be made for them.  The problem is that this leads to an inconsistent application of rules, which is not fair.

Equal does not mean identical. HRPA has a comprehensive accommodation policy that allows for adjustments to normal assessment procedures.  There are also established processes for requesting extensions in meeting the Continuing Professional Development requirement.  The idea is to apply consistent decision rules to achieve consistent decisions.

Members can expect that no one else will be treated differently than they are because of who they know at HRPA.

5. Transparency

Transparency is very important because it engenders confidence in regulatory processes. At HRPA, there is extensive documentation of all regulatory processes.  As well, disciplinary hearings are public (unless there is a compelling reason to close a hearing).  The outcomes of disciplinary proceedings are also public.

As required by law, HRPA published its annual Fair Registration Practices Report, which relates how HRPA’s registration practices compare to the standards set out in the Fair Registration Practices Code.

HRPA members can expect a professional regulatory body that strives to be as transparent as it can be.

6. Prompt response

From the perspective of a professional regulatory body, members are not customers in any usual sense of that word. Although the professional regulatory body serves the public, there is no reason why it should not deliver a high level of service to all stakeholders.  As a professional regulatory body, HRPA sets response time targets for all manner of enquiries.

HRPA members can expect a professional regulatory body, which provides timely responses to questions and requests.

Although the above was written from the perspective of what members of the profession can expect of their professional regulatory body, the same six dimensions would apply equally to what the members of the public can expect of HRPA.

HRPA as a professional regulatory body wants to exhibit the same level of professionalism that it expects its members to demonstrate. Indeed, having a professional regulatory body that is seen to be trustworthy and deserving of public confidence reflects well on the Human Resources profession as a whole.

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