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Ontario Elevates HR Profession with New Recognition
 

By Catherine Skrzypinski  12/12/2013
 

The chief executive of Ontario’s HR professional association applauded the recent passage of a bill that gives legitimacy and governmental recognition to the human resource profession in the province.

In November 2013, Ontario’s Legislature unanimously passed Bill 32, the Registered Human Resources Professionals Act, which gives greater responsibility to the Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA) by expanding its regulatory powers. The legislation replaces the Human Resources Professionals Association of Ontario Act of 1990, which created the association and recognized it as the body to grant and regulate the Certified Human Resources Professional (CHRP) designation.

According to Bill Greenhalgh, CEO of HRPA in Toronto, the act reflects modern-day realities in the Canadian workplace, such as the evolving importance of HR generalists, managers and specialists.

“The bottom line—and perhaps the most important aspect—is that the new act places the human resources profession in the Tier 1 of professions in Ontario, along with physicians, lawyers, engineers, architects and accountants,” Greenhalgh said in an interview with SHRM Online. “The more demanding and competitive the workplace is, the more important it is to have qualified HR professionals.”

Among other things, Bill 32 provides for the establishment of bylaws relating to academic requirements and experience for registration, member conduct and standards of practice; empowers the HRPA to address professional misconduct; establishes a complaints, discipline and appeals process, which could include the awarding of costs against a member; allows the HRPA to investigate businesses; and gives the association discretion to determine whether a member has the capacity to engage in HR.

Under the act, HR professionals who don’t belong to the HRPA are still allowed to practice and are not regulated by the association.

With more than 20,000 members in 28 chapters across Ontario, the HRPA issues the CHRP designation, Canada’s national standard in human resource management.

Greenhalgh explained that the new law gives the HRPA an explicit mandate to promote and protect the public interest by governing and regulating HRPA members’ and firms’ professional activities according to the new law.

Other changes under the law are that the Superior Court of Ontario will review HRPA regulatory decisions, and the government will appoint three directors (individuals not affiliated with the association) to HRPA’s board.

Both HRPA officials and members of the Ontario Legislature see the act as a win-win-win proposition:

  • The public wins by having better-qualified and ethical HR professionals.
  • The government wins by having some control over the HR profession and the services offered to its members—but without having to maintain the in-depth expertise required to directly regulate a profession.
  • Regulated HR professionals win by attaining higher status, better professional opportunities and greater compensation.

Many members of provincial parliament (MPPs) in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario who spoke on behalf of the act commented that HR practitioners’ professionalism is important for strong organizations and a vibrant economy, Greenhalgh said. “MPPs noted that employment and workplace legislation was only part of the solution, but that competent and ethical HR professionals were also essential to the creation and maintenance of fair and productive workplaces.”

‘A New Beginning’

Greenhalgh pointed out that, along with recognizing what the HRPA has achieved thus far, the new law has the potential to become a tipping point in the professionalization of HR.

Rebecca Durcan, a partner at Steinecke Maciura LeBlanc in Toronto, agrees with Greenhalgh that the act’s passage is a positive step for HR professionals in Ontario.

“This puts the HR profession in the big leagues, as HRPA members are now part of a regulated profession,” she said.

But the legislation does not introduce licensing, Durcan added. “Individuals who are not registered with HRPA may still practice the profession.”

The act’s passage may affect Canada’s HR certification tests, including the CHRP, in the future, Durcan noted.

More than 1,000 Canadian HR professionals said the credibility of the CHRP designation is growing, according to a March 2013 Pulse Survey conducted by the HRPA and Toronto-based trade journal Canadian HR Reporter.

“The last few years have seen important changes to the CHRP, including the introduction of a degree requirement, and … [implementing] a three-year experience requirement,” said Claude Balthazard, Ph.D., CHRP, vice president of regulatory affairs for HRPA, in a statement.

However, Durcan told SHRM Online that nonmembers could face “credential creep,” as workplaces might weed out HR practitioners who do not belong to the association.

According to the HRPA, membership fees vary among levels of HR expertise, while annual chapter dues fluctuate throughout Ontario. HRPA chapters provide local networking opportunities, professional development activities, mentoring connections, conferences, workshops and social events.

Ontario as HR Trendsetter

Experts believe that the new law will go beyond Ontario’s HR profession and influence HR practitioners in other Canadian provinces.

Durcan explained that labor mobility is increasing in Canada overall and that the act’s regulations allow HR professionals to work in different provinces.

In September 2013, Saskatchewan’s Association of Human Resources Professionals said its members are looking into pursuing professional regulation legislation in the prairie province, according to Balthazard.

“HRPA’s pursuit of enhanced legislation has spurred other provinces to do the same,” Greenhalgh concluded. “These things do take time; however, one can see the time where the HR profession would be regulated in all Canadian provinces.”

Catherine Skrzypinski is a freelance writer in Toronto.

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