Kenya’s HR Profession Coming to Terms with Certification Requirements

By Roy Maurer Aug 27, 2013

It’s been eight months since the Kenyan government enacted the Human Resource Management Professionals Act, in January 2013, requiring all human resource practitioners in Kenya to become certified. The law, meant to “provide for the examination, registration and regulation of the standards and practice of human resource management,” provides a one-year window within which all those in the profession must apply for a practicing certificate after attaining the necessary knowledge, skills and experience.

The Institute of Human Resource Management (IHRM), a membership organization that the new law has transformed into the accrediting body that regulates the activities of Kenya’s human resource professionals, and that disciplines errant members, estimates that about half of Kenya’s 6,000-7,000 HR practitioners still need certification.

“I am strongly persuaded that the advent of the Human Resource Management Professionals Act will transform the HR profession in Kenya,” said IHRM Chairman Paul Kasimu, one of the law’s chief boosters. “Indeed, this will be a key milestone that will certainly usher in the HR profession in the league of other professions in Kenya,” he said in a statement.

“The industry largely remains unregulated, like many other professions in Kenya,” noted Cathy Mputhia, an attorney at Muthoga Gaturu Advocates, based in Nairobi.

The new measure is timely in that it addresses this problem and other issues facing the HR management industry, she said.

Before the law was passed, Kenyan HR professionals were supposed to be university graduates of human resource management and were assessed by the Kenya National Examinations Council, but those requirements were loosely adhered to. Many HR practitioners didn’t have the academic credentials to be in the field, according to IHRM Executive Director Samson Osero.

“This is what we want to correct,” Osero said. He gave the example of a storekeeper who moved into HR when a vacancy arose. “We want to rein in those who masquerade as practitioners in this profession.”

Osero explained that the new certification will emphasize professional skills over academic qualifications. “To practice human resources, you must now possess a body of knowledge, skills and competencies,” he said in a news report.

The law will raise the standards so that Kenya’s HR practitioners are competent at the national and international levels, Mputhia said.

The Law’s Requirements

Human resource professionals will have until January 2014 to comply with the law’s provisions.

For one, all those employed as HR practitioners must be registered. To qualify for registration, a person must be “of good conduct,” pay the prescribed fees, have a certificate, diploma or degree recognized by the IHRM, and have passed the appropriate examination.

The law provides for harmonized exams for HR trainees, to be administered by IHRM through an examination board responsible for setting the syllabuses and examinations. A code of conduct will be established to guide HR practitioners on professional service delivery.

“Therefore, all employers should ensure that any human resource manager they have currently employed who does not hold a certificate, diploma, degree or research course of instruction and has not passed the appropriate examination as required by the law commences the relevant course without delay,” said Mona Doshi, a partner at Anjarwalla and Khanna, a member of the Africa Legal Network. “A course could take at least several months to complete, after adding in the time for taking the examinations and receiving the results, and the period of 12 months could quite easily elapse.”

The examination board will develop professional qualifications, dubbed the Certified Human Resource Professional (CHRP), which will have three levels.

“At the very top would be the fellows, who are people considered to have made significant contributions in the field of HR and who the institute may recognize by giving this highest membership award,” said Mputhia. Fellowship will be granted by invitation only. The other two categories are member, which requires passing a series of exams, and associate, the most basic qualification.

Currently practicing HR professionals will be registered based on their level of qualifications, number of years in practice and HR contributions.

“An HR practitioner with foreign credentials would be accepted as a member if they meet the qualifications set out in the act, and the IHRM recognizes their training, and passed examinations equivalent to the case of persons trained in Kenya,” Mputhia said. The law also allows foreign corporations to be registered as corporate members of the institute, she noted.

HR consultancies will have to be certified, which involves having at least one partner or principal shareholder as a registered practitioner.

“The importance of regulating professions and trades is to provide and set standards for an industry,” Mputhia stressed. “The compulsory standards will be good for the market, as quality and professionalism will improve. Professional bodies are also important in setting benchmarks for their members and those they serve.”

Punitive Measures

Registered and practicing HR professionals must adhere to the National Professional Code of Conduct and Ethics. Those found to be in violation of this code will face a variety of sanctions.

Once the law is in effect, it will be an offense for anyone to practice as a human resource management professional without a valid practicing certificate, said Doshi. This offense carries a fine of up to 200,000 Kenyan shillings and/or a prison term of up to two years.

People may be deregistered for a variety of reasons, including “being of unsound mind,” declaring bankruptcy and failing to renew membership with the IHRM.

Where an HR practitioner is accused of professional misconduct—which includes refusal to follow an employer’s HR policy, refusal to apply HR principles, gross negligence, corruption, nepotism, tribalism, discrimination and many other HR malpractices—the IHRM may issue a letter of admonishment, suspend a practitioner’s registration for up to one year, or withdraw or cancel his or her practicing certificate for up to five years.

“The law will ensure that the industry is regulated and the labor force is protected from such incidents of professional malpractice,” said Mputhia.

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Follow him at @SHRMRoy

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