Ethically speaking

New code, rules by CPHR Canada guide HR professionals, protect public
By Tony Ariganello
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 11/16/2016

As the Pan-Canadian Association made up of provincial member bodies supporting human resource professionals, Chartered Professionals in Human Resources (CPHR) Canada takes the profession’s ethical obligations very seriously. That’s why, in September, the organization introduced a modernized Code of Ethics & Rules of Professional Conduct

Oftentimes referred to simply as the “code,” its provisions serve to govern the conduct of members of each of its provincial member associations. Setting out both fundamental principles and behavioural guidance that holders of the CPHR (formerly the Certified Human Resources Professional (CHRP)) designation are held to, the new code provides an easy-to-understand framework along with more prescriptive rules that members can consult — and the public can have confidence in.

In revising its code, CPHR Canada endeavoured to produce a document that is clear and responsive to modern human resource management practice. Importantly, the revised code should not be seen as an abandonment of, or departure from, the pre-existing version. Rather, it can more reasonably be characterized as an elaboration and refinement of its predecessor.

While ethics, in and of themselves, draw upon the philosophical, CPHR Canada has taken a relatively unencumbered approach to ethics in recognizing they are about making responsible choices.

In making choices and being faced with ethical dilemmas, the majority of us can agree on the premise that we wish to choose a course of action that is good. In the sphere of professional ethics, we must broaden our thinking to ensure our choice is not only good but that we implement that choice in a way that is also morally right.

Ethical decision-making can sometimes be difficult — not because people elect to make wrong choices, but because no Code of Ethics or decision-making model can unequivocally provide the solution to all ethical challenges. The Code of Ethics and Rules of Professional Conduct does not constitute an exhaustive book of rules but, rather, a source of guidance as the passage from the code replicated below emphasizes:

The Code of Ethics and Rules of Professional Conduct provide specific statements — Principles and Rules — which represent the associations’ minimum standards of acceptable professional conduct or behaviour.

“Importantly, while the code intends to provide clear and prescriptive guidance in ethical issues, it is conceivable that it possibly (does) not exhaust the full range of enforceable ethical considerations that the member will encounter nor does it extinguish or replace the need for association members to exercise professional judgment.”

The new code encompasses six fundamental principles that guide its member governance culture:   

1. Reverence for protection of the public (duty to the public);

2. Appreciation for collective responsibility to the profession (duty to the profession);

3. Focus on employer and client interests (duty to the organization);

4. Preservation of well-being in the workplace (duty to the individual);

5. Undertaking to safeguard against conflicts of interest (duty to self and others);

6. Cautionary treatment of confidential information (professional duty).

Along with these principles, the code also outlines Rules of Professional Conduct. These rules define member comportments that are specifically prescribed or prohibited relying on greater behavioural specificity. In those instances, where the rules may be found lacking for an encountered situation, a member is counselled to revisit the principles contained in the Code of Ethics and encouraged to exercise judgment in the application of the code’s provisions — such that members can implement “good” choices in a “right” manner.

The code expresses the professional commitment that CPHR Canada member bodies make to the ethical delivery of human resources practice in Canada. The code serves not only as a guide to the profession itself but as a source of assurance of the profession’s concern for the public it serves.

It is a hallmark of a profession that there is a voluntary acceptance by its members that ethical conduct is, first and foremost, for the benefit and protection of the public, and also that there exists the conscious exercise of skilled and appropriate conduct within the profession. It is to these purposes CPHR Canada’s standards are directed.

A dominant objective of CPHR Canada and its member bodies is to protect the interests of the public by ensuring human resources professionals are competent and conduct themselves in an honourable and ethical manner.

Plainly stated, CPHR Canada and its members acknowledge that human resources management professionals must exercise a number of important character traits while possessing also the acumen and skill to make adept authoritative and moral judgements that serve the interests of society.

HR management professionals play a central function in organizations and an important role in society — one that impacts the welfare of other people. Consequently, it is imperative that these professionals perform competently and with due care; ever mindful of the code that effectively serves to guide and to facilitate the exercise of sound and prudent judgement in the performance of that work.

Faithfully adopted and applied, the Code of Ethics, with accompanying Rules of Professional Conduct, promotes the integrity and trustworthiness of the association and its members while establishing a standardized baseline against which the actions of members can be postulated.

From a governance perspective, the code confirms the profession’s merit to self-regulate in conformance with the association’s powers.

From a more pragmatic viewpoint, the code establishes a public doctrine of honesty, faithfulness and objectivity. All the while, the code provides a practical framework affording guidance to human resources professionals — prescribing acceptable professional member conduct and implicitly defining professional misconduct.

To be clear, this code sets out the duties owed of human resources management professionals onto employers, clients, employees, other professionals, the profession and the public. It applies to all CPHR designation holders, whether responsible for human resources management activities as employees, consultants or independent practitioners.

Tony Ariganello is CEO of the Human Resources Management Association (HRMA) and Chartered Professionals in Human Resources (CPHR) Canada in Vancouver. The Code of Ethics and Rules of Professional Conduct can be found at www.chrp.ca.

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