The cart, the horse and Bill 138 (Guest commentary)

Ontario’s proposed legislation not adaptable to HR profession, feeds dissent
By Ruben Benmergui
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 01/14/2011

I am writing this mere days after being informed by colleagues about Ontario’s Bill 138, An Act respecting the Human Resources Professionals Association.

Let me first state, unequivocally, that over my 40-year career in human resource management, I have advocated professionalization, self-regulation and, in the appropriate format, a licensing process with powers of audit and enforcement. This rubric is common to the regulated professions and HR must eventually follow, in turn.

The intent to submit the bill was neither announced nor subject to discussion. We are finding out via the network of colleagues in the profession. Transparency dissolves to opaqueness. Obscurity as to the board of director’s agenda in proceeding this way envelops and shrouds the submission to the legislature.

There has been no formal consultation process. There were a number of information sessions but not what a reasonable person might characterize as a consultative dialogue with the membership.

There have indeed been discussions over the years about full professionalization of HR. The first step in the process was self-regulation — we have now achieved it. We have had a continuing dialogue, at least until the submission of Bill 138, about regulation of the profession.

The regulation template of accounting, legal and health professions is a code of conduct, a licensing provision and enforcement powers for protection of the public. In Ontario, there are 38 professions that are self-regulated and licence members. HR is not among them.

The template is based on formally adopted practice standards to ensure best practices and the highest quality provision of services. HR has yet to adopt practice standards. These normally precede licensing, audit and enforcement.

The current Ontario licensing and enforcement template is best suited, perhaps, for “standalone” practitioners and not those in an employment context.

There are also a plethora of issues that remain immune to discussion as a result of the rapid submission of the amendments. Space here does not allow for a full exposure of these, but what about the harmonization of the Certified Human Resources Professional (CHRP) across Canada as a result of amendments? Does the public need protection from HR practitioners? What constitutes a “practice” subject to audit under the act?

Given the power to enter premises, without warrants where CHRPs are employed, is the privacy of employee records assured? Would employers be amenable to employing CHRPs who may attract legal issues of enforcement to the workplace?

There will be those who, stereotypically, will see this opinion piece as insubordinate. They have yet to learn the lessons of history — that constructive dissent fuels change and amelioration.

Those of us who have volunteered literally thousands of hours to build HR as the hallmark of professional excellence have been marginalized and marked as not worthy of engagement in a dialogue leading to the advancement of our professional standing, regardless of a timetable that forces the profession to adopt an ill-fitting template.

I urge my association to reconsider this submission. Let us, as professionals, be involved in a transparent, constructive dialogue to emanate practice standards, licensing and enforcement, and I will be first in line to support an amendment to the present act.

Ruben Benmergui has been an HR professional for 40 years and has been a chapter executive, a chapter president and served for 12 years on the HRPA board of directors.

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