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By Brenda Clark, CHRE

Among HR’s many roles, human resources professionals are responsible for ensuring their organizations comply with labour and employment law.

Keeping the employer informed of their legislative requirements and making sure employees are afforded at least the minimum requirements set out in employment legislation and common law.

Consequently, a broad knowledge of employment law is a necessity for effective HR practice.

As we all know, this is not an easy feat and, unfortunately, we don’t always get it right. Last summer, HRPA interviewed 50 Ontario employment lawyers on where HR professionals make mistakes in matters of employment and workplace law. Using a critical incident approach, HRPA asked the lawyers for instances in which an organization’s HR staff made an employment or workplace law error that had some kind of negative consequence. From the 228 total incidents, a list of the top 10 most common mistakes was derived (see the top 10 list on the following page).

Employment law errors have serious repercussions for both employer and employees. For example, failure to properly pay vacation or overtime can result in court costs; there can be significant fines and the embarrassment of having the organization’s name published on the Ministry of Labour website. And failure to provide the appropriate accommodation for an employee with a mental health issue could cause the person’s condition to worsen.
SUBHEAD: HRPA jurisprudence exams

As you can see, there’s much at stake when employment law errors are made. With the passage of the Registered Human Resources Professionals Act, 2013, the Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA) has a higher duty of care and will do what is necessary to ensure that its members are competent – including the proper application of employment law.

This is one of the key reasons why HRPA is adding jurisprudence exams to its CHRP and CHRL designation requirements starting in Fall 2016. The exams (Jurisprudence 1 for CHRPs and Jurisprudence 2 for CHRLs) test the ability to correctly apply knowledge of employment and workplace law to situations calling for such application. The 80-question exams, which will eventually be administered online, will be a multiple-choice, scenario item format with only one correct answer.

Amazingly, up to now, HR law knowledge has never been part of the certification process at HRPA or any other Canadian HR association. A big part of that omission was because the CHRP was a national designation and employment legislation is created by the provinces (apart from federally regulated industries). However, with the proper application of employment law so vital to HR practice, it just made sense for HRPA to start testing applied knowledge in this area.
Testing and certifying employment law knowledge will not only help to build a stronger and more capable HR profession (not to mention reducing the risks and costs of HR law errors for organizations), but it will go far to meeting HRPA’s new regulatory mandate of protecting the public – safeguarding Ontario workers from wrongly applied employment law.

Brenda Clark, CHRE, is the chair of the Board of Directors for the Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA).

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