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Recently we were chatting with the VP of HR of a very large Canadian organization with close to 15,000 employees.  As our conversation progressed, the many ways in which HR can be legally liable came up, both from an employee standpoint (wrongful dismissal, discrimination, sexual harassment, etc.) and from regulatory agencies (OHSA, WSIB, CSST or HRDC etc.).

At that point she looked a little sheepish; she looked to her right and then to her left and then leaned in and shared with us that they were non-compliant when it came to pay equity. They did not have a formal job evaluation process or any real mechanism to support why someone was getting paid what they were getting paid which of course is required in both the US and Canada.  Given the size of the organization, if they were ever audited and consequently fined it would be in the $100,000’s of dollars. Although this rarely happens, it is a dark cloud needlessly hanging over organization’s and constitutes a potential revenue hit.

Generally speaking there is some accommodation provided when it comes to what we would describe as administrative compliance. However Health and Safety issues are different.  If an organization is found liable in this area the costs are very high and what is even worse that cost could probably have been avoided.  As an example, if there is no clear and reliable record of an individual having been trained, sorry let us re-phrase that, properly trained and if that individual is in a workplace incident or accident then the organization is liable and will be fined regardless if it was worker error, which is all too often the case.

Although wrongful dismissal is generally more complex an issue and rarely black and white, at minimum an organization needs to prove that the followed the proper steps in dismissing an employee. Whether that is for job abandonment, disciplinary matters or any of the other accepted reasons for dismissal, there are clear steps that have to be followed. It is imperative that HR demonstrate that those steps were followed.
In this regard, if you need to learn more about wrongful dismissal, we strongly recommend that you read “You’re Fired! Just Cause for Dismissal in Canada” by Stuart E. Rudner from Miller Thomson - Mr Rudner is an expert in Employment Law and his book is already The main reference in this subject in Canada.
How does this relate to HR systems? HR systems are not a panacea and will not solve all of HR’s ills. However, what a good and robust system does do is foster a culture of compliance. Onboarding processes ensure that position specific training is done prior to the individual being on the job. Performance management programs provide the ability for organizations to have a culture of continuous improvement.  Termination workflow will ensure that once a process is started the system will be able to red flag any steps that were not taken or that must be taken before the next step in the process is taken.

A good HR system like Onyva HRMS is like a task master that either scolds or rewards you to do the right thing at the right time to ensure compliance with internal policies but also with external legal requirements.  Finally a robust audit trail of all the changes made in the system ensure that you can prove that something was done, by whom, at what time and on what date.
To be clear, an HR system by its very nature forces a more disciplined approach to data management.  This change in standards will have the beneficial effect of making compliance a secondary benefit to better people management.
If you would like to have a more detailed conversation regarding HR Compliance and HRMS please contact Onyva at 1-800-811-1877.

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