1.a. Context: What Does A Regulator Do?

This is an excerpt of Steinecke Maciura LeBlanc’s “Governance for Regulators” handbook. To view additional sections of the handbook, click here.

a. Context: What Does A Regulator Do?

While governance is about how Board, committee members and staff perform their functions, the “how” is informed somewhat by “what” the organization does. For most regulators of professions, there are four general ways in which they regulate the profession:

  • Restrictive Regulation. Regulators typically prevent people from doing certain things. For example, regulators typically only register individuals who are competent and ethical. People who are not registered cannot perform certain activities or cannot use protected titles.
  • Reactive Regulation. Regulators usually respond to complaints and reports of unprofessional conduct by practitioners. Those concerns are investigated and appropriate action is taken, up to and including the discipline or removal of the practitioner from the profession.
  • Proactive Regulation. Regulators are increasingly engaging in activities that facilitate high quality practice by practitioners. Such proactive measures can take various forms including communicating with practitioners about emerging or recurring problems, requiring continuing professional development, conducting inspections, answering questions, and encouraging continuous improvement practices.
  • Transparent Regulation. Regulators communicate frequently with the profession and the public on their activities. In addition, most regulators operate a public register containing relevant information about the registration, complaints and discipline history of practitioners to enable informed public choice of practitioners.

All of this is done in the public interest which, in this context, primarily means doing all it can to ensure that practitioners provide safe, competent and ethical services.

The activities and public interest mandate of the regulator affects how Board and committee members perform their tasks. For example, the public interest mandate of the regulator suggests that the Board needs to focus on strategy and policy to ensure that the regulator is focussing its efforts on the right things. In addition, the public interest mandate of the regulator strongly suggests that Board and committee members need to act with the highest degree of ethics and integrity.

Quiz on Regulatory Priorities

Rank in order from highest to lowest the following initiatives for a regulator:

  1. Encouraging practitioners to maintain their own wellness.
  2. Establishing a proposed fee schedule to ensure that practitioners receive sufficient compensation to meet minimum standards.
  3. Enhancing the initial retainer process so that clients fully understand their options before using a practitioner’s services.

In all likelihood, item iii would be ranked highest because it relates to an issue that goes to the safety, competence and ethics of the services provided by practitioners to the public. Item i would likely be ranked next highest because it relates to a possible underlying cause of poor performance by practitioners. However, there is a concern that the regulator could shift focus from the possible cause of harm to clients to the interests of practitioners themselves, which should not be the focus of the regulator. Item ii would almost certainly receive the lowest ranking because, despite its wording, the issue has a strong professional self-interest component. Regulators typically leave issues related to compensation of practitioners to other organizations such as professional associations or unions.

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