The fair-access law outlines the broad, general duty of regulatory bodies to have transparent, objective, impartial and fair registration practices.
Neither the Fair Access to Regulated Professions and Compulsory Trades Act, 2006, nor the Regulated Health Professions Act, includes definitions of these principles.
The Office of the Fairness Commissioner has set out the interpretations below so it may assess registration practices in a consistent and transparent way.
The rules and guidelines that regulators apply need to be clear so that applicants understand the steps that they need to take to submit a complete application and how their application are processed. Transparency also means that the registration process must be straightforward and that applicants have direct access to information, which is easily understood, complete and accurate, and will help them to reach the goal they seek.
It is important that the training, tools, criteria and procedures that regulators employ in their registration processes are designed to enhance the consistency of decision-making as between applicants, regardless of the individual making the decision, when it is made and the particular context. The OFC works with regulators to help ensure that their decision-making systems remain valid, reliable and relevant in measuring and assessing the qualifications of applicants.
The decisions made by regulators must be free of bias which, if present, may produce subjective or tainted assessments or decisions. The regulator must identify all sources of bias and take appropriate steps to address them. Sources of bias might include a conflict of interest, preconceived notions, or limited understanding of issues related to diversity and equality, as identified under the Human Rights Code. Regulators must put strategies in place to ensure impartiality. These might include training policies that address conflict of interest, procedures to follow if bias is suspected, and/or a group deliberation or consensus process for making decisions in appropriate circumstances.
Fairness must sit at the heart of the registration process for individuals who wish to join a profession or compulsory trade. Fairness takes a number of dimensions and is not always amenable to precise definition. At its core, it means that a regulator must identify the steps necessary, and the documentation required, for a candidate to complete the registration process. The assessment must be rational and above board, and not place unnecessary and ill-conceived obstacles in the way of success. Everyone must have the same prospects irrespective of their country of origin or background. The process must be expedient. And there must be a chance for an arms-length review if the individual disagrees with a decision. Those running the processes must embrace their responsibilities with a spirt of purpose, wisdom and empathy.