Canadian workers becoming more litigious
HRPA survey finds HR professionals believe employees more likely to bring legal action against employers than they were five years ago; perception of judicial bias towards employees
TORONTO, Nov. 3 /CNW/ - The majority of Canadian HR professionals believe workers have become more litigious in recent years and fear the trend will continue over the next five years, according to a recent survey by the Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA) and Canadian HR Reporter.
The survey, Are employees becoming more litigious, was completed by 535 HR professionals from across Canada and represented a broad cross-section of industries, sectors and organizations.
A majority of survey respondents (69.5%) believed that employees are more likely to bring legal action against previous employers today than they were five years ago; and almost four-fifths (79.8%) felt the situation will be worse five years from now.
Most (74.6%) also believed the courts and other adjudicative bodies were tilted in favour of employees, a perception that many respondents say prompts employers to settle with employees regardless of the merits of their case. Interestingly, this perception of bias was strongest among mid-level managers and executives (82.4% and 80.5% respectively).
The most problematic issues in terms of litigation were wrongful dismissal (67.7%), termination and severance pay (57.9%), human rights complaints/discrimination (54.0%), accommodation issues (31.1%), and severance arrangements (23.0%).
Respondents also reported paying more in legal fees to defend against claims filed by employees: 67.2% of respondents said their employment-related legal costs had gone up 5 per cent or more in the last year, 53.2% indicated 10 per cent or more in the last year, and 15.8% indicated 25 per cent or more in the last year.
"Respondents' comments suggest many causes for the increasing litigiousness of employees," said survey author Claude Balthazard, HRPA's director of HR excellence. "The broad perception was that employees have more to gain and little to lose from litigation. Many respondents also linked the increasing litigiousness of employees to difficult economic conditions and a shrinking job market. Some noted that this litigiousness should not be a surprise—given that organizations are looking after their own interests, it should be expected that employees will look after theirs. It was also suggested that employees are increasingly 'system savvy,' and more aware of the various avenues in which to press their claims. And some respondents noted that the legal profession is partly to blame: whereas lawyers used to advise clients to accept fair settlements, now they take all cases that come their way."
In terms of professional HR practice, most respondents (85.9%) felt that competence in dealing with litigation or possible litigation has become more important for HR professionals over the last five years. And a number of comments suggested that many employers are becoming more cautious in dealing with employees—a development that some respondents felt was not altogether a bad thing.
For full survey findings, please go to: www.hrpa.ca/hrthoughtleadership/pages/pulsesurveys.aspx
For additional commentary from Canadian HR Reporter, please go to:
The Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA) is Canada's HR thought leader with more than 19,000 members in 28 chapters across Ontario. It connects its membership to an unmatched range of HR information resources, events, professional development and networking opportunities and annually hosts the world's second largest HR conference. In Ontario, HRPA issues the Certified Human Resources Professional (CHRP) designation, the national standard for excellence in human resources management and the Senior Human Resources Professional (SHRP) designation, reserved for high-impact HR leaders.
Published 22 times a year, Canadian HR Reporter offers readers the most current news, information on the latest trends and practices, expert advice, experiences and insights from HR practitioners, research and resources.
For further information:
Duff McCutcheon, Communications Specialist
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