Employment & Labour

Osgoode Law certificate course a hit with HR professionals

By Paul Russell, AdvocateDaily.com Contributor

When Osgoode Professional Development saw the need for a certificate course to allow human resources specialists to develop a more thorough understanding of employment law, it approached Toronto employment lawyer and mediator Stuart Rudner.

The Osgoode Certificate in Human Resources Law for HR Professionals was designed to provide greater in-depth information and guidance than the typical offerings, which are usually one-hour, half-day or full-day “updates,” Rudner, founder of Rudner Law, tells AdvocateDaily.com.

At the time, he was the chair of Osgoode’s annual Employment Law Update. It was at those one-day courses that the need for something more became clear, he says.

“The idea of the course is to improve knowledge of HR law so that participants will be better at strategic planning and spotting issues proactively,” Rudner says.

“Then they can go back to their employer and be a bit of a hero within their company because now they've got this understanding of how to deal with situations that arise in the workplace, and reduce potential liabilities," he says.

Rudner says he designed the initial course and was the program director for many years, a position he now shares with Natalie C. MacDonald of MacDonald & Associates.

The course was an immediate hit when it launched in 2011, he says. “We ran it twice that year because there was such significant demand."

Close to 250 students have come through the course over its 11 sessions.

“I’m told that is quite impressive for a certificate course, and I’ve developed some great, ongoing relationships with many of my former students,” Rudner says, adding that a few years after the course’s launch, students were coming back, asking for more training.

“They wanted a higher level course, so we designed the Osgoode Certificate in Advanced Human Resources Law For Senior HR Executives,” he says.

The advanced program is geared toward people who have completed the first course, or who have broad HR experience and want to keep abreast of new developments in the field or discuss more strategic approaches to HR, Rudner explains.

“The advanced course is more in-depth, with real-life examples, fact scenarios, and plenty of group discussion and brainstorming, as opposed to just someone lecturing at the front of the room,” he says.

Looking back, Rudner says both courses have been updated significantly over the years, to reflect our changing society and laws.

“The best example is that when we started doing the course, the topic of workplace investigations was a minuscule part of the curriculum,” he says.

“Now we spend an entire day on investigations, starting with when they are necessary, how to plan and structure them, how to interview witnesses, reaching a conclusion, preparing a report, and post-investigation issues, which shows how important that issue is in the world of HR.”

Another big change is a focus on social media, which Rudner says was an after-thought in 2011.

““We discuss the idea of regulating employees’ use of technology and social media at work, and we also get into off-duty conduct and when that can warrant discipline — ie. conduct — that may impact the working relationship or the reputation of the company,” he says, adding that the concept of using social media in the hiring process is also covered.

“I am tremendously proud of the two courses, and although it is hard to fit them in with a busy practice as a lawyer and mediator, I really enjoy the time I spend teaching and leading them,” Rudner says.

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