Career Professionals liability and litigation: Are you at risk?

CPC Career Team 1

By Sharon Graham.

As an independent career practitioner, you advise, guide, and support your clients through complex career situations. Counselling clients through their career development can be challenging; even with your best effort, outcomes are not always predictable or positive. Professional liability insurance can protect you from any potential losses by minimizing the financial consequences of any legal action.

Across Canada, clients are becoming increasingly aware of their own legal rights. In the past, people were reluctant to litigate. The climate in our labour market is changing. Clients are becoming more assertive about their perceived rights. In general, people are becoming more litigious.

Currently, well-defined legislated standards or legal precedents related to the field of practice are scarce. However, the career development field is evolving. Career professionals are being held to higher standards of conduct. The Canadian Standards and Guidelines for Career Development Practitioners are used extensively within the field for defining the competencies career development practitioners need in order to practice effectively and ethically.

According to AON, “Times have changed. Today, the public and our legal system expect more and are much more inclined to initiate a lawsuit. When adjudicating cases, the courts have based their judgements on an increasingly higher standard of care and responsibility. The ever-increasing levels of education, training, experience, and reputation of professionals have led the courts and the public to expect service which is superior than the average person. This expectation can be overwhelming.”

Professional liability insurance is not just for those career counsellors or career development professionals who serve individual clients full time. If you work part-time or volunteer your services, you may also be at risk. Even if you work as a subcontractor for a larger service provider, you need to think about your liability. Many public, not-for-profit, and private organizations will require you to carry professional liability insurance. But, even if they don’t, you should consider covering yourself from any potential concerns.

An actual or perceived error can be costly to defend. Professional liability insurance can protect you against negligent acts, errors, omissions, or malpractice. Even if you are competent, just a small lapse can cause repercussions. You can be held accountable for your mistake. Even if your client’s case is unsubstantiated, you can still encounter significant financial loss through the process of defending yourself.

Professional Liability Insurance is not appropriate for every career practitioner. Take some time to learn about, assess, and consider your need for liability insurance coverage. When making your decision to invest, evaluate the financial risk involved in the career counselling or career development work you do. Determine what is at stake for both you and your client if you make a mistake in the work you do.

Minimizing Financial Risk

Here are some tips to help you reduce your risk and avoid potential lawsuits.

  • Adhere to the Canadian Standards and Guidelines for Career Development Practitioners.
  • Follow your Association’s Standards and Ethics.
  • Never provide services you are not fully competent to offer.
  • Give prospective clients written details about the process and expectations.
  • Make new clients sign a well-written contract that offers you protection.
  • Keep a good set of books and record all transactions with clients.
  • If you are working with clients in person, make sure your office is safe and secure.
  • Maintain full privacy, confidentiality, and security for clients.
  • Keep current with your professional development and credentials.
  • Monitor client progress often and provide additional resources if required.
  • Ask how your clients are feeling about the services you provided.
  • Retain a good accountant and lawyer for advice and support when needed.
  • Consider professional liability insurance for further protection.

Career Professionals of Canada provides access to Professional Liability Insurance and Commercial General Liability Insurance to members through AON’s Canadian Counsellors Liability Insurance Program. CPC members can protect themselves and their businesses from lawsuits related to the provision of professional services.

Please Note: This post is not  intended to constitute legal advice; it is an informational service for our readers. Do not act on the information provided without fully examining and considering all your options.

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