Members have a legal obligation to report to the College another member’s unsafe practice or behaviour. The reporting member need not have witnessed the incident of unsafe practice but need only have reasonable grounds to believe that an incident of unsafe practice has occurred. Reasonable grounds include apparently reliable information about an incident from another person (including a client). Members use their own judgment in deciding what to report. They should consider, for example, whether someone has suffered, or will suffer, serious harm as a result of the member’s unsafe practice.
Duty to report – not investigate
Members are obligated to report, not to investigate. A client’s identity must not be submitted in the report unless his/her consent is given or otherwise permitted by law (such as when there is risk of ongoing and serious harm).
Frivolous or vexatious complaints
While members have an obligation to report unsafe practice, as well as other forms of professional misconduct, incompetence, or incapacity to the College, they should not use the complaints process for ulterior purposes. A complaint made in good faith to protect vulnerable parties and/or the general public is appropriate. A vexatious complaint made for ulterior motives (e.g. to further a civil or domestic dispute) and made knowing it likely has no validity, is not appropriate. Repetitious complaints on the same matter may be considered vexatious. Abusing the complaints process is unprofessional, unfair to the other member and a waste of regulatory resources.
Mandatory reporting of sexual abuse
Under the RHPA, if a member has reasonable grounds to believe that another regulated health professional has sexually abused a patient/client, the member is legally obligated to make a report to that professional’s regulatory college. If the regulated health professional is the member’s own psychotherapy client, additional reporting obligations apply. Specifically, the member must report an opinion, if s/he is able to form one, as to whether the member’s client is likely to sexually abuse their clients in the future. An additional report is required where the member ceases to provide psychotherapy to the regulated health professional.*
Members should also be aware of other reporting obligations, such as the duty to make a report under the Child and Family Services Act, 1990, where a member has reasonable grounds to suspect that a child is in need of protection due to physical harm, neglect or sexual abuse by a person having charge of the child.
The Standard: Reporting Unsafe Practices
Members promptly report to the College another member’s unsafe practice where there are reasonable grounds to believe that the other member has engaged in such practice. Members keep the identity of any client confidential unless the client has given consent, or disclosure is legally permitted or required. Members refrain from making frivolous or vexatious complaints.
Demonstrating the Standard
A member demonstrates compliance with the standard by, for example:
- reporting promptly to the College the unsafe practice of another member where there are reasonable grounds to believe that unsafe practice has taken place;
- maintaining the confidentiality of any client involved unless the client has consented to disclosure or disclosure is permitted or required by law;
- refraining from making frivolous or vexatious complaints;
- reporting sexual abuse involving another regulated health professional.
* See Regulated Health Professions Act, 1991, sections 85.1, 85.3, and 85.4.
Professional Misconduct Regulation, provisions 39, 40
Note: College publications containing practice standards, guidelines or directives should be considered by all members in the care of their clients and in the practice of the profession. College publications are developed in consultation with the profession and describe current professional expectations. It is important to note that these College publications may be used by the College or other bodies in determining whether appropriate standards of practice and professional responsibilities have been maintained.