Safe sport and human resources are two critical areas that interact in national sports organizations (NSO). Safe sport is a set of policies and procedures that aim to ensure the safety and well-being of athletes, coaches, and other stakeholders and members in sports organizations. Human resources, on the other hand, deals with the management of personnel, including recruitment, training, performance evaluation, employee relations, and ensuring a safe and healthy workplace. The individuals affected by human resources policies may or may not be members of the NSO, who are covered by its safe sport policies.

In national sports organizations, and because of the overlapping issues they address, the safe sport and human resources departments should work closely together to create a safe and respectful workplace for all employees, as well as coaches and athletes. The safe sport department is responsible for developing policies and training programs to prevent and respond to incidents maltreatment in the sport organization. The human resources department is responsible for implementing workplace policies and ensuring that all employees are aware of their responsibilities and obligations, which may but does not necessarily include safe sport policies, depending on their role within the organization.

There is often an assumption that all issues involving employees of a sports organization must be addressed under safe sport policies. This is not the case, and in fact in many cases because particular employees are not ‘members’ of the organization, the safe sport policies do not apply to these employees, and an adjudication under such a policy would not have jurisdiction over the employee. These types of issues must be addressed under ordinary workplace policies, including workplace harassment/sexual harassment, and workplace violence and discrimination policies, which are mandatory in Canadian provinces. Much like safe sport policies, these workplace policies require investigations and corrective action. However, unlike safe sport, the determination about corrective action and the employee’s employment status rests with the employer (the NSO) and not an independent tribunal.

Furthermore, even for employees who are also members, and therefore subject to safe sport policies, it will not always be the case the breaches of safe sport policies amount to an automatic right to terminate the employee without notice. In Canadian provinces, employees have significant statutory and common law rights that protect their right to notice upon termination, even in the face of misconduct. In Ontario, for instance, if misconduct (such as a breach of the safe sport policy) is not premeditated and serious, the employee will still be owed statutory notice under the Employment Standards Act, 2000, and may also have common law notice entitlements.

Overall, safe sport and human resources are two critical areas that work together to create a safe and healthy environment for athletes, coaches, and staff members in national sports organizations. By collaborating and communicating effectively, these departments can ensure that all employees are aware of their responsibilities and obligations and that everyone is working towards the common goal of creating a safe and inclusive sports culture. However, it is important to recognize and appropriately manage the distinctions between these two complementary areas to ensure that the sports organization does not accidentally expose itself to liability in one area by heeding only the other.