Less experienced HR workers have expressed concern that new changes to CIPD membership levels could disadvantage them in the jobs market.
Last week, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) unveiled a new associate level of membership for support HR workers aimed at boosting professionalism in the sector. Associate level replaces both the licentiate and graduate non-professional levels, which will be scrapped in June 2010 and June 2014 respectively.
But other HR professionals welcomed the changes, saying they would encourage higher professional standards and push practitioners to think more about their impact in the workplace.
Clair Dallamore, senior HR adviser at health provider The Priory Group, told Personnel Today: "In terms of qualifications and experience, if everyone at the multitude of varying levels below chartered member is lumped into this one category, then the parameters are so wide that I feel it would become meaningless. [Employers] could therefore be misled as to the suitability of the applicant."
Current graduate member Emma Vernon, HR adviser at professional accreditation organisation APM Group, was worried the changes would make the career path for graduates harder.
She said: "For all those graduating from the CIPD qualification, they'll now have another hoop to jump through before even contemplating chartered membership."
But David Albone, HR manager at Connect Housing, said the associate level "would not make much difference" in recruitment. When hiring less experienced HR staff, employers did not tend to look for qualifications but for an overall fit with the function, he added.
Duncan Brown, former assistant director-general of the CIPD, said removing the two lower levels of membership would help HR staff to move up into chartered membership. He argued it would make the structure simpler for people outside of HR to understand.
The CIPD insisted the new level – which sits below chartered member and chartered fellow – was not a "big money-making agenda" aimed at bringing in extra revenue. Current graduate members can apply for associate status free of charge before July, provided they have the right level of skills and experience, while non-CIPD members will be charged the same amount if successful.
A CIPD spokesman insisted the changes were necessary because the licentiate and graduate levels were "little understood". He said: "We are not taking away anything that creates an edge in the marketplace but creating an associate level that does give an edge in the market place."