Legislation vs. regulation: What’s the difference?

For most people, these two terms are used interchangeably: how similar are they really?

Legislation and Regulation

There has been a lot of time and energy spent on updating the legislation around Lone Workers of the world, particularly over the past 15 years. Australia, Canada, and the UK all have revised and updated language about lone workers at the legislative level. 

Legislation is synonymous with statutory law; the laws that have been enacted by the legislature as well as those still in the process of being enacted. Legislation is both the description of the legal requirements, and of the punishment for violating the law.  

Regulations, by comparison, are the ongoing processes of monitoring and enforcing the law: so not just HOW the legislation is being enforced, but also the very act of enforcement. Where the confusion comes in is that a regulation is also the name of the document itself that details the act and description of regulation. 

It’s best to think of it like this: If Legislation is a destination, then Regulation is how we get there. 

Regulation comes from a number of sources, but the most common forms are government regulation and self-regulation. Government regulation is a natural extension of legislation, in that it defines and controls some of the ways that a business or individual can operate in order to follow the law. A very straightforward example is food packaging in Canada: it must, at the very least, be packaged with both English and French wording.  

Self-regulation is when an individual or a business has control over the particulars of how it meets the minimum legislative requirements. If you owned a kitchen, the law states that it must be sanitary, but you have the regulatory power to decide how it gets cleaned. Food must be stored under certain conditions, but you have control over how those conditions are achieved. 

This is, of course, a very basic explanation, but one that gets to the heart of the matter. We hope that this helps clarify things a little! 

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