Civil Service Commission

Friday 25 November 2016

Hello and welcome to Day 5 of Open Week.  The first question comes from Steve at the MOD:


I have a question regarding the CS code.  The code has ‘traditionally’ had 3 elements:

Integrity – this is about putting the obligations of public service above our own personal interests

Honesty – we should be truthful and open

Impartiality – we should act solely according to the merits of the case and serving equally well governments of different political persuasions

However, more recently, a 4th element has been added:

Objectivity – we need to base our advice and decisions on rigorous analysis of the evidence

Could you explain the logic behind this, as I feel this has always been covered under ‘impartiality’  By definition, if you are being impartial you are being objective; therefore once you no longer impartial, you have become subjective.

Do you not agree?  I feel the addition of ‘Objectivity’ is superfluous and does not add any benefit, in fact if many people think the same as I do, it could undermine the purpose and meaning of the Code.

Steve, thank you for this question. The Civil Service Code is an extremely important document setting out the standards of behaviour expected of all civil servants to uphold the Civil Service’s core values. We are pleased to have received a number of interesting questions and observations on the Code during this year’s Open Week.

The Civil Service Code was first published in 1996. The intention was to codify the long-standing understanding of the constitutional framework within which civil servants work, and the values they are expected to uphold. There was a major revision in 2006 following a wide consultation across the Civil Service. The Code is published by the Cabinet Office.

The Commission’s regulatory role regarding the Code is to hear and determine complaints raised by civil servants under the Civil Service Code if they are not satisfied by the way that their concerns have been dealt with by their own department. We also work with departments to help them promote the Code and the core values of the Civil Service that it describes.

Objectivity has always been an important part of the Code. The opening paragraph of the original 1996 Code was: The constitutional and practical role of the Civil Service is, with integrity, honesty, impartiality and objectivity, to assist the duly constituted Government of the United Kingdom… These four core values were given even greater emphasis in the 2006 revision and were given statutory force in the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010.

Our view at the Commission is that Impartiality and Objectivity are complementary values, and that both are of core importance, in addition to the other two values of Honesty and Integrity.

With best regards.

Sarah Laessig
Civil Service Commissioner


We have a question from Bon at the MOD:

One of the issues that I have been experiencing is getting onto to the Civil Service Jobs website. I am unable to access the account I have had during the past year and unable to receive a response which puts me in a difficult position, not allowing me to view or update my profile.

Civil Service jobs website does not respond to any of my enquires, an experience which has affected many of my colleagues how can you help?

Dear Bon

Thank you for contacting the Commission during Open week, I am sorry to hear about the issues you encountered when trying to access the Civil Service jobs website. I have passed your email directly to a Service Delivery Manager in Civil Service Jobs and have asked that a member of the team responds directly to you. It may be that you will need to provide specific details about the issues you are having to assist them with fixing this problem.

Separately, we will be speaking to the MOD to establish if this a widespread problem with MOD employees.

With best regards,

Sarah Laessig
Civil Service Commissioner


The next question is from Jon at the MOD:

The current Selection Interviewing Course is a 1½ day course that gives an attendee 2 x fifteen minute practice slots at interviewing candidates in a false environment.

It is rather scary to think that individuals are then “qualified” to go out and interview real people for real jobs for up to 5 years on the basis of this course. In addition there is no “test”, so no pass or fail, simply qualification by attendance. Given that the recruitment process has to be seen as fair, this has huge potential to go wrong and cause embarrassment, wasted time and associated costs, simply because too much is expected of individuals.

Personally I feel totally inadequate to interview anyone on the basis of this course, so one has to ask if it is value for money.

I simply do not understand how it is possible to be seen to be able to go and interview people for potentially life changing events on the basis of this course. 

I am really surprised that it has not yet come to a head, it is probably that most interviewees are simply unsure what they are being compared against.

I’ve been interviewed a few times where I wasn’t convinced by the interviewers competence, but felt unable to take it any further.

But, eventually, there will be an interviewer who does seem so unconvincing that someone will challenge the system resulting in huge embarrassment for the interviewer, but also for the Civil Service.

From my own opinion, this is a wider issue in how different departments value and manage HR – or not.  Interviewing people is a specific skill set, it is totally barking to expect every individual to be able to do it simply because they happen to be Line Manager of a vacant post.

I forward my opinion for higher discussion.

Dear Jon

Thank you for your email, which you clearly feel very strongly about.

In regulating external recruitment, the Commission is not prescriptive and allows Department flexibility to ensure that the Recruitment Principles are complied with.  We take this approach as clearly a ‘one size fits all’ approach would not suit all Departments. In practice, this means the MOD, and indeed other departments, have the scope to support the recruitment process with appropriate training courses.

I am concerned to hear that you consider the training with MOD to be not fit for purpose, and that you felt unable to raise it with your department. It is the interest of departments to improve on processes and constructive feedback would allow them to do so.  Can I suggest that you provide examples of your experiences directly to your department? In the meantime, I wish you luck with any future applications.

Best wishes

Jan Cameron
Civil Service Commissioner


This question comes from an employee of the Crown Prosecution Service:

I have recently been unsuccessful in applying for a EO manager position on my team.

I have learnt that one of the members of the interview and sift panel, is another EO manager currently on the team. She will not have any line manager role over the new position and is fairly new to the role herself, having only been promoted in May.

This does not seem like a very fair process. I do not think you should be able to interview and sift someone who will be a colleague and peer. Surely the interview panel should consist of independent and more senior members. There have been a few recruitment campaigns recently in my office, and several people with close personal relationships to senior management have either got permanent positions or internal promotions.

I would be interested to know what failsafes are in place to prevent what appears to be nepotism. Although this may not be the reason I was unsuccessful, this is what it appears like to many staff on the team. If this is how it appears internally, I dread to think how it would appear externally.
Thank you for your question and for responding to Open Week. Unfortunately, the Commission only regulates external recruitment into the Civil Service, not internal recruitment and therefore we can’t comment on the specific situation you describe.  You are, of course, open to raise your concerns directly with your HR department who, I am sure, will value the feedback.  I am sorry that on this occasion, we were not able to assist you further.

Best wishes,
Jan Cameron

Civil Service Commissioner


Well that about wraps it up for Open Week.  Thank you to  everybody for all of the excellent questions.



Monday’s Questions and Answers

Tuesday’s Questions and Answers

Wednesday’s Questions and Answers

Thursday’s Questions and Answers