Civil Service Commission

Tuesday 22 November 2016

Good morning and welcome to Day 2 of Open Week.  First up, we have a Tweet from Bill:

Does the Civil Service Code apply to those paid and reported to Parliament as Civil Servants, but not “actual” Civil Servants?


Thank you for your Tweet. The Code sets out the framework within which all civil servants work, and the core values and standards of behaviour they are expected to uphold. It forms part of the terms and conditions of employment of every civil servant. But it does only apply to civil servants.

However you might also have heard of the Nolan Principles, which apply to all public office holders. This includes people who are elected or appointed to public office, nationally or locally and includes the Civil Service. The Committee on Standards in Public Life (CSPL) promotes these principles and has a remit to examine concerns about standards of conduct of all holders of public office. Its remit was extended by the Government in 2013 to include standards of conduct of all those involved in the delivery of public services.

So everybody involved in the delivery of public services be they elected or appointed, are expected to abide by the same high standards as those in the Civil Service.

Best wishes

Angela Sarkis
Civil Service Commissioner


And another Tweet, this one from Mark:

What information does the Commission receive about Civil Service Code breaches that are resolved within Government departments?

Thank you for your Tweet Mark. The Civil Service Commission’s role in hearing complaints under the Civil Service Code is as the appeals body, where complaints have not been resolved to the satisfaction of the complainant at a Departmental level. So generally speaking when the Commission hears a complaint (and whether or not it finds a breach) it is because it has not been resolved satisfactorily by the Department. The Commission does share information with Departments and sometimes provide advice on Code investigations, but Departments do not routinely report on Code investigations to the Commission that have been carried out locally.

Best wishes,

Angela Sarkis
Civil Service Commissioner


The next question comes from Juliet who works at the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority:

Hi my concern with general recruitment is that applications are done online.

I do feel that this does victimise people with disabilities.  You could have a person who is on the spectrum and could do a job really well but has trouble even getting an application completed, due to its time constriction and may not even have access to a computer or have someone to help them when doing it online.

I feel a written application should be accepted for disabled people so they have more time to get their skills together and provide a better application. 


Dear Juliet

Thank you for your question, you have raised an interesting issue which we will give further consideration to in the future, when discussing recruitment with Departments. The Commission is committed to increasing diversity throughout the Civil Service and the First Civil Service Commissioner has made it a priority during his new term in office.

The Commission regulates recruitment into the Civil Service, the online application system is actually managed by Civil Service Resourcing (CSR). CSR is at present reviewing the way in which candidates can apply for vacancies, with a view to making some changes. Timed applications or tests is one area that they are focusing on. We will certainly pass your comments on to them for consideration. At present, online tests are timed but applicants can ask for additional time or assistance if required, this will be discussed between CSR and the vacancy holder. It’s also worth noting that not all Departments use online applications and there may be a variety of ways in which to submit an application, depending on the vacancy.

Most Departments are committed to the Guaranteed Interview Scheme, details can be found in the document I have linked to. If a candidate declares a disability and meets the minimum criteria for a position, they will be interviewed. Most adverts will provide a contact so that applicants can discuss the vacancy before applying, which could provide them with a further opportunity to highlight any concerns they might have about the application process.

Best wishes

Angela Sarkis
Civil Service Commissioner


Our next question comes from Elaine in the Cabinet Office:

What are the Commission’s views on the apparent prevalence of short-term appointments in the Civil Service and what does it see as the advantages and disadvantages of such appointments?

Dear Elaine,

Thank you for your email and for raising this question.  The Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010 requires that selection for appointment to the Civil Service (this could be to a permanent or to a short term role) must be made on merit on the basis of fair and open competition (the “legal requirement”).

However, in some circumstances, Departments need to make short term appointments quickly to meet urgent business needs.  The Commission therefore allows some appointments to be made without a fair and open competition and appointment on merit where it believes this is justified by the needs of the Civil Service.  Details of how appointments by way of these “exceptions” to the legal requirement can be made are set out in the Commission’s Recruitment Principles (

The Commission is clear that appointments by exception should be exceptional and we set limits on the length of time and the circumstances in which such appointments may be made.  We collect data on Departments’ use of exceptions and carry out checks as part of our compliance monitoring programme.

Any perceived advantages or disadvantages to the use of exceptions would be for Departments to judge when assessing the most appropriate method of recruitment.

Best wishes

Jonathan Baume
Civil Service Commissioner





Monday 21 November 2016