How does the Commission check that recruitment done within departments is fair, open and based on merit?

As well as its Commissioners personally chairing panels for recruitment processes at the senior levels, the Commission must check that external recruitment carried out within departments and agencies is compliant with our Recruitment Principles.

We do this through an in-house audit of the recruitment practices of over 70 departments and agencies, which identifies any breaches or poor practice, as well as good practice. We look at recruitment documentation to ensure that the organisation is recruiting in a compliant manner.

At the end of the compliance period, we consider all organisations and give them a rating. As part of that process, the Commission looks at any breaches or poor practice identified over the year, whether at audit, as result of complaints received by the Commission or in the course of our day to day contact with organisations. We also look at any challenges faced by the organisation as well as any positive actions being taken, and their Civil Service Code and diversity figures. Our final step is to moderate all of the ratings for consistency.

The ratings for the period 2018/19, which can be found in our annual report and on our website, are decided not with a formulaic approach but based on an informed judgement. While some poor practice and specific breaches were identified, the Commission retains confidence in the ability of all organisations we regulate to carry out external recruitment and does not believe that any require significant regulatory intervention at present.

Jan Cameron, Chair of the Commission’s Compliance Group, said:

By taking our auditing in-house and our team visiting each organisation in person, it is much easier for us to identify organisations who need additional help or advice or would benefit from further training.

There are some key lessons for all departments and agencies to continue to focus on – for example, the importance of keeping good records, following the advertised process and ensuring that appointments made by Exception comply with the Recruitment Principles.

As well as highlighting avoidable breaches and common mistakes, we saw some examples of excellent recruitment practices and we are considering how we can share this good practice more widely.

If you are working in a department or agency and would like to know more about what to expect from an audit by the Commission, please see our FAQs document or get in touch with our team.

Update: The FAQs document was updated in January 2020 to reflect new guidance, and has been re-uploaded to this blog post.

Luke Harrison
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