What We Do

Commissioners are established by statute to uphold the Merit Principle in selection for appointment to the Northern Ireland Civil Service (NICS). Their aim is to ensure that this should be on merit, on the basis of fair and open competition. Commissioners’ Recruitment Code interprets the Merit Principle and how it should be applied within the NICS recruitment process. The NICS must ensure that its recruitment policies and procedures comply with the Recruitment Code, that will contribute to the building of a diverse and inclusive Civil Service which reflects the society that it serves.

The Merit Principle is upheld by the application of four underpinning principles, which are set out and defined in the Recruitment Code:

  • Principle 1: Appointments should be made on merit;
  • Principle 2: Appointment processes should be fit for purpose;
  • Principle 3: Appointment processes should be fair and applied with consistency; and
  • Principle 4: Appointments should be made in an open, accountable and transparent manner.

In addition to safeguarding an impartial and independent NICS, Commissioners have a role in hearing appeals made by existing civil servants under the NICS Code of Ethics.

Commissioners will achieve this by:

  • Publishing a Recruitment Code on the interpretation and application of the principle of selection on merit on the basis of fair and open competition;
  • Setting out the rules in General Regulations, or by directions,  that permit exceptions to the Merit Principle (with the approval of the Secretary of State). The circumstances in which these may be applied are set out in the Recruitment Code;
  • Auditing NICS recruitment policies and practices, using the Audit Framework and Guidance, to establish whether the Recruitment Code is being observed;
  • Chairing all open Senior Civil Servant (SCS) Recruitment Competitions. All appointments to the SCS made through open competition require the approval of Commissioners;
  • Requiring the publication of NICS recruitment related information, including the use of permitted exceptions, as set out in Appendix C of the Commissioners Recruitment Code;
  • Considering and determining appeals from current civil servants under the NICS Code of Ethics to support the Civil Service core values of integrity, honesty, objectivity and impartiality;
  • Publishing an Annual Report which provides a comprehensive overview of Commissioners’ activities.

Commissioners adhere to a Code of Practice which sets out the standards of conduct they will observe. The Code provides clear guidance on how Commissioners comply with their legal obligations while maintaining the seven principles of public life which are integral to their role: selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership.