Application process for the Ethical Recruiters List

Information on the application process for the Ethical Recruiters List, how the list is monitored, and the appeals procedure.

2 January 2024

On this page, you will find information on the application process for recruitment organisations, agencies, collaborations to be placed on the Ethical Recruiters List, how the list is monitored and the appeals procedure.

Application procedure

Recruitment organisations, agencies and collaborations wishing to apply to be placed on the code of practice Ethical Recruiters List for International Recruitment are required to complete a multiple-stage application process.

1. The first is an online application form that confirms:

  • commitment to fully adhere to and comply with Employment Agencies Act 1973 and associated conduct regulations
  • business practices
  • a declaration of all associated business activities and references relating to the recruitment of health and social care professionals
  • permission for the Employment Agencies Standard (EAS) Inspectorate to share details with Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and NHS Employers of any inspection and remedial action taken. 

2. After submitting the online application form, applicants will need to complete a knowledge test. This will consist of 15 questions, requiring a pass rate of 13 out of 15 correct answers. This will confirm that applicants have read and understood the code of practice and how it is applied in different settings.  

Organisations have three attempts at the knowledge test. If an organisation does not pass the third attempt, it must wait three months before it can re-apply and must show that it has changed its business practice to be placed on or back on the list.

3. NHS Employers will contact the EAS Inspectorate to share details with DHSC and NHS Employers of any inspection and remedial action taken. 

If, after contact with EAS Inspectorate, assessment of the application, knowledge test, and resolution of any queries, an organisation is not successful in being placed on the Ethical Recruiters List, they will be advised of the reason in writing via email. 

NHS Employers aims to process applications within 10 working days of receiving information from EAS Inspectorate. 

Once NHS Employers has reviewed an application and received satisfactory information from the EAS Inspectorate, a letter will be sent via email to inform the applying organisation of the outcome of the application.  

NHS Employers does not support organisations, agencies or collaborations on the ERL with obtaining business or providing recruitment advice. 

The organisation responsible for processing applications and monitoring the Ethical Recruiters List reserves the right to introduce a fee for recruitment organisations, agencies, or collaborations to be on the Ethical Recruiters List for the Code of Practice at a future point in time.

How the Ethical Recruiters List is monitored

The procedure for monitoring recruitment organisations, agencies, and collaborations for their adherence to the principles of the code is as follows.

Annual reviews

Every year, when the code of practice is reviewed by DHSC, NHS Employers contacts all recruitment organisations, agencies and collaborations (allowing them a specified time period to respond) asking them to review any changes to the code and renew their commitment to its guiding principles and best practice benchmarks.

If NHS Employers does not receive a reply within a specified time period, this will result in the organisation being removed from the list. If removed, an organisation will only be allowed to re-apply after a period of three months and will need to demonstrate that they will remain fully compliant with the code of practice and the operating practice.

Health or social care organisations are encouraged to make a note of this procedure and ensure that their recruitment organisation, agency or collaboration complies with it when they receive their initial letter.

Spot checks

NHS Employers conducts regular spot checks to monitor compliance with the code of practice. Organisations can be spot checked if they are selected by a random number generator, if they are on a list for regular monitoring, or if NHS Employers has been made aware of a potential breach. The spot checks include but not limited to:

  • checking information available on Companies House
  • checking the organisation’s website can be reached and all activities align with the code of practice
  • checking the organisation’s social media presence and all activities align with the code of practice.

Information on the numbers and outcomes of spot checks are routinely shared with the DHSC.

Organisations on the Ethical Recruiters List are allowed and encouraged to stipulate that they are signed up to the Code of Practice and adhere to the principles of ethical recruitment – and they may wish to signpost to our website, but cannot use the NHS Employers logo or declare they are a preferred supplier. 

Removal from the Ethical Recruiters List 

A recruitment organisation, agency, or collaborative will be removed from the list if, following a thorough investigation, it is found to be in breach of the principles and benchmarks of the code. Each case will be investigated on an individual basis. An abridged version of the escalation process for informal and formal investigations can be found in Annex C of the Code of Practice. Detailed processes are housed securely by NHS Employers.

Information on any breach will be shared with the Employment Agencies Standard Inspectorate.

Appeal procedure

Recruitment organisations that are removed from the code of practice list can lodge an appeal against the decision to NHS Employers. All appeals must be made in writing and the organisation must set out the grounds for their appeal, with any written evidence to support their case, within 10 working days. The appeal process can be found in Annex C of the code of practice.

The purpose of the appeal procedure is to review the process and reason for the decision to remove an organisation from the Ethical Recruiters List if they believe the process was improperly administered or the decision was unjustified. In most circumstances, the organisation would have been involved in the investigation about their removal from the Ethical Recruiters List, for example, when NHS Employers needs to clarify details of events or operating procedures. Recruitment organisations, agencies, and collaborations are always given the opportunity to comment on the information and provide an explanation of their activity.

Action by appeals panel

If an organisation appeals against removal from the Ethical Recruiters List, a formal appeals panel will meet to consider the appeal. The panel includes:

  • NHS Employers staff member at director-level
  • NHS Confederation staff member at assistant director-level
  • NHS Employers or other stakeholder staff member at programme lead or manager level.

The appeals process should be completed within six weeks of receiving the written appeal unless there are circumstances that warrant an extension. In these circumstances, the appeals panel should inform the organisation in writing of the reasons, and where possible, the timescale of the delay.

The panel members will consider the appeal submission together with the original papers supplied by the NHS Employers' investigation team. Panel members can ask for additional information or clarification from either the recruitment organisation, agency, collaboration, or the NHS Employers' investigation team. Panel members do not have to consider the appeal together in a formal face-to-face meeting but should meet together if requested by one of the panel members.

Consideration should be given to the following:

  • whether the primary investigators clearly demonstrated that a breach of the code of practice has taken place - the evidence should support this - and the decision to remove the  organisation from the Ethical Recruiters List was proportionate
  • whether there is any possibility that the information on which the original decision was based is incorrect
  • whether the organisation has been given an opportunity to respond and provide an explanation of their actions
  • whether the organisation disproved the evidence or raised serious doubt about its validity
  • whether the process has been handled properly by NHS Employers.

The panel will make a majority decision whether to uphold or reject the appeal. It may also make other specific recommendations. When the review is completed, the recruitment organisation, agency, or collaboration will be notified of the outcome in writing by NHS Employers.

NHS Employers will inform framework providers, NHS England, NHS organisations, devolved administrations and/or the Independent Health Providers Network of the breach and final decision, once either the appeal has concluded and a full removal remains the final decision or the timeframe for an appeal has elapsed.

If the appeal is upheld, the sanction will be removed or adjusted in line with the appeals panel decision and relevant stakeholders will be notified of any sanction applied.

Use of the NHS Employers logo

NHS Employers logo is protected and recruitment organisations, agencies, and collaborations – even those that are successfully placed on the ethical recruiters list –  are not allowed to display the logo on their business materials, such as documents, websites or social media accounts.

This is because the process of signing up to the code is primarily based on self-declaration that they have ethical practices and completing a knowledge test, our role is to manage the list of organisations who have signed up to the code but not to approve them as suppliers.

Recruitment organisations, agencies, and collaborations, are also reminded that inclusion on the list does not imply that they belong to a group that are either preferred suppliers or recommended by the Department of Health and Social Care or NHS Employers. It also does not guarantee they will be engaged by health or social care organisations to recruit on their behalf.