» An overview of Sanctions

Sanctions – An introduction

ISO/IEC 17011 states that Accreditation Bodies are required to have procedures for suspension, withdrawal or reduction of the accreditation scope (collectively referred to as ‘Sanctions).

However, what are these sanctions, and what does it mean for a company or individual that has purchased supplies and services from an organisation which has had its accreditation suspended or withdrawn?

What are sanctions?

Accreditation sanctions fall into two main categories; suspension or withdrawal

  • Suspension is usually a temporary measure from which the organisation is expected to regain accreditation within a short period (usually 3-9 months). Suspension is sub-divided into three further categories:
    • Imposed Suspension – UKAS suspends the accreditation of the organisation as a result of the organisation not conforming to requirements or of a specific issue that has arisen.
    • Voluntary Suspension – the organisation themselves requests their accreditation to be suspended, following identification of issues themselves.
    • Financial Suspension – UKAS suspends accreditation as a result of non-payment of due fees by the organisation
  • Withdrawal occurs when UKAS can no longer accredit the organisation in its current form due to it no longer being able to meet accreditation requirements. The organisation would need to reapply for accreditation and be fully reassessed before regaining accreditation.

Sanctions can be ‘full’, covering entire full scope of accredited activities, or ‘partial’ covering part of the scope (such as a specific location or technical discipline). UKAS publishes details of organisation to which sanctions currently apply on our website.

When are sanctions applied?

Imposed suspensions are applied when UKAS has identified that the organisation is unable to continue to meet the requirements of the standard for which they hold accreditation. As a consequence, there is a significant probability of invalid work being performed.

Voluntary suspensions are applied if the organisation has identified a temporary inability to meet the requirements of the standard, or if they lack the necessary competence for their activities. For example, this may include the departure of key technical staff or a move of facilities.

Withdrawal of accreditation is generally applied when a suspended organisation has failed to address the issues which resulted in suspension adequately or in a timely manner. It will also apply if there are failings in the integrity of the organisations senior management.

What are the consequences of sanctions?

When an accreditation is suspended or withdrawn, the organisation can no longer provide accredited services and must inform its existing and prospective customers of this status. 

Existing issued certificates and reports will remain unaffected as they were issued before the sanction was applied, unless it transpires that they were issued incorrectly. In this case, the organisation will contact the affected clients to withdraw the certificate or report. Where a certificate requires routine visits to be maintained (e.g. a ISO 9001 certificate may require annual audit) the organisation may be unable to continue to support that certificate if the client annual visit falls during the period of the sanction.

The timeframe to regain accreditation is mainly in the hands of the organisation to which the sanction has been applied, as it depends on how long it takes to address the issues. Therefore, no specific date can be given by the organisation or by UKAS.

UKAS has confidentiality agreements in place with their customers, which ensure that the assessment can be performed in an open environment. This does however mean that UKAS cannot declare publicly why a sanction has been imposed.