For FAQs relating to the UKAS approach to remote assessments please visit the Coronavirus Outbreak page.
What is UKAS?
The United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) is the United Kingdom’s sole national accreditation body. UKAS is formally recognised by the UK government, to assess and accredit against internationally agreed standards, organisations that provide conformity assessment activities including certification, testing, inspection and calibration services. UKAS operates as an independent, non-profit-distributing private company, fulfilling a public authority role.
The UK government policy is that it shall only recognise accreditation of UK-based bodies that have been accredited by UKAS (visit the GOV.UK website to read the government’s Conformity assessment and accreditation policy in the UK publication).
Does UKAS have a regulatory role?
UKAS is not a regulator. It does not have any legal or regulatory enforcement powers. UKAS does however have an ‘oversight’ function and works to ensure that those organisations’ it accredits meet the applicable international accreditation standards.
Does UKAS accreditation guarantee the performance of a conformity assessment body?
Holding UKAS accreditation does not in any way change the contractual responsibilities between an accredited conformity assessment body (CAB) and its clients. Whilst holding UKAS accreditation is an indication of the integrity and competence of a CAB, it does not constitute an undertaking by UKAS that the CAB will maintain a particular level of competence and performance.
What is UKAS’ relationship with Government?
UKAS is a private, not for profit organisation which operates under a Memorandum of Understanding with the Government, through the Secretary of State for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS). It has been formally appointed in its role as the UK’s sole national accreditation body through the Accreditation Regulations 2009 (S.I. No 3155/2009) and the Product Safety and Metrology etc. (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 (S.I. 2019/696) (as amended). Further information on UKAS’ role with Government and the benefits it provides is available here.
What is accreditation?
Accreditation is formal, third party recognition of competence to perform specific tasks by an authoritative body: UKAS gets its authority through its appointment as the UK’s sole national accreditation body via the Accreditation Regulations 2009 (S.I. No 2009/3155). It provides a means to identify a proven, competent evaluator so that the selection of a conformity assessment body (e.g. laboratory, inspection body, certification body, etc) is an informed choice.
What are the benefits of being UKAS accredited?
UKAS accreditation of conformity assessment bodies, i.e. bodies undertaking activities including certification, testing, calibration, inspection, verification, etc, provides those bodies and their customers with confidence that they are working in conformance with international norms, and therefore can be relied upon to provide reliable conformity assessment services.
Recognition of UKAS accreditation is wide reaching, not just in the UK but globally due to its membership of international mutual recognition arrangements (MRAs and MLAs), i.e. those operated by EA, ILAC and IAF. This provides confidence in supply chains and reduces the need for suppliers to be assessed by each of their customers, and for the need of additional conformity assessment of goods and services to be undertaken when goods are exported, helping to reduce barriers to trade.
Accreditation, with its many potential benefits for the quality of goods and in the provision of services throughout the supply chain, underpins practical applications of an increasingly wide range of activities across all sectors of the economy, from fishing to forestry, construction to communications.
What is the difference between the terms ‘accreditation’ and ‘certification’?
Accreditation: Accreditation is the formal recognition by an ‘accreditation authority’ to the technical and organisational competence of a conformity assessment body, to carry out a ‘specific service’ in accordance to the standards and technical regulations, as described in their ‘scope of accreditation’. It provides a means to identify a proven, competent evaluator so that the selection of a laboratory, inspection or certification body is an informed choice.
Certification: Certification is the procedure by which a third party gives written assurance that a product, process, system or person conforms to specified requirements.
For further information view our accreditation vs certification page.
How much will it cost to get accreditation?
UKAS provides a bespoke quote for each organisation based upon its specific application and circumstances. Until we receive an application for accreditation which details the size of your operation, it is very difficult to provide you with an accurate estimate of the cost to become UKAS accredited.
All assessment fees are effort related i.e. dependent on the complexity of scope of accreditation being sought. These fees include not just the time the assessment team spend at your site but also office time. A list of current fees can be found in the UKAS Standard Terms of Business.
There are a number of case studies on our website that provide examples of different types of organisations and accreditation scopes, and the potential costs involved. To find out more, please refer to them.
How long will it take to become UKAS accredited?
We aim for a lead-in time of approximately three months to arrange the first visit to your organisation, with the exception of applications for accreditation for Medical Laboratories (for ISO 15189), which currently have a lead-in time of approximately six months following receipt of application. However, there are a number of aspects that impact on the timescale for the UKAS application/assessment process e.g. a company’s state of readiness to be assessed, response times to improvement actions raised, size/complexity of scope, availability of key assessment personnel etc.
With this in mind, and, depending on the organisation being assessed we would say that the process could realistically take between 6-12 months from application to accreditation. For Medical Laboratories this may take a little longer given the current lead-in time for the first visit after application.
How do I check that an organisation I want to use has UKAS accreditation?
You can search the UKAS website to find accredited bodies that provide services including Certification, Inspection, Testing, Calibration, Validation & Verification, Proficiency Testing provision and Reference Material production. The specific activities and scope they are accredited for are listed on the organisation’s accreditation schedule.
What if an organisation is not accredited by UKAS, but by another Accreditation Body?
UKAS is a signatory, along with other recognised accreditation bodies from around the world, to multilateral agreements for the purposes of mutual recognition through the European co-operation for Accreditation (EA), the International Accreditation Forum (IAF) and the International Laboratory Accreditation Co-operation (ILAC). Those bodies that are signatory to these agreements are deemed to provide technically equivalent services having undergone stringent peer evaluations.
The EA, IAF and ILAC websites provide information about their organisations and details of the accreditation bodies that are signatories to their Multilateral / Mutual Recognition agreements (MLAs/MRAs).
If your certificate is from a body that is a signatory to one of the above multilateral agreements, then the certificate you have can be deemed as technically equivalent to one issued by a UKAS accredited body, and the certificate should be recognised in those countries whose accreditation bodies are signatory to the EA, IAF & ILAC multilateral agreements.
However, the UK government’s policy is that it shall only recognise accreditation of UK-based bodies by the UK’s national accreditation body, i.e. UKAS. It shall continue to recognise accreditation by MLA/MRA signatories of bodies outside of the UK.
If accreditation is provided by a body that is not signatory to one of the above MLAs/MRAs then there is no formal recognition of their competence and care should be taken: The end-user of the report or certificate shall not have the same confidence that it will get from using services accredited by an EA, IAF or ILAC signatory.
Is there a national database of ISO 9001 certified organisations?
There is currently no single database of those organisations who are ISO 9001 certificated in the UK.
There is a QA Register which is maintained by the Stationery Office (TSO). This is a subscription only database, so it is up to the organisation with ISO 9001 certification to choose to be registered on this database. You will also need to subscribe to access the members area of the site. ISO produce an annual ISO 9001 survey. Details can be found on the ISO website.
IAF has set up a database of international management systems certificates (IAF CertSearch), including ISO 9001, although uploading of certificates by certification bodies is currently voluntary and hence the database is not complete.
UKAS is currently developing its own certificate database for the purposes of providing verification on the validity of management systems certificates issued by UKAS-accredited certification bodies. It is anticipated that this should go live during 2021.
How does an organisation get certified to ISO 9001?
UKAS accredits certification bodies (for a defined scope of accreditation, i.e. relating to specific areas of industry) and it is these organisations who can assess and certificate your organisation to ISO 9001. Refer to the full list of UKAS accredited certification bodies.
ISO 9001 is a standard used for the purposes of certification rather than accreditation, and therefore UKAS does not carry out assessments or provide accreditation to this standard.
One of my suppliers has a certificate from a body that does not appear to be accredited, is it valid?
UKAS is aware of the existence of non-accredited certification bodies offering services that could potentially be accredited. In many sectors, accreditation is voluntary and there is no legal requirement to be accredited or to hold accredited certification therefore the organisation is not operating illegally. However, as there is no impartial evaluation of the competence of these certification bodies UKAS is unable to offer any comment on whether their services will meet your requirements.
However, UKAS accreditation provides consumers and businesses with confidence that the service or products they are purchasing, should meet expected UK and international standards and that the organisation is competent to conduct its activities. As such many organisations including UK government rely upon accredited organisations to ensure quality in their supply chain. As a result, it may not be possible for suppliers of unaccredited services to be part of these supply chains and may be excluded for tendering for large contracts.
Please refer to the GOV.UK website for more information relating to guidance to businesses and government departments on using the services of accredited organisations: Guidance – Conformity Assessment and Accreditation
I have seen on a company’s literature a statement that they are “working towards becoming certificated or accredited”. Can UKAS confirm when this organisation is likely to be accredited?
UKAS, and Certification Bodies that are UKAS accredited, are unable to provide information regarding applicants until the application process has reached fruition due to reasons of commercial confidentiality. You should speak to the organisation to determine where they are in the process as some organisations using the statement ‘working towards becoming accredited/certified’ are not always actively pursuing an application.
If you believe any such claims to be bogus you should report this to the local Trading Standards Office for investigation and action where necessary. Follow this link to Trading Standards.
How can I tell whether an accredited management system standard (e.g. ISO 9001, ISO 14001, ISO/IEC 27001, etc) is fake or valid?
A number of bodies have reported an increase in the number of fake certificates on the market. Some of these, upon a cursory review, look authentic and therefore it can be very difficult to determine beyond doubt that the goods or services being sought do hold valid certification. The are 3 main steps that you can take to determine whether you can have confidence in such a certificate:
- Check that the accreditation has been provided by an internationally recognised and authoritative accreditation body (i.e. signatory to the EA MLA or IAF MLA);
- Check that the certification body does hold valid accreditation from this accreditation body, and that its accredited scope includes the management system standard of concern;
- Check that the certification body has issued the certificate (this may be available via the certification body’s own website or by contacting them directly).
Will the certificate issued by a UKAS accredited organisation be recognised in other countries?
If the certificate or report is issued under the organisation’s scope of accreditation then the certificate should be recognised in those countries whose accreditation body is signatory to the EA, IAF & ILAC multilateral agreements where these agreements cover the scope of concern. Details of these agreements are in the global network area of our website.
Can UKAS advise me on what standards my product has to meet in order to get it to market?
Unfortunately, UKAS cannot provide such a service, as we do not have any official role in the generation of product conformity requirements or technical regulations. A good place to start to obtain this information is from the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy.
Which companies are Notified Bodies for the various EU Directives?
Appointment is granted by the relevant government department for that particular regulation, e.g. – Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS), Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG), Department for Transport (DfT), Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), etc. Details of currently appointed Approved Bodies (and bodies similarly appointed for this purpose) can be found on the UK Market Conformity Assessment Bodies (UKMCAB) database.
I am interested in setting up a new accreditation or certification scheme. How do I go about getting UKAS recognition for this scheme?
UKAS operates a new product development programme, enabling us to develop innovative ways to reflect and serve the market sectors in which we operate. When exploring new or emerging areas or schemes and fields of accreditation, we start by assessing the validity of the proposal in order to establish whether:
- there is a genuine need for accreditation and appropriate ownership of the approach being offered (driven by the market and/or government regulation or legislation and not by the evaluators);
- the approach has been developed by relevant interested parties;
- the evaluation criteria meet appropriate technical standards;
- the approach is eligible for UKAS accreditation i.e. in the public interest and eligible for international recognition.
For further information visit the development of new areas of accreditation area of our website.
I have concerns about the activities of a UKAS accredited organisation, how do I register a complaint about them with UKAS?
We are committed to providing a world class, value adding accreditation service and aim to maintain the highest standards in all our dealings with our customers, third parties and stakeholders. However, we recognise that on occasion it may be necessary for our customers, or those using accredited services to raise a complaint with us.
If you are a third party who has concerns about the activities of a UKAS accredited body, or you are a direct customer of UKAS who is unhappy with our service, then we want to hear about it. Full details of how to register a complaint or provide feedback can be found in the Feedback, Complaints & Appeals area of our website.
How do I confirm that an organisation’s accreditation is still valid and for how long?
Schedules of accreditation for all organisations can be found on the UKAS website. The schedules include detailed information with respect to the technical scope that the organisations are accredited for. The presence of a schedule of accreditation on our website, confirms that accreditation for that organisation is current and valid. Absence of a schedule on the UKAS website indicates that the accreditation is no longer in force; where accreditation is temporarily suspended this is also noted.
As the accreditation schedule confirms that accreditation is current and valid, UKAS accreditation certificates do not carry expiry dates. UKAS carries out assessments on an annual basis with a full reassessment of the organisation every fourth year: successful completion of a reassessment shall automatically extend accreditation for a further 4-year cycle. The schedule to the accreditation certificate is an essential accreditation document and from time to time may be revised and reissued by UKAS. Therefore, it is recommended that you routinely and regularly check that the accreditation of organisations you rely upon is current and valid.
How can I obtain some information to help me prepare an application for UKAS accreditation?
Organisations seeking UKAS accreditation should obtain a copy of the relevant International standard that they are seeking accreditation for. UKAS is unable to provide copies of the International standards but you can purchase these directly from the International Standards Organisation (ISO) or from the BSI online website.
UKAS runs some useful training courses which may be beneficial for some of the key personnel in the organisation to gain a better understanding of accreditation and the International standards. A list of all UKAS courses is available on the UKAS website. Please be aware that attendance at UKAS training courses is optional and is not a requirement for gaining accreditation.
All UKAS general and technical publications are available via the Technical Information area of our website. There are a number of general publications which are relevant to all UKAS customers and a number of technically specific publications relevant to the different standards and technical areas that we accredit. In addition to the UKAS publications we have included relevant mandatory documents that are applicable to accredited organisations or organisations seeking to be accredited that are published by EA, IAF and ILAC. The UKAS Publications list is updated monthly.
Additional information for organisations seeking to apply for UKAS accreditation, including the relevant application forms can be found in the Customer area of the our website.
There are a number of organisations that represent the diverse customer base of UKAS which may be able to advise any organisations that are thinking about seeking accreditation.
The Safety Assessment Federation (SAFed)
Can UKAS recommend accredited organisations?
As the UK’s national accreditation body, UKAS has to be completely impartial and therefore unfortunately we cannot recommend one accredited organisation over another. All UKAS accredited organisations are subject to rigorous assessment on an annual basis for compliance with the relevant International standard for which they are accredited and the technical scope included on their accreditation schedule. Their accreditation schedules will only appear on the UKAS website if they continue to meet the requirements of the International standard to which they are accredited.
The presence of the organisation’s schedule of accreditation on our website provides assurance and confidence to procurers. The absence of a schedule on the UKAS website indicates that the accreditation has been withdrawn, either temporarily or permanently by UKAS or at the request of the accredited body. Details of bodies that have either voluntarily withdrawn or suspended their accreditation or which have had this imposed bt UKAS can be found on our website.