Belfast Telegraph

Union threatening legal action over Civil Service recruitment ‘shambles’

A trade union boss has branded a Civil Service recruitment drive as
A trade union boss has branded a Civil Service recruitment drive as "a complete shambles" after an IT meltdown.
Brett Campbell

By Brett Campbell

A trade union boss has branded a Civil Service recruitment drive as "a complete shambles" after an IT meltdown.

Nipsa general secretary Alison Millar has received complaints after the online application system crashed due to the volume of potential recruits logging in, causing many to miss last Thursday's closing deadline.

"The whole thing has been a complete shambles," she said.

"This recruitment process was launched as an external competition without us ever being consulted and we are considering taking legal action around the whole process."

Union representatives successfully secured a 24-hour extension, but further delays meant recipients had to wait up to 48 hours for a link to a number of aptitude tests which formed the next stage of the process.

"We secured another extension for applicants to complete these tests, but there are concerns that many people will be disadvantaged, especially those who work," Mrs Millar added.

It is understood that line managers within all Northern Ireland Civil Service (NICS) departments have been asked "to be flexible" with staff who wish to complete the three 40-minute assessments before 5pm today. Such flexibility has not been extended to external candidates.

Mrs Millar said there are concerns about a video of the assessments circulating on the internet that would allow applicants to prepare answers in advance.

"In previous competition there was a situation where applicants would do an online test and then a subsequent verification test, but that isn't going to be happening this time," she added.

"I have heard of fake accounts being set up in order for people to see the questions, a video circulating on social media and everything inbetween.

"If I was a civil servant, I would be scrapping the whole thing."

In response, the Department of Finance said: "The recruitment campaign provides the NICS with the opportunity to attract a wide range of applicants including those from groups that are currently underrepresented in the NICS workforce, including younger people, people from minority ethnic backgrounds and those with disabilities.

"Like many modern employers the NICS has used online tests as part of its assessment process. These enable candidates to complete the tests anywhere and at a time that suits them, taking into account any caring or other responsibilities they may have and using equipment suitable to them. 

"The tests are only one component of the assessment and selection process which also includes a sift on experience, a presentation, an invigilated written exercise and interview at an assessment centre.

"The deadline to apply for the competition and to complete the online test was extended due to the IT difficulties encountered by some individuals."

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