Code of Practice for International Recruitment - application for the Ethical Recruiters List

The UK is committed to ensuring ethical recruitment practices operate within the health and social care sectors through adherence to the recently updated Code of Practice (CoP) for the international recruitment of health and social care personnel. The Code of Practice was most recently updated in August 2022.

Recruitment organisations, agencies, and collaborations should be registered on the Code of Practice (appear on the Ethical Recruiters List) if they undertake any type or level of international recruitment. Organisations supporting domestic (UK) recruitment only are not eligible to be on the Ethical Recruiters List and should not apply.  

NHS Employers is part of the NHS Confederation. NHS Employers' role is to promote the Code of Practice and manage a list of recruitment organisations, agencies, and collaborations who are committed to ethical international recruitment. We triage applications and, after completing the multi-stage application process of this application, information provided by the organisation, agency and collaboration, a Knowledge Test and/or sharing information with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), successful organisations are added to our Ethical Recruiters List.  Frameworks require agencies to have signed up to the Code, otherwise they will not be able to join. Health and social care employers should only contract with organisations who appear on the list.

We have outlined some of the key principles of the code below, however organisations, agencies, and collaborations must ensure they are fully compliant with the Code and its best practice benchmarks. The full Code is available on the Department of Health and Social Care website.

There are five guiding principles that underpin the Code of Practice:

  1. International migration of health and social care personnel can make a contribution to the development and strengthening of health and social care systems to both countries of origin and destination countries if recruitment is managed properly.
  2. Opportunities exist for individuals, organisations and the health and care systems to train and educate and enhance their clinical practice.
  3. There must be no active international recruitment from countries on the list, unless there is an explicit government-to-government agreement with the UK to support managed recruitment activities that are undertaken strictly in compliance with the terms of that agreement.
  4. Recruitment of international health and social care personnel is closely monitored and reported on to the Cross Whitehall International Recruitment Steering Group and the WHO.
  5. International health and social care personnel will have the same legal rights and responsibilities as domestically trained staff in all terms of employment and conditions of work. They will also have the same access to further education and training and continuous professional development.
NHS Employers conducts regular checks on organisations (annual and spot checks) on the Ethical Recruiters List to ensure they are complying with the Code, and reserves the right to remove organisations from the list who are found to be breaching the principles or best practice benchmarks. Where organisations are removed, frameworks and employers will also be notified.

Please familiarise yourselves with the UK Code of Practice and the World Health Organisation code before making an application. We estimate that this application will take approximately 5-10 minutes. You will need to have details on the countries you recruit from/intend to recruit from, links to your social media accounts, information on the professions you will recruit to and a digital signature from your chief executive or director. 

The process to sign up to the Ethical Recruiters List is outlined below.
  1. Completion of this application. You will need to have details on the countries you recruit from/intend to recruit from, links to your social media accounts, information on the professions you will recruit to and a digital signature from your chief executive or director.
  2. Completion of the Knowledge Test. This will consist of 15 questions, requiring a pass rate of 13 out of 15 correct answers. This will test your understanding of the Code of Practice and how it is applied in different settings. You will have three attempts to complete the Knowledge Test. If you do not pass the Knowledge Test by your third attempt, you will not be able to apply to the Code of Practice for a period of three months.
  3. NHS Employers will contact the Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (the Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate) to share details of any inspection and remedial action taken.
Only after the successful completion of all application stages will an organisation be added to the Ethical Recruiters List

Please also be aware that if your application is deemed successful, you will be asked to submit biannual inflow data, including the numbers of overseas candidates successfully recruited and the countries these candidates migrate to the UK from.

NHS Employers will aim to process applications within 10 working days of receiving information from BEIS and the completion of the application form and successful Knowledge Test.  Agencies, organisations and Collaborations must not commence any international recruitment for health and social care individuals until they have received confirmation from NHS Employers to confirm they have met all satisfactory application tests.
Data protection

All information provided through this survey will be held by the NHS Confederation. Any personal data provided will be processed for purposes of evaluation. The information collected will be processed via SurveyMonkey, on behalf of the NHS Confederation and will be shared with Department of Health and Social Care for the purposes of evaluation but will not be shared with any other third parties. Please see our privacy policy for further information on how we will handle your data and you may opt out from communications from us at any time.