To ensure that certificate holders still meet the requirements of the relevant standard, Certfication Bodies are required to conduct detailed recertification audits of certificate holders every three years. Before the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic, UKAS Technical Policy Statement 62 “Management of Extraordinary Events or Circumstances Affecting UKAS Accredited Certification Bodies and their Certified Organisations” (TPS 62, published August 2016) allowed for recertification audit visits to be delayed by up to 6 months before the Certification Body should withdraw the certificate. However, recognising the potential for the unprecedented disruption to travel, social contact and working practices that the COVID-19 pandemic could cause, UKAS has been working as part of the International Accreditation Forum (IAF) to allow existing certificates to be maintained during the COVID-19 situation, whilst ensuring that high standards of auditing are sustained. As a result “UKAS Policy on Accreditation and Conformity Assessment During the COVID-19 Outbreak” (TPS 73) was published at the beginning of April 2020.
TPS 73 reflects IAF advice on certification during COVID-19 and supersedes the provisions of TPS 62 for UKAS accredited Certification Bodies in the current Coronavirus pandemic. Covering timescales for recertification visits, Clause 4.6 of TPS 73 states that: “Management system recertification audits are normally expected to be completed and recertification decisions made prior to expiration to avoid loss of certification. IAF ID3 allows for the extension of the certification for a period not normally exceeding 6 months beyond the original expiry date providing that sufficient evidence has been collected to provide confidence that the certified management system is effective. Given the unprecedented nature of the coronavirus outbreak, and the uncertainty over the potential impact this will have on the imposed time restrictions relating to travel and social contact, it is anticipated that 6 months may not provide sufficient opportunities for Certification Bodies to conclude recertification audits. As a consequence, UKAS policy for this outbreak is that the decision on recertification must be made within 3 months of the lifting of restrictions (e.g. travel) that were preventing the on-site audit taking place. However, if this timeframe exceeds 12 months then the certificate should be withdrawn, and a new initial audit will be required.”