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From Birdcage Walk: Code of Conduct and Disciplinary Regulations Review

Rich Sibbick, Implementation Group

...engineers will be vital in helping to make our buildings and transport systems more resilient to disease transmission
...engineers will be vital in helping to make our buildings and transport systems more resilient to disease transmission

Rich Sibbick, IMechE Fellow and member of our Implementation Group explains the importance of the Code of Conduct and Disciplinary Regulations Review.

Dear Member,

Members will know that, following the Code of Conduct and Disciplinary Regulations Review (CoCDRR) instigated in 2018, work has been underway to implement the recommendations arising from this Review.  The purpose of the Review was to ensure that the Institution’s Code of Conduct and Disciplinary Regulations as contained in the processes, procedures and by-laws, together, are fit for purpose and provide an appropriate framework within which the Institution Trustees can transparently lead the Institution's membership and employees in the achievement of its charitable objectives. They must reflect the requirements of the Charity Commission and other relevant legislation such as Company Law.

The charitable aims of the Institution are to promote the development of mechanical engineering in order to benefit the general public/mankind as detailed in the Royal Charter. Each and every member is an ambassador of the Institution and should conduct themselves in a manner which supports these aims and upholds and enhances the reputation of the Institution and acts in accordance with the highest standards of public life.

Whilst some updating of the Code of Conduct, Disciplinary Regulations and associated processes/procedures and by-laws of the Institution has been undertaken to reflect the Engineering Council guidance on disciplinary regulations for engineering institutions, they have not been reviewed in depth since 2009. Since then, the Institution and, particularly, its environment have changed significantly; the Institution has grown, is more complex and undertakes an increased and more diverse range of activities. The subsidiary trading companies and other ancillary activities have significantly increased in scale and scope; disciplinary processes and experiences in the charitable sector have given rise to new regulations and best practice for code of conduct and disciplinary processes.

The CoCDRR report published in April 2019 made recommendations covering; prioritising public interest over the rights of individual members, identifying the key principals that underpin the Code of Conduct Regulations and presenting them in shortened form supplemented by guidance documentation; updating the Disciplinary Regulations to ensure fairness and transparency; actively encouraging a positive culture; developing a suite of guidance documents; and annual auditing and reporting of the processes.

The Implementation Group asked Andrew Matters of the Ethics Committee to lead the update of the Code of Conduct and prepare a supporting guidance document to help members understand the code more fully. Both the code and guidance documents were reviewed by the QMB and following approval by Trustees at the Trustee Board meeting on September 16th, these are now being prepared for release.

Whilst the majority of members will have never come into direct contact with our disciplinary regulations and procedures, it is important that, when and where they are required they are fully fit for purpose, up to date and that all parties have clarity on how the process works. To that end, Disciplinary Regulations and procedures have been substantially improved to meet best practice standards, informed by legal advice and the wisdom of past and current Presidents (John Wood, Tony Roche, Mark Hunt and Terry Spall). A total of 27 supporting documents have been produced to aid and support members and committees throughout the whole Disciplinary Process. These documents along with the final version of the Disciplinary Regulations will be provided to Trustee Board for their approval. Subsequently, following a full legal review, the Implementation Group will develop an implementation plan to roll out these new procedures and request the support of the newly updated Nomination Committee to find and select appropriate persons to serve in all the new positions and committees. This process is expected to take place through the first half of 2021 with existing cases continuing to follow the previous process as part of a phased transition. Once in place, the new Disciplinary Regulations will ensure that an annual report is generated from each of the committees to the Trustee Board and that the Audit and Risk Committee reviews the processes and procedures to ensure ongoing best practice.

As per the Royal Charter, By-laws and Regulations, all newly developed supporting information documents will be available on the IMechE website for reference and the purpose of transparency once fully approved.

The creation and implementation of the new Code of Conduct and Disciplinary Regulations are both necessary and timely. They create an updated foundation of behavioural standards with a framework of guidance that can be developed and updated to meet the changing needs of the world in which we operate as a professional institution. We believe they will ensure that the Institution continues to operate responsibly and with the appropriate governance to ensure that we continue to meet our charitable aims.

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