2021 archived consultation: CET exceptions policy
8 Jul 2021
15 Apr 2021
This consultation was previously hosted on our consultation hub. We have moved it here as part of archiving.
Our CET exceptions policy consultation sought views on our updates to our ‘Exceptional circumstances in completing CET requirements’ policy. We updated the policy to emphasise public protection, increase transparency in the decision-making process, set out our expectations for registrants on maternity, paternity and adoption leave, and removed the restriction that only those registrants whose exceptional circumstances had resulted in them being unable to practise could be considered under the policy. We felt that the updates to the policy would be fairer to registrants and better protect the public by more clearly setting out our focus on our overriding objective. We asked for stakeholders’ views on:
- to what extent they agreed with our views that the updated policy achieved our aim of appropriately balancing fairness to registrants while maintaining the focus on public protection;
- to what extent they agreed that our expectations for registrants on maternity, paternity or adoption leave sufficiently protected the public;
- whether there was anything unclear or missing;
- whether there were any aspects of the policy that could have a negative or positive impact on stakeholders with protected characteristics; and
- whether there were any other impacts of the policy they wanted to tell us about.
Our consultation closed in July 2021 and we received 28 responses. Overall, there was support for the amended policy from our stakeholders, with suggestions for additions and amendments, particularly from the professional/representative bodies.
Key findings from the consultation were:
- 87% of individual registrants and 67% of professional/representative bodies agreed that the updated policy achieved our aim of appropriately balancing fairness to registrants while maintaining the focus on public protection;
- 72% of individual registrants and 67% of professional/representative bodies agreed that our expectations for registrants on maternity, paternity or adoption leave sufficiently protected the public;
- 25% of individual registrants and 86% of professional/representative bodies thought that there was something unclear or missing in the policy;
- 14% of individual registrants and 71% of professional/representative bodies thought there were aspects of the policy that could discriminate against stakeholders with protected characteristics; and
- 14% of individual registrants and 29% of professional/representative bodies thought there were any aspects of the policy that could have a positive impact on stakeholders with protected characteristics.
We reviewed the feedback received during the consultation and decided to make the following amendments to the policy:
- we have emphasised that the Registrar will first consider the registrant’s reasons for not meeting their CET requirements and whether they took all reasonable steps to meet their requirements but were unable to do so due to exceptional circumstances beyond their control;
- we have clarified that factors associated with COVID-19 could be considered as an example of an exceptional circumstance (this was thought to help with any indirect discrimination that could be experienced by certain groups with protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010 during the pandemic);
- we have re-ordered and updated the factors to be taken into account by the Registrar during the decision-making process;
- we have updated the examples of decisions from previous cycles with further detail to provide more clarify about the reasoning behind the decision and have changed two of the examples to illustrate a wider range of decisions;
- we have updated examples of evidence; and
- we have clarified our expectations for registrants who have had a period of maternity, paternity or adoption leave during the cycle if they have also experienced ill health during the cycle.
Further detail about the amendments and the areas we considered are in our GOC response to the consultation located below. An updated impact assessment is also available.
We published the revised policy on the CET exceptions page of our website on 19 October 2021.
Continuing Education and Training (CET) is a statutory requirement for all fully-qualified optometrists and dispensing opticians. All fully-qualified registrants must earn a minimum number of CET points and meet a minimum set of requirements by the end of each cycle to stay on the register.
Our CET Rules provide that “the Registrar may remove or refuse to retain (a) the name of a registrant or (b) particulars of a registered specialty, if the registrant has failed to meet the CET requirements under the Rules”. Although the CET requirements are mandatory for all registrants, the Registrar has discretion to decide whether to remove or refuse to retain a registrant, or to decide not to do so. We consider that this discretion should be exercised fairly and consistently, and therefore introduced the Exceptional circumstances in completing CET requirements policy in 2015 to outline how this would be achieved. The current policy advises that in exercising their discretion as to whether to remove or refuse to retain a registrant, the Registrar will consider exceptional circumstances that are unforeseen or are over and above everyday experiences, resulting in a registrant being unable to practise and therefore unable to undertake CET.
The policy represents a reasonable means to identify the circumstances in which the discretion of the Registrar may be exercised which balances fairness for registrants with the need for public protection. As with all GOC decisions, we act in a way that supports the GOC’s statutory obligations, is consistent, and follows a fair process.
We have used the policy on two occasions since its inception – at the end of the 2013-15 and 2016-18 CET cycles. We have considered the learning from the application of the policy and reviewed it to ensure that it continues to be fair to registrants while ensuring our overarching objective of protecting the public.
We have made some updates to the policy (see policy in ‘related’ section at the end of this page), which are outlined in further detail in the next section of this consultation and in the pdf version of the consultation document in the 'related' section. These updates can be summarised as follows:
- shifting the focus from the exceptionality of the circumstances of the registrant to emphasise public protection;
- increased transparency in the decision-making process;
- expectations around maternity, paternity and adoption leave; and
- removing the restriction that only those registrants whose exceptional circumstances had resulted in them being unable to practise could be considered under the policy.
We have also produced an impact assessment, which is included in the 'related' section at the end of this page.
Why your views matter
We consider that the updated policy will be fairer to registrants by increasing transparency about the decision-making process and will better protect the public by more clearly setting out our focus on our overriding objective. We are interested in stakeholders’ views on these amendments before we finalise the updated policy ahead of the end of the 2019-21 CET cycle.
The public consultation will last for a period of 12 weeks.