A number of routes are available for Supply Chain Partners (SCP’s) wishing to raise a specific complaint about a Prime Provider’s non-compliance with the Merlin Standard.
It should initially be established by carefully considering the criteria that makes up the Merlin Standard whether a breach of the Standard has occurred, recognising that it is a standard of behavioural excellence that does not seek to influence commercial decisions.
The first route for SCPs is to raise a complaint with the Prime Contractor direct, following the Prime’s internal complaints procedure(s).
It is generally advisable to seek to address any concerns cordially through dialogue wherever possible, with reference to Merlin Standard criteria as appropriate.
All DWP Prime Contractors have a documented Dispute Resolution Procedure in place that should be requested and followed by SCPs wishing to pursue a formal complaint of breach of the Merlin Standard, and before submitting any application for Mediation.
There may be times when an acceptable resolution cannot be reached and DWP has put in place the Merlin Mediation Service for such instances.
The Independent Case Examiner (ICE) delivers the service at no cost to either party. ICE is completely independent, and separate from the Merlin Standard Assessment and Accreditation Service, ensuring that the Mediation Service is impartial. NB: ICE is only available where DWP is the commissioner. If an SCP is outside of a DWP contract, they may seek their own alternative mediation arrangement outside of this process.
The service has been designed to achieve a satisfactory outcome for both parties by agreement; it is – without prejudice to a sub-contractor or Prime’s statutory rights – unable to accept complaints or disputes that are or have been the subject of legal action.
It is open to actual and/or prospective supply chain partners wanting to raise a grievance against a DWP contractor (accredited or seeking accreditation against the Merlin Standard, whether as a mandatory contractual requirement or on a voluntary basis) in relation to any alleged breach of the Merlin Standard where the Prime’s own dispute handling processes have failed to achieve resolution.
DWP Prime contractors are bound both contractually and in order to demonstrate compliance with the Merlin Standard, to participate in mediation and adhere to agreed outcomes.
The outcome of mediation will be automatically notified to the DWP Supplier Relationship Manager and to Assessment Services Ltd, the DWP appointed Merlin Assessment and Accreditation body, and will be taken into account in the ongoing review of contract compliance and Merlin accreditation status.
The outcome of any litigation can also be notified for this purpose.
SCPs also have the opportunity to request that they are interviewed as part of a Prime Contractor’s Merlin Assessment, the information provided to the assessors forming part of the range of evidence considered to inform the accreditation outcome; the final decision on the representative sample of SCPs to be interviewed rests with the lead assessor.
DWP have made the following guidance available regarding the Mediation Service: