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We tend to use the words diversity and inclusion interchangeably; however, they have very different meanings and impacts in the workplace: Diversity is about valuing difference, including ethnicity, gender, cognitive style, education and socio-economic status. Inclusion is the deliberate act of welcoming diversity and creating an environment where all different kinds of people can thrive and succeed. Many companies are discovering that, without inclusion, their efforts to increase diversity fail to deliver the desired results, sometimes even creating a whole new range of issues. Inclusion is the only way to embed diversity within an organisation. Without deliberate action to cultivate an inclusive environment, all the energy and resources spent on recruiting a diverse workforce are wasted. How can you quantify diversity and inclusion? It’s relatively easy to measure diversity: usually, it’s a matter of data. However, quantifying feelings of inclusion is much more difficult. For a start, it’s a subjective term, but understanding the narrative alongside the data is crucial for companies. The Society for Human Resources Management defines inclusion as “the achievement of a work environment in which all individuals are treated fairly and respectfully, have equal access to opportunities and resources, and can contribute fully to the organisation’s success”. Or, as Verna Myers, puts it: “Diversity is being asked to the party, inclusion is being asked to dance”. How can diversity and inclusion be implemented effectively in the workplace? The role of senior management is to create the right conditions, set the tone from the top, educate people and empower them to act; make them accountable and trust them to do the right thing. This often means that an organisation's culture needs to change in order to allow diverse employees to coalesce and flourish The best people to change an organisation’s culture are the employees. Give them an opportunity to identify what is typical in their culture and open a dialogue of sharing, learning and understanding. The hiring process is usually the first interaction a potential employee has with an organisation. This experience will lead them to conclude whether the company is genuinely inclusive, or if it’s just interested in virtue signalling. Too many companies fall at this first hurdle: conventional recruitment procedures are often impossible to navigate for candidates. Similarly, online forms and recruitment software, ironically credited with making more equitable decisions, can exclude categories of applicants because they do not meet standardised recruitment criteria. To encourage the widest possible pool of applicants, consider the process from several perspectives – for example, neuro-diverse, visually- or hearing-impaired candidates. Other initiatives which can have significant impacts include: gender-neutral bathrooms; using gender-neutral language; using inclusive imagery and references in marketing and communications materials – for example, same-sex couples, mixed-race families, different ethnicities; and recognising and respecting other religious and cultural holidays celebrated by employees. Policies are important to underpin diversity and equality initiatives, but every day interactions – conscious and unconscious – are what employees judge. Finally, proactively have discussions and encourage input and feedback at all levels across the organisation. Why wait until someone is uncomfortable or unhappy before taking action? Dawn Leane is the founder of Leane Leaders.

Feb 01, 2019
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Last week, the House of Commons voted in favour of the Withdrawal Agreement if there are ‘alternative arrangements’ made to the current Northern Ireland ‘backstop’ provisions. This now provides the UK Prime Minister with the required majority to return to Brussels to try to re-open negotiations with the EU in order to secure a ‘legally binding change’. This vote is a significant next step on the road to Brexit. However, there are likely to be many twists and turns before a potentially amended deal arrives back in the House of Commons for a second ‘meaningful’ vote. The first hurdle presented itself almost immediately with the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, commenting that the current plan is “not open for re-negotiation” and “remains the best and only way to ensure an orderly withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union”. As it currently stands, the Withdrawal Agreement provides for three main things that matter to businesses and employers: a guaranteed right to remain for EU citizens currently working and living in the UK (and anyone arriving during the transition period); a transition period, from 29 March 2019 to 31 December 2020 during which access to markets, programmes and regulatory regimes will remain largely unchanged. This can be extended for another two years to December 2022; and the main sticking point of a guarantee of a permanent open border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. In addition to the main vote, there were a number of amendments also voted on within the House of Commons. Most notably, Labour’s Yvette Cooper’s amendment to extend article 50 was rejected and the Spelman amendment, which called for the UK government to rule out leaving without a deal, was passed. This amendment currently has no legal basis and as such ‘No Deal’ remains the legal default. With time ticking towards ‘Brexit day’ on the 29 March, there are still some bumps in the road to be expected and organisations should continue their planning. What does this mean for business and other organisations? Don’t wait for the politicians to reach an agreement. By the time this political deadlock breaks, it will be too late to make contingency plans for 29 March. We would advise the following: If you can, plan for all eventualities. If you haven’t already, do some scenario planning, assessing how the different options impact on your organisation, your markets and suppliers. Identify opportunities that uncertainty and disruption in the market create: where are your competitive advantages; how can your goods or services help others navigate this uncertain time; are there opportunities to increase exports in the rest of the world or acquire undervalued assets? If nothing else, plan for No Deal and work out when you need to implement plans to ensure ongoing business continuity. Focus on the business basics: cashflow, retaining and attracting talent, sweating your assets, meeting customer needs, and removing unnecessary costs. At this stage, we still do not know what the final destination will be for the UK and all focus is now on Brussels and what the UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, can re-negotiate on the ‘backstop’. Organisations should continue to track developments and anticipate future changes in the business environment. As Brexit continues to unfold, Grant Thornton will continue to provide up-to-date advice and support for all our clients. Peter Legge is a Tax Partner in Grant Thornton Northern Ireland.

Feb 01, 2019
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Personal relationships, referrals and reputation are the key elements that you rely on to bring in new business or when you want to impress an employer. These elements are a critical part of your personal brand. How do you widen that network, extend your profile, and attract a broader audience? You have to take your personal brand online. Maintaining a strong personal profile online is important in contemporary Ireland. Most people will expect an accountant to have an online presence; not having this in place could drive clients to other service providers who promote in a digital space. While your profile may appear on work-related websites and media articles, images and videos, these can be difficult to control. It is important to take charge of and build your personal brand online so you can portray the image that you want your clients to see. Here are five time-efficient ways to take control of your online profile: Research. Try to get a sense of where your clients or employers look, when they want to find out more about you as a person. Is it a website? LinkedIn? Facebook? Instagram? LinkedIn tends to be the go-to for business people. However, people will also take a look at other social media profiles, such as Facebook or Instagram, just to get to know you better. In other words, they probably Google your name and look at the top results that they see. Visualise. Sketch out the image that you would like to put forward about yourself. What skills do you want to be known for? Which industry segments are you best suited to? What level of seniority do you want to portray? We are all more than our immediate work roles and portraying a work/life balance is important too. Illustrate how you engage in sports, for example, or the arts or charity work. Make sure that you visualise the whole person, not just the professional. Present Professionally. Set up your LinkedIn profile to reflect the professional image that you want to convey. Complete your career history, educational history and your professional description as comprehensively as possible to illustrate that vision of yourself. Add a professional photograph to your profile rather than a casual selfie. Use images of you attending, presenting or interacting with people at events and conferences. Pictures of you engaging outside your immediate work role are particularly valuable on LinkedIn, as well as, Instagram and Facebook. Get Endorsements. Self-praise is no praise, so get your clients, colleagues and employers to add endorsements for your skills. There is a section on LinkedIn where people can add their recommendations for and about you. Make sure you add any awards, accolades or commendations that you get to your online profile. Share Expertise. Add professional presentations, expert articles or white papers that you have written to support your professional profile. Include video presentations and podcasts, which are increasingly popular as promotional assets. Finally, key your name into Google every so often to see how you come up: you may be quite surprised by the top five representations of your name. Rather than a carefully crafted LinkedIn or website profile, you may find that your Facebook page takes precedence because it gets more interaction. Rachel Killeen’s new book, Digital Marketing, is available to buy now at the Chartered Accountants Ireland online store.

Feb 01, 2019
News

The Financial Reporting Council (FRC) is consulting on a new Stewardship Code that sets substantially higher expectations for investor stewardship policy and practice. The Code will focus on how effective stewardship delivers sustainable value for beneficiaries, the economy and society. The new Code aims to increase demand for more effective stewardship and investment decision-making which is better aligned to the needs of institutional investors' clients and beneficiaries. The proposed main changes to the Code include:   Purpose, values and culture. Investors must report how their purpose, values and culture enable them to meet their obligations to clients and beneficiaries. This aligns the Code with the UK Corporate Governance Code and encourages embedding behaviour conducive to effective stewardship in the investor community; Recognising the importance of ESG factors. The proposed Code now refers to environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors. Signatories are expected to take material ESG issues into account when fulfilling their stewardship responsibilities; and Stewardship beyond listed equity. The proposed Code now expects investors to exercise stewardship across a wider range of assets where they have influence and rights, in the UK and globally. The proposed 2019 Code sets out more rigorous requirements for reporting, focusing on how stewardship activities deliver outcomes against objectives. Reporting will be subject to increased oversight by the FRC to ensure the Code is effective in raising the quality of stewardship across the investor community. In preparing the consultation, the FRC has engaged with 170 members of the investment community and companies including the largest UK asset managers, pension funds, key international investors and UK listed companies. Sir Win Bischoff, Chair of the Financial Reporting Council said: "The new Stewardship Code will play a key role in complementing the stronger corporate governance provisions that took effect at the start of this year. The FRC conducted extensive outreach in early 2018 to inform this review of the Stewardship Code. It recognises the significant changes in the investment industry and stewardship landscape since the 2012 revision. It sets both higher expectations for stewardship practice and introduces more rigorous public reporting with a focus on outcomes and effectiveness We believe the changes proposed put it at the forefront of stewardship internationally." Comments on the questions set out in this consultation document are requested by 29 March 2019. Responses should be sent to stewardshipcode@frc.org.uk The FRC and the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) also published a discussion paper, Building a Regulatory Framework for Effective Stewardship, to advance the discussion about what effective stewardship should look like, expectations for financial services firms, and how this can be best supported by the UK’s regulatory framework. Source: Financial Reporting Council.

Jan 31, 2019
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The FRC recently issued FRED 70 Draft Amendments to FRS 101 – 2018/19 Cycle and FRED 71 Draft Amendments to FRS 102 – Multi-Employer Defined Benefit Plans. FRED 70 arises from the annual review of FRS 101 Reduced Disclosure Framework. FRS 101 requires the application of the recognition and measurement requirements of EU-adopted IFRS with reduced disclosures. Unlike accounts that apply IFRS in full, those prepared in accordance with FRS 101 must comply with detailed accounting requirements set out in company law. Some of these requirements conflict with the requirements of IFRS 17 Insurance Contracts. Consequently, FRED 70 proposes that insurance entities shall not be permitted to apply FRS 101 if IFRS 17 Insurance Contracts is part of EU‑adopted IFRS. The comment period for FRED 70 closes on 30 April 2019. FRED 71 responds to a current financial reporting issue by proposing new requirements in FRS 102 The Financial Reporting Standard applicable in the UK and Republic of Ireland for presenting the impact of transition from defined contribution accounting to defined benefit accounting. Such a transition is required by FRS 102 when sufficient information becomes available for an employer participating in a multi-employer defined benefit plan to apply defined benefit accounting. The comment period for FRED 71 closes on 31 March 2019. Source: Financial Reporting Council.

Jan 31, 2019
News

The international community has made important progress toward addressing the tax challenges arising from digitalisation of the economy and has agreed to continue working multilaterally towards achievement of a new consensus-based long-term solution in 2020, the OECD announced recently. Countries and jurisdictions participating in the OECD/G20 Inclusive Framework on Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) will step up efforts toward reaching a global solution to the growing debate over how to best tax multinational enterprises in a rapidly digitalising economy. Renewed international discussions will focus on two central pillars identified in a new Policy Note released after the Inclusive Framework’s January 23-24 meeting, which brought together 264 delegates from 95 member jurisdictions and 12 observer organisations. The first pillar will focus on how the existing rules that divide up the right to tax the income of multinational enterprises among jurisdictions, including traditional transfer-pricing rules and the arm’s length principle, could be modified to take into account the changes that digitalisation has brought to the world economy. This will require a re-examination of the so-called ‘nexus’ rules – namely how to determine the connection a business has with a given jurisdiction – and the rules that govern how much profit should be allocated to the business conducted there. The Inclusive Framework will look at proposals based on the concepts of marketing intangibles, user contribution and significant economic presence and how they can be used to modernise the international tax system to address the tax challenges of digitalisation. A second pillar aims to resolve remaining BEPS issues and will explore two sets of interlocking rules designed to give jurisdictions a remedy in cases where income is subject to no or only very low taxation. Given the significance of the new proposals for the international tax system, the Inclusive Framework will issue a consultation document that describes the two pillars in more detail, and a public consultation will be held on 13 and 14 March 2019 in Paris as part of the meeting of the Task Force on the Digital Economy. Further details on the consultation process, including how stakeholders can provide input and most effectively participate, along with the consultation document, will be published in the coming weeks. "The international community has taken a significant step forward toward resolving the tax challenges arising from digitalisation," said Pascal Saint-Amans, director of the OECD Centre for Tax Policy and Administration. "Countries have agreed to explore potential solutions that would update fundamental tax principles for a twenty-first century economy, when firms can be heavily involved in the economic life of different jurisdictions without any significant physical presence and where new and often intangible drivers of value become more and more important. "In addition, the features of the digitalised economy exacerbate risks, enabling structures that shift profits to entities that escape taxation or are taxed at only very low rates. We are now exploring this issue and possible solutions," Mr Saint-Amans said. Members of the Inclusive Framework renewed their commitment to reaching a consensus-based, long-term solution in 2020 with an update to be presented to the G20 during 2019. In addition to discussions on digitalisation, the Inclusive Framework finalised a report on BEPS Action 5 (Harmful Tax Practices), which was also released recently. For more information on the OECD/G20 BEPS Project, visit www.oecd.org/tax/beps/ Source: OECD.

Jan 31, 2019