Sexist or homophobic behaviour or other serious misconduct by accountants in their private lives could become a matter for their professional bodies according to new guidance from the Consultative Committee of Accountancy Bodies (CCAB).
The CCAB represents the leading UK and Irish accountants’ professional bodies. It has published the new guidance in response to the blurring of the lines between personal and professional conduct, driven by the increase in home working and the rise of social media.
The guidance sets out four common principles which professional bodies should consider when deciding whether an accountant’s personal conduct is relevant to their professional life:
• Is the behaviour illegal?
• Does the conduct bear on the member’s qualities as a professional accountant, for example in relation to their own financial affairs?
• Is the member using their professional qualification as an identifier?
• Is the misbehaviour serious, and even though the member is not identifying their professional qualification, the member’s behaviour could be viewed as conduct that might discredit the profession?
The CCAB sets out examples of private behaviour which could be of interest to regulators. These include serious errors in a member’s personal tax returns, or posting comments on social media, including racist, sexist, homophobic or other offensive comments.
Sophie Wales, Head of Ethics and Economic Crime, ICAEW says: “The rise of social media, and other technology, has meant that what a member does in their personal life can very easily impact on their role as a chartered accountant. You should always think twice before you tweet, post or email and remember that once sent, you can’t control where a comment might end up – and it’s very hard to delete all traces of what has been said.”
James Burgoyne of Brunel Professions says: “It’s a tricky balance to draw a line between personal and professional behaviour. All professionals are entitled to a private life, but serious personal misconduct, which has the potential bring their professions into disrepute, will always be of interest to regulators. This is of immediate relevance in the present insurance market conditions, as serious complaints that cross the line could also have an impact on professional indemnity insurers’ views of an individual or practice.”