admin, Author at Reed Business School - Page 4 of 18

#inyourcorner – looking out for your colleagues’ mental health

We’re talking about mental health again this month, and this time how to manage mental health in the workplace, in particular how to look out for others who may be having a difficult time.

Talk without talking

Rightly or wrongly, the British are often known for being polite, not wanting to cause a scene, and not knowing how to talk about something head-on. We can dance around the subject and never get to the point, or just keep a ‘stiff upper lip’ and not say anything at all. We feel you. So how do you start that conversation with someone who you can tell is suffering, when the thought of actually talking to them about it is bringing you out in cold sweats?

A simple gesture is often enough to get started – offering a cup of tea, a cigarette, a bite to eat, a walk around the block. Once you’re both in a safe space away from curious ears, conversation may well start to flow. But even if it doesn’t this time – the gesture you’ve made in showing you’re prepared to listen will mean more to the other person than you’ll think.


The most important thing you can do is just be open and responsive to colleagues if they need to talk. And that doesn’t mean you need to stand up and make a big announcement in front of everyone or send a company-wide email (though feel free if that’s what you want to do).

You might add something in your email signature, or have a small sign on your desk. You could wear a badge, or use a mug with a welcoming message on it. You could smile at your colleagues and ask them how they are in the morning. It all helps.

Then just be prepared to listen if someone does ever approach you. You might not know how much courage they are using to take that first step.

I’m out of my depth!

Not everyone knows much about the different kinds of mental health issue that people can be affected by, and fewer still know how to support those suffering from them. That’s fine. Sometimes being a sympathetic ear is all that is needed.

Your colleagues may wish to vent about something that you might be in a unique position to understand. They may express frustrations, or admit difficulties they are having. Take the time to ask open questions so they are able to tell you more, and help them if they are unsure of themselves. They might need some reassurance, they might need advice, they might just need you to be there.

Throughout the course of the conversation, it may become obvious that the person you’re speaking to needs more help than you’re able to give, in which case freely explain this to them, and offer to call someone – be it a helpline, another colleague, or even the emergency services. Don’t feel like you need to be a hero or struggle on your own, remember to think of yourself too!


If you’re keen on being a supportive colleague, mental health first aid training is becoming more popular, and many organisations now hold in-house training, or smaller companies may support you in receiving this training elsewhere. And many of the techniques taught can be useful outside of work as well. Ask if your employer offers this, or would be happy for you to find out more. St John Ambulance is a good place to start, with a wide variety of mental health first aid courses available.

Posters, cards and online messages can also be helpful in your immediate circumstances to let people know you’re happy to listen. Try downloading sample #inyourcorner resources or making your own here.

Why not have a chat with your manager or HR department about promoting mental health throughout your organisation. Read our blog from last month to see what other companies are doing to promote healthier working.

FRC to review climate change reporting

Over the years we’ve seen many, many changes in the reporting that companies are required to publish, and we enjoy teaching the next generation of accountants what these are, so they can lead from the front in their respective roles. A new shake-up, currently being mooted by the FRC, concerns how companies and auditors assess and report on the impact of climate change, which we think is very timely.

The review is primarily concerned with how the quality of information can be improved to support informed decision-making by investors and other stakeholders.

What is the FRC looking for?

The FRC plans to monitor how companies and their advisers fulfil their responsibilities, and seek to encourage better practice.

A sample of company reports and accounts across industries will be reviewed to assess the quality of their compliance with reporting requirements in relation to climate change. A sample of audits will also be analysed to see how auditors are ensuring the impact of climate risk has been appropriately reflected in company reports and accounts, including the key areas of judgement and related disclosures.

In addition, the FRC will assess the resources available within audit firms to support the evaluation of the impact of climate change on audited entities.

Focus on Quality

The regulator says it will be evaluating the quality of disclosures under the new UK corporate governance code regarding risk, emerging risk and long-term factors affecting their viability.

It will also look at whether the financial reporting lab’s recommendation for companies to report in line with the task force on climate-related financial disclosures framework has been adopted, highlighting developing good practice.

Sir Jon Thompson, FRC CEO said: “Not only do boards of UK companies have a responsibility to report their impact on the environment and the risks of climate change to their business, but investors expect them to operate sustainably. Auditors have a responsibility to properly challenge management to assess and report the impact of climate change on their business.”

Environmental disclosure analysis

The Alliance for Corporate Transparency, a collaborative initiative launched by public interest law organisation Frank Bold, has analysed the information that companies disclosed on their environmental and societal risks and impacts following the requirements introduced by the EU Non-Financial Reporting Directive.

Its report analysed 1,000 companies across Europe and found that poor quality and comparability of corporate disclosures are hindering efforts to scale up sustainable finance, as investors do not have reliable information to inform their decisions.

Companies tend to focus on presenting general policies and commitments for key issues such as climate, human rights, and anti-corruption, but not concrete targets, outcomes of policies with respect to these targets.

Only 22% of companies provide their key performance indicators in summarised statements, while just 13.9% of companies report on alignment of their climate targets with the Paris agreement goals.

While this number is higher in the energy and resource extraction sector (23.5%), this still means more than three quarters of companies do not report on their targets and plans in this context.

A quarter (23.4%) of companies provide specific information that allows readers to understand the climate-related risks they are facing – out of 53.8% reporting that they recognise the existence of such risks. 13.4% of financial companies provide details on the exposure of their portfolios to the most polluting sectors.

The research found little difference between different European regions, with the exception that companies from former Eastern Europe lag behind, and Nordic companies tend to be among the regions that report more specific information than others.

Filip Gregor, head of responsible companies at Frank Bold, said: ‘The results of the research show that existing legislation is not meeting its objectives and it seems that the only way to address the problem is to specify what companies should be reporting.

House of Lords daily allowance: democracy at work?

Back in September we started looking at the British Values and their relevance to business today, especially when it comes to ethics. So a story that caught our eye this week concerned the House of Lords and the increased daily allowance for peers. Is this an example of our democracy flourishing?

Naturally, concerns have been raised over the increase in daily allowance for members of the House of Lords after it was revealed that peers could earn in one day what some Universal Credit claimants receive in a single month.

From April, peers will get a tax-free payment of £323 a day for attendance in the chamber, up from the current rate of £313.

The 3.1 per cent increase is above the rate of inflation and means the daily sum for peers will exceed the monthly standard allowance for a single person on Universal Credit.Top of FormBottom of Form Prime Minister Boris Johnson suggested he did not agree with the pay rise but said it was a decision for members of the House of Lords.

Members of the Lords do not receive a salary for their parliamentary duties but can claim an attendance allowance, if they wish. Some members such as Government ministers and the Lord Speaker do receive a salary.

A spokesperson for the House of Lords said: “Between 2010 and 2018 the daily allowance for members of the House of Lords was frozen. In April 2018 it was agreed to link increases to the daily allowance to the figure used by IPSA for increasing the salaries of MPs, which itself is linked to public sector pay awards.

‘Voters will not be pleased’

The Electoral Reform Society has criticised the pay rise for peers, which means members will receive an annual tax-free income of more than £48,000.

“Voters will not be pleased with unelected peers getting yet another surge in expenses, while most people will barely see a pay rise in 2020 at all,” said Willie Sullivan, senior director of campaigns.

“The current system is ripe for exploitation, with peers having to do little more than sign in to claim their tax-free allowance. The fact that voters cannot hold them to account at the ballot box is a recipe for wanton disregard for taxpayers, and yet more expenses scandals in Parliament’s de facto private members’ club.”

How to become a peer in the House of Lords

The 1999 House of Lords Act ended the right of hereditary peers to pass membership down through the family and introduced the House of Lords Appointments Commission, explains

“Set up in May 2000, this independent, public body recommends individuals for appointment as non-party-political life peers and vets nominations for life peers to ensure the highest standards of propriety,” says the site.

There are several different routes into the House of Lords. For example, dissolution honours take place at the end of a parliament, when parties can give peerages to MPs who are leaving the Commons. Resigning prime ministers can also recommend peerages. A few familiar faces from the previous parliament are likely to become Lords in the near future.

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York usually get life peerages on retirement, although the number of bishops in the House of Lords has been limited to 26 since the mid-nineteenth century. From time to time, a list of working peers will also be announced from the three main parties.

So while Lords members are vetted and generally agreed on by parliament, critics of the Lords believe it should be scrapped and replaced with a directly elected second chamber. Watch this space for more news, including an update on rumours that the Lords might move to Yorkshire…

Accessing accountancy through apprenticeships

Last week marked National Apprenticeship Week, which celebrates the diversity and value that apprenticeships bring to employers, apprentices and communities across the country today.

Apprenticeships are one of the many ways companies can increase accessibility into their profession or industry, especially for those who might not normally see it is an option for them. They can help a business to grow and diversify the talent they recruit, and support a culture that values innovation at all levels of the company.

In professional services, there has been a rising demand for STEM skills in response to changing client needs, with traditional roles such as audit and tax, now being complemented by cyber security and data analysis. Apprenticeships can enable a business to develop its data and digital skills and expertise to help future proof its workforce.

As well as broadening skillsets, apprenticeships can also help to sustain an organisation’s workforce. Talent nurtured and developed within a business is generally more likely to stay, as individuals will often have plenty of different opportunities to progress their skills and hence their careers.

What it’s like being an apprentice

When you’re at school, university can sometimes feel like the only path you should be following, but that’s starting to change. Now you can undertake paid work whilst working towards an Accountancy qualification at the same time.

Depending on where you choose to work, you’ll get to meet many diverse people with different backgrounds and experiences and build contacts and develop relationships both internally and externally. Early on you may also find yourself involved in significant projects and gaining new skills and experience in business that will make you the envy of all your friends!

And once you’ve completed a few of your exams, you’ll be in a position where you can proactively progress your career and shape where you want to be and what you want to achieve in the years to come.

For those that stick with the programme to the end, you might expect to work with FTSE companies, and develop your knowledge and understanding of specific areas of business, such as restructuring businesses, audit or taxation. You may well move from internally focussed work to being involved in important client projects, while receiving the support to help manage a team, all the while building your confidence and pushing you out of your comfort zone.

The industry is changing all the time and an apprenticeship can really prepare you for this. A well-structured programme encourages you to learn to adapt quickly to changing project requirements and demands, and also helps develop your problem solving and analytical skills. You have exposure to clients, senior management and interesting projects. The learning curve can be steep, but you’re engaged and motivated by the diversity of work you can get involved with.

Along the way, the exams you sit are challenging but if you put the time and effort into them, you will succeed. And with Reed Business School, you’ll also have a great support network around you of peers and tutors who are always available as a helping hand.

Give us a call or drop us a message if you’d like to know more about how an apprenticeship can work for you.

Time to talk: mental health in the accountancy profession

We managed to make it through January (hurrah!). Yet warm summer days are still a way away, and at this time of year a lot of people can struggle with their mental health. According to CABA, work-related mental health problems are costing businesses in England up to £26bn a year, illustrating how an unhealthy workplace can impact both productivity and morale. So, we think it’s time we started talking about it.

Throughout the year we’ll be sharing news and advice on how to manage your mental health as an accountant, but today we’ll start with a quick look at what some firms are already doing to promote positive mental health across their business. Perhaps your firm can follow suit by borrowing one or two of these ideas?

Accounting firms take action

From EY Justine Campbell, managing partner for talent in the UK and Ireland, said: “We established Thinking Differently, our initiative to challenge the taboo surrounding mental health. We encourage our people to share stories, including senior leaders, talking openly about their own experiences of depression, anxiety, and alcoholism. In addition to this, over 700 EY employees have received training as Mental Health First Aiders, to better equip the workforce in identifying and helping people who are mentally and physically struggling.

“Our Mental Health Network, led by employees, acts as a key source of support by running a buddy scheme which pairs people who have had similar experiences, for example returning to work following a period of ill health. We also launched our Mindfulness Network, helping and encouraging people to learn and practice mindfulness at work.”

Finally, the firm has launched webinars which focus on wellbeing to help tackle the stigma in the industry. It aims to help improve people’s knowledge and understanding of mental health, by discussing topics such as sleep, managing anxiety and alcohol drugs and addiction.

Whilst EY has successfully started the conversation around mental health, it is not the only big firm to have done so. Other accountancy firms, including KPMG and Grant Thornton, for example, have also introduced measures to help improve awareness and support in their workplace.

At BDO, partners and staff from the firm have recently taken part in a programme entitled “Chain Challenge,” which includes physical and non-physical events aimed at raising awareness in mental health. The programme also promotes practice in relation to managing wellbeing.

During the event, colleagues gathered to participate in wellbeing activities such as cycle rides, organised walks, or office yoga. Chris Grove, part of the firm’s Leadership Team and head of BDO’s culture board, was one of the driving forces behind the Chain Challenge.

He said: “Anyone who knows me, knows that cycling and culture are two of my great passions, so when a member of my team suggested a firm-wide cycling challenge, I knew we could easily link the two. Knowing we have cycled over 10,000 miles in the space of just 10 days is a fantastic achievement – but knowing we have opened more conversations about mental and physical health is even better.

“For three years, we’ve been using MIND’s 5 Ways of Wellbeing to help our people pay more attention to their own wellbeing, and I am incredibly proud of the progress we have made.”

We know many of you work in smaller firms, but if you like the sound of any of the ideas in this piece, why not take the lead and organise something similar for yours?

Support for Accountants

In 2018, CABA enabled 2,907 people to receive support and advice whilst 633 individuals worked with a counsellor. Above all, 138,127 professionals gained access to online self-help guides.

Kelly Feehan, Service Director at CABA, said: “At CABA we are committed to cultivating an environment in which people feel safe to talk about their mental health and making sure our community of ICAEW members, ACA students, and their families always know where to turn. Through our extensive network of experts, we offer emotional support for those who need help with mental health issues, including stress, anxiety and depression.

“This service is confidential, available 24/7, and completely free to use. We also offer free online treatment for anxiety and depression through our SilverCloud programme as well as life coaching.”

Watch this space for more ways to look after your own mental health in a way that works for you over the coming months.

An international view on individual liberty – and what we can apply here in the UK

Freedom means different things to different people, and as discussed in our previous blog on individual liberty, the evolution of what we today know as our human rights has been quite a journey.

Yet that understanding also changes from country to country, and today we’re looking at how “free” different countries are, and what practices from these can be applied to the 21st century workplace in the UK.

Measuring liberty

Freedom House, an independent watchdog organisation that releases an annual report on freedom around the world, analysing civil liberties and political rights. Their annual report, Freedom in the World, “operates from the assumption that freedom for all people is best achieved in liberal democratic societies.”

Each year, more than 130 in-house and external analysts and advisers from academia, think tanks, and human rights institutions collect data from media, research articles, government documents, and other sources in order to score each country and compile the report.

It measures political rights by the degree with which a country’s elections are free and fair, as well as by how much political pluralism and participation there is, and civil liberties including how free and independent the media is and how much freedom of expression and assembly there is.

Winners and losers

It might come as no surprise that Scandinavian countries once again come out on top – Sweden, Norway and Finland all scored a perfect 100, with Canada and The Netherlands just behind on 99.

The UK? Well, according to the report we come in joint 26th with a score of 93 – alongside countries such as Tuvalu, Taiwan and Austria. Concerns about political indoctrination within schools, and fears of mass surveillance are two areas where the UK slipped back.

But what about the “land of the free”?

The USA scored 86/100, leaving it distinctly lagging behind the world’s top 50 countries. Free and fair elections were questioned, while moral discussions around the right to bear arms vs others’ rights to not be killed or endangered by that right certainly causes a headache. And with so much going on behind closed doors, faith in the establishment is falling – sound familiar?

What can we learn from these results?

As freedom is often aligned with happiness, it makes sense that the countries at the top of this list are also at the top of happiest countries to live in, and one can safely assume that happy countries include happy workplaces, and happy workplaces encompass many of the qualities of a free country.

Perhaps the most common terms that arise during the report when describing freedom are fairness and openness, which can be applied in many different ways in workplaces today – from pricing structures, remuneration strategies, or even working out whose turn it is for the tea round. We know from everyday life that tension often appears when fair treatment disappears, so our top tip for a happy and productive workforce is transparency and fairness!

On a day-to-day level, both employees and team leaders can encompass these qualities through everything they do, and be aware of any activities that may be harming someone else’s liberties – from flagging up discriminatory practices, to taking an inclusive and open approach to teamworking and decision making.

Student Success Story: Nick Bancroft

This month we caught up with our student Nick Bancroft, Operations and Finance Coordinator at Simon Hegele Logistics and Service, who recently scored the third highest mark in the region for his CIMA case study – Operational level.

Humble beginnings

Like many undergraduate students, Nick didn’t have a clear plan for his career mapped out by the time he left university, and his pathway to his current role at logistics firm Hegele isn’t the most conventional.  But with hard work and a commitment to his studies, Nick is now very happy with where his career is taking him.

After completing his Economics and Accounting Degree at Cardiff University, Nick headed out to Disney in Florida and worked as a cast member in the Haunted Mansion, before returning to the UK to work in the nightclub business. After several years of overseeing the opening of new clubs all over the country, Nick began looking for opportunities more relevant to his degree that also involved less travel.

Working his way up

Nick began working for Hegele as an assistant in planning and forecasting for the medical installation side of the business. He learnt on the job how to forecast from week-to-week and for the month ahead, getting involved with invoicing and the legalities of running freight.

Not long after he started at Hegele, Nick began studying towards his CIMA qualification at Reed Business School in order to further develop his career. Nick chose RBS because of our tailored approach to his initial queries and felt we were best-placed to assist him on his journey.

“Reed Business School was in a great location for me, but I also felt they took the time to understand me and my needs and provide a tailored offer, rather than a copy-and-paste reply.”

Studying at Reed Business School

Nick has been impressed with the tuition and support he’s received from Reed Business School from day one.

“I’ve really enjoyed my studies so far, the tutors are excellent and know exactly what they’re doing, and I feel it’s good value for money. I’ve never looked at going somewhere else.”

Nick was also full of praise for the overall management, especially our assistance in booking exams and progressing from one module to the next with relevant materials all lined up.

Achieving results

Nick recalls that for CIMA case study papers there’s a lot more thought involved than for the other exams where you can get away with just knowing the theory. He particularly engaged with the level of critical thinking and application of the theory to a business situation to see how the two would merge together.

In achieving his excellent mark, Nick essentially started from scratch in going through each of his theory modules again to make sure everything was fresh in his mind. Then once the pre-seen materials were released, he tried to make as many connections as he could.

“I brainstormed everything in the pre-seen materials, making notes of anything that could segue into any of the theory, for example martial costing and how this might affect the company.”

Nick completed this process of revision, note-making and preparation before attending any of his classes for the case study paper, which he believes gave him a good head start and a better understanding of the task at hand.

A winning formula

In addition to all his preparatory work, Nick admits there were several other factors that contributed to his success, starting with his tutor’s approach to teaching the module.

“When I started, I was a bit daunted looking at practice questions and then the model answer, as I couldn’t see the link as to why some things were included and not others. But the tutor broke down how it was marked, then I could understand how many opportunities there were to get the marks, which is something I wouldn’t have been able to apply in an exam just from looking at the model answer.”

Nick’s tutor provided a detailed mark sheet back for each practice question attempted – and would explain where marks were scored, and what parts had been missed. Nick believes this feedback was invaluable part of his learning that he couldn’t have got from taking an online course.

Another benefit Nick highlights from taking classes with us is the networking opportunity – having made a friend in one of his fellow students, Emma, he was able to have another sounding board and accountability partner for his studying. Nick admits that his fiancée, Jodie, has also been extremely supportive throughout his study journey so far.

Plan, plan, plan

Nick’s advice to anyone undertaking the CIMA course is to give yourself as much time as possible to complete the work. He puts all the key dates in his diary for each new module, and ensures he has read the book well in advance of the first class in order to be able to use the class time to ask questions and discuss the topics covered.

Nick plans his intensive exam preparation two weeks out from the final class to give him time to let all the information sink in. He then recommends completing practice questions and mock papers in exam conditions in order to get used to pacing.

“Pacing is really important in exams – knowing how much time you have for each question to get the maximum amount of marks. I will normally do mocks 2 or 3 times to get used to the pace, which means that I’ve always been able to manage my time effectively on exam day.”

Next steps

Nick’s study journey has enabled him to take on more responsibility and autonomy at work, with his Executive Director able to rely on him to complete more tasks, and contribute to more areas of the business. And while he still doesn’t have a definite long-term goal, his study plan will see him complete the strategic level in August 2021, when many more doors will be open to him.

Unpacking the Brydon report on audit

It’s been a while since we last talked about audit, but now we’ve digested the most important report on the profession in recent years, it’s certainly time we re-joined the conversation.

Sir Donald Brydon’s report into the quality and effectiveness of audit was published at the end of 2019, and highlights the issues regarding the audit expectation gap and its repercussions. Here we take a look at some of the key recommendations and observations arising from the report.

The Expectation Gap

The commonly-used term ‘the expectation gap’ generally refers to the difference in perception of audit between the public and the profession. The ACCA defines it as: “the difference between what the public expects from the auditing profession and what the auditing profession actually provides.”

The term itself isn’t particularly popular among auditors, and Brydon’s report also identifies a performance gap, a knowledge gap, an evolution gap, a quality gap, a misperception gap, a methodology gap, an education gap and a delivery gap – some of which may be more accurate ways to describe specific challenges within the profession.

A new purpose?

One of Brydon’s key recommendations for the UK’s new audit regulator – the Audit, Reporting and Governance Authority (ARGA), which is set to replace the current Financial Reporting Council (FRC) – is to “produce an appropriately concise guide to audit, explaining clearly what the different elements of an audit report mean and what, just as importantly, they do not mean.”

Another is to redefine the concept of audit, so that there is no confusion over what is expected from auditors. Brydon recommends that ARGA endorses and adopts the following statement with regards to statutory audit:

“The purpose of an audit is to help establish and maintain deserved confidence in a company, in its directors and in the information for which they have responsibility to report, including the financial statements.”  

A question of definition

According to the report, in order to achieve its newly defined role, audit should encompass a wider remit and take into consideration other information in addition to financial statements, which would still remain at the core of the practice. Audit should not be a task limited to accountants, or just part of the accountancy profession, as it should also deal with information away from financial statements. Therefore, should today’s statutory auditors, as we understand them, be given a new name, such as “financial statement auditors” to reflect this?

The report cites accountancy and audit expert Michael Power: “The rise of auditing is as much about the cultural and economic authority granted to people who call themselves auditors as it is about what exactly these people do. Indeed, we know that the people we call auditors (and inspectors) actually do many different things.

“Calling certain activities ‘audits’ places them within a different field of social and economic relations and expectations as compared with calling them ‘assessments’ or ‘evaluations’. Indeed, by labelling activities as audits, it becomes possible for them to acquire the idealized characteristics of audit over time.”

Clarification of the definition and these terms, Brydon argues, will go some way to ensuring a common understanding of the role of an auditor and audit process.

Auditors as fraud investigators?

The UK’s audit industry has come under increasing scrutiny, which continues to spark discussion as to whether it is the auditor’s responsibility to detect fraud. Harry Goddard, CEO of Deloitte Ireland, believes it is not, though Brydon disagrees.

Perhaps the discord stems from the International Standard for Auditing – ISA (UK) 240 – which is ambiguous as to whether auditors are expected to look for fraud, identifying directors and management as having primary responsibility for preventing and detecting it.

Brydon writes: “There is both confusion and a gap between the reality and the expectations of performance of auditors in this area. If an auditor is giving an unmodified opinion, then he or she is stating effectively that they have obtained a ‘high level’ of assurance that the financial statements are ‘true and fair’ or ‘presented fairly in all material respects’.

“But some would ask: how can this be so, if there has been a material fraud that the auditor has failed to detect? Relying on users fully understanding that auditors may have done enough work to reach a reasonable expectation of the financial statements being free of material misstatement is not a satisfactory answer.”

Looking forward

Referencing PwC’s future of audit report, Brydon notes that a “substantial majority of investors are in favour of expanding the scope of audit” to include detecting fraud.

And while Brydon’s recommendations would have quite drastic implications for the UK’s audit industry, many have welcomed the findings of the report, with pressure now on the government to react accordingly. Watch this space for more.

Individual Liberty, and what it means in 2020

Firstly, let us wish you all a happy new year. At this time, it’s good to look ahead and set goals and plans for the year, and we hope you achieve whatever it is you set out to do.

For our first blog of 2020, we’re looking at the final British Value – Individual Liberty – which is a somewhat fitting way to begin the year with regards to the power each of us has to determine our own futures in the coming months. But what does ‘individual liberty’ really mean?

Choice (within reason)

Britain, like other developed nations, values its citizens’ abilities to make their own choices – to a certain extent. As long as we respect the other British values (which we’ve previously discussed) and the rights of others, then we are generally free to pursue our ambitions, and follow our own volition.

Human rights vs individual liberties

Questions are often raised as to whether individual liberties are the same as human rights, and often the terms are used interchangeably. It could be said that human rights are fundamental principles which allow one to lead a dignified life, free from discrimination and violence — such as the right to free speech, or the prohibition of torture. The specific freedoms granted by a state to its citizens with the aim of protecting those rights are often called civil liberties.

Officially everyone in the world has the same rights: human rights. In 1948, the UN adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), declaring it a “common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations”. The document establishes principles such as the right to an adequate standard of living, the freedom from arbitrary arrest and the right to privacy.

Yet while the UDHR forms the basis of many international treaties, it has no real legal force. It came about following the horrors of World War Two, when governments around the world wanted to make sure that these atrocities never happened again. However, every country sets its own laws about what their people can and cannot do.

Individual liberties in Britain

In 21st Century Britain, we enjoy many individual liberties that have been fought and negotiated for for centuries. Some of these include: the freedom to vote for whoever we like, the right to be able to move around the world freely, the right to free speech, and the ability to spend time with anyone we choose. These rights are fundamental to democracy, which is underpinned by the rights to vote, speak and associate freely.

While we may take many of these rights for granted, they have developed over time, with a few important milestones along the way.

Perhaps the first really significant moment dates back to the signing of the Magna Carta in 1215, which included rights like the freedom from arrest with no reason. Another important step was the 1689 Bill of Rights, which set down the freedom from “cruel and unusual punishment” and the freedom to protest, among other freedoms.

Slavery was abolished in the British Empire in 1833, voting restrictions were lifted throughout the first half of the 20th Century, while sex between men was decriminalised in 1967.

How are individual liberties protected?

The UK Government respects the basic principles of the UDHR, though adds more specific detail with individual policies. The European Convention on Human Rights was incorporated into British law in 1998, in the form of the Human Rights Act.

There has, however, been some controversy over the act in recent years. As Home Secretary, Theresa May wanted to scrap it, arguing that it was too limiting, stopping Britain from dealing effectively with foreign criminals or suspected terrorists (the Act blocked their deportation).

And now, depending on what happens with Brexit over the coming months and years, there may be further changes to how individual liberties are enshrined in law. This is one area that will undoubtedly cause a lot of interest during the negotiations, so watch this space for more details.

Integrating religious toleration into working practices

Earlier this month we looked at showing toleration and respect to people of other faiths and religions in particular relation to Christmas. Yet as tomorrow’s business leaders, you’ll need to ensure you embed this toleration within your business 365 days a year. So how do you go about advising or managing a team, department or operation to ensure you respect and get the best of out of all its members?

New Year, New Start

January traditionally sees the introduction of new changes – whether that’s lifestyle, pricing, or spiritual reconnection. And in this time of new beginnings, many people of all beliefs and thought systems may do things differently – whether that’s giving up alcohol, changing their diet, kicking bad habits, or taking a new approach to health and fitness. Such changes can be really difficult to make stick, so showing toleration and support of these individuals’ choices can go a long way.

If you’re arranging social events, ensure that drinking alcohol is not the main feature, and respect those that choose not to drink. No interrogation or challenge is necessary. Similarly, ensure that any catering takes into account the belief systems of those attending – whether that’s kosher, halal, vegan, fat-free, carb-free, or nothing at all after a certain time of day. No one wants to be left out, or forced to join in with something they don’t want, while no one who is partaking would want to see a friend or colleague uncomfortable at having to turn something down.

If your businesses or a client business deals with or trades in alcohol, animal products, weapons or anything else that could go against the beliefs of one of your team members, speak to them about the situation and come up with a solution early on, to save more difficulty further down the line.

Around the clock

Eating and drinking in social environments may be quite an easy thing to get right, especially if they happen rarely, but what about when you’re in the office or at a client meeting?

To start with, remember that some religions have different holidays and holy days to what are traditionally celebrated in the UK, so if you’re aware of a client or team member who follows a different belief or tradition, don’t be afraid to ask them when these are so they can be respected.

Similarly, Friday afternoons in winter can be a conflicting time for Jews celebrating the Sabbath, while strict Muslims will require time to pray at certain points during the day. Environmentalists may have extra considerations when it comes to things like transport, so think about early starts and late finishes for everyone involved.

Dress codes

Many belief systems encourage different ways of dressing or personal presentation, and now society has become much more tolerant of these, so make sure your workplace keeps up. While in some customer-facing roles a certain level of smartness may be required, that doesn’t mean a headscarf, kippah, or turban can’t be worn, or that shoulders, arms and ankles can’t be covered up.

Remember that shoes and belts in a uniform don’t have to be made of leather, and trousers and tops don’t have to be ‘fitted’. If your business has a uniform or strict dress code, consider how this might affect people with different belief systems to your own.

Open and honest

This may all sound like a lot of hard work and unnecessary stress for a manager, but it becomes much easier by being open, receptive and empowering of team members. Let them suggest ideas, encourage them to organise events that celebrate their beliefs, and promote discussion amongst your colleagues and clients that build unity and excitement for every individual. Before you know it, your team will be more diverse, committed and productive than ever!