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ACCA: COVID-19 poses new ethical challenges for accountants

The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA), has launched a white paper, Ethics in a Covid-19 world, which explores the role of ethics against the backdrop of the pandemic.

The paper revealed that one in five respondents had directly or indirectly, via a work colleague, encountered a situation where ethics were at risk of compromise as a result of the pandemic. Of those who had experienced such a compromise, a quarter of issues related to the use of technology.

It also highlighted a number of examples in which the pandemic has increased the risk of ethical compromise:

  • Time-constrained decision making: Decisions are being made too quickly, without adequate consideration of risks and their implications; or decisions are being made before adequate information is made available. If there have been staff redundancies, decisions may be made by those lacking the training and experience to do so; this issue involves both capacity and capability. So, work done is not subjected to the usual standards of evaluation. Given we are almost a year into the pandemic, there is also a risk such practices could become embedded as business-as-usual unless challenged and changed.  

  • Remote working: The employer must consider what is the appropriate level of tools, such as staff tracking, and balancing such controls with workers’ privacy. With software tools, organisations can track how much time an employee is online, whether they are typing or idle, their location or even obtaining visual confirmation for certain roles, using the employee’s webcam. Any such monitoring needs to consider the employee’s knowledge and consent, and to be proportionate to the objective to be achieved. There is equally an obligation on the employee to ensure that they are honest in their dealings and do not, for example, misrepresent either their working hours to their employers or their billable hours to clients.

Read more at the International Accounting Bulletin here


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