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Five ethics resources to help you in challenging times

30 October 2020: Times of rapid change and unexpected crises create new and complex ethical challenges. Use these resources to help guide you.

In such a period of rapid change, we often find ourselves facing unexpected, trickier ethical dilemmas which can be even more challenging to deal with than the ethical issues that we might usually face. 

This may come from any number of places and relate to client situations or your own business organisation. The pressures of navigating changing situations can influence our decision-making. Compliance with regulation, legislation, and policies and procedures helps, but it isn’t the answer to everything. Not all circumstances and eventualities can be covered by rules, and where they are covered by laws and regulations, compliance can sometimes stick to the letter, rather than the spirit, of the rule.

ICAEW takes a principles-based approach to ethical decision-making, which encourages deliberation, judgement and responsibility. Its recently updated Code of Ethics outlines this approach, but there are a number of resources to help you assess the situation and determine the appropriate response to your dilemma.

“It's been an unusual year, and everyone's been having to deal with all kinds of new and difficult challenges,” says Sophie Wales, ICAEW’s Head of Ethics and Economic Crime. “In that context, it's inevitable that some kind of ethical dilemmas may arise along the way. ICAEW is here to support and advise you so that you can make the right decision should an issue arise.”

Whether refreshing your own knowledge, assessing the right course of action to take or training your team members in how to deal with ethical considerations, these resources can help you with your ethical problems.

The framework for resolving ethical problems

If you’re not sure how to respond to an ethical dilemma, this framework, based on the Code of Ethics, provides a flowchart for members and a series of questions to help you determine how best to respond. It also links to other frameworks that you may also find helpful.

Summaries and guidance for the new Code of Ethics

This page is a one-stop-shop for supporting information relating to the new Code of Ethics. It includes a one-page overview of the Code, a summary of key requirements and the main areas of change in the new Code of Ethics. 

Guidance on NOCLAR

The new Code of Ethics includes new sections called Responding to Non-Compliance with Laws and Regulations (NOCLAR) Section 260 for professional accountants in business, and Section 360 for professional accountants in practice.

The key objectives for a professional accountant under NOCLAR are: 

  • To comply with the principles of integrity and professional behaviour; 
  • To alert management (whether at a client or in their own organisation) where appropriate so that they can deal with the consequences of the non-compliance; or deter the non-compliance if it hasn’t yet happened; and 
  • To take such further action as appropriate in the public interest. 

The guidance goes into detail on the process a member should follow, depending on their seniority in a firm or organisation, reflecting the greater responsibility that exists for senior accountants in practice or business. It can be found here.

Guidance on Defaults and Unlawful Acts

The guidance on Defaults and Unlawful Acts advises members on their responsibilities in relation to defaults or unlawful acts encountered in the course of professional work. It provides practical advice on situations such as:

  • when a member can disclose information to external authorities, and 
  • how to deal with subsequent requests for information from the police or other organisations. 

It can be found here.

Helplines and sources of support

ICAEW operates several helplines to advise members on various issues, including technical and ethical advisory services, and an anonymous anti-money laundering (AML) helpline. The Help With Ethical Problems page also points members to other sources of help and advice.