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Helping you cope with difficult situations

These mini case studies, based on typical queries, demonstrate just some of the ways support members can help you.

Support members helpline - call 0800 917 3526

If you're facing similar issues of have any other sensitive matters you would like to discuss with a support member in confidence you can:

Case studies

Dealing with unethical behaviour

The enquiry

Jeff is FD and company secretary to a charitable trust. He is concerned about the actions of one of the sponsors of the charitable trust who appears to be trying to take control of the trust and is pressurising the member to behave unethically.

This particular sponsor was unhappy with the level of scrutiny Jeff has applied to a contract they have with the trust and this has led to a difficult relationship between Jeff and the sponsor. He is now concerned about some of the sponsor’s actions which appear to demonstrate a determination to take control of the charity such as pressing for the removal of various office holders.

Jeff is concerned about how to ensure that the sponsor behaves appropriately and doesn’t apply undue influence over the activities of the charity. In particular he is concerned that if he presses too hard he will be removed from his own position and that there will be no-one to query the sponsor’s actions.

The solution

Jeff talked through his situation with a support member, who was able to re-assure Jeff that he is acting correctly in scrutinising contracts to ensure the best deal for the trust. The support member also stressed that as a chartered accountant Jeff must act ethically and ensure that the interests of the charity are protected and that again, his actions to date were appropriate. It was suggested by the support member that Jeff gather together evidence to show the reasoning for actions/decisions and behaviour and to keep a copy of this defensive dossier at home so that he can access it whatever happens.

It was clear to the support member that Jeff was under a great deal of stress and she gave him details of the CABA 24 hour counselling services that is available free to members and their dependants.

Jeff took comfort from talking though his circumstances with a fellow chartered accountant which re-assured him that he had not been over-reacting. Often talking through a situation with an independent and objective outsider helps to put matters into perspective and gives confidence to continue along what may be a difficult path.

Disqualification dilemma

The enquiry

Bruce works as a freelance finance director for five small companies. One of his former clients has recently gone into liquidation, so Bruce is worried that he may face disqualification as a director. He is unsure as to what information he must provide to the liquidator, because he is reluctant to give evidence that may subsequently be used against him.

The solution

The support member suggested that Bruce asks the liquidator to confirm his authority to request information whilst also contacting the Institute's Ethics Advisory Service. As this is a serious matter including the possibility of exclusion from membership of the Institute, Bruce agreed to seek legal advice.

Bruce had not initially realised the potential implications of a disqualification but with the help of the support member he felt he was equipped to face the future.


The enquiry

David holds a position on the board of a local college in a voluntary capacity. He is concerned about the financial information that is being presented to the board which he feels is not sufficient to enable the board to reach reasonable decisions. He also believes that the college’s finance director (FD) appears to be trying to push through decisions without proper approval by the board.

David has raised his concerns about the poor quality of papers internally and has stressed that questions need to be answered before proposals can be approved. This was not well received and after struggling to get the issues dealt with David eventually decided that his only option would be to resign from the board. He took advantage of highlighting the issues again in his letter of resignation and in particular drew attention to the lack of due diligence and the need to look at corporate governance within the college. The chairman is reluctant to accept David’s resignation and has asked him to attend a meeting to discuss. David is not sure what to do and so called a support member to talk through the situation.

The solution

The support member discussed the issues with David and asked him what he would consider to be a successful outcome. David wanted a capability investigation to be carried out in relation to the FD and for appropriate measures to be put in place following that investigation. If these steps were taken he felt he may be able to reconsider his resignation.

The support member rehearsed David’s arguments with him prior to his meeting with the chairman and board and even attended the meeting as an observer to give David the moral support he needed to argue his position. After the meeting David had a de-briefing with the support member to review the outcome – helping David to put matters into perspective and view the experience as positive. The support member also suggested that David write to the chairman of the board to express confidence in the process that had been agreed as a result of their meeting and to reiterate his desire to see a good outcome for the college.

In this case talking to a support member not only helped David to focus and achieve a successful outcome but also helped turn what was a very negative and stressful situation into a more positive experience.

Harassment in the workplace

The enquiry

Alex is the head of Financial Management for a major manufacturing company and reports to the Financial Director (FD). He identified some problems with accounting for a significant IT contract. When he looked into this Alex discovered other problems with the contract. For example, 80% being capitalised as a fixed asset, and concerns about impairment. He sought advice from an independent firm of accountants who confirmed his view and Alex then raised the issues with the FD.

Although Alex was subsequently able to address some of his concerns others remained unresolved. An update report on the IT contract had been prepared for the board but Alex felt that the figures were inaccurate and made manual amendments to these to reflect the true position.

As a result Alex felt he had been labelled a trouble maker, suffered harassment, poor performance reviews and feels that his future with the organisation is at risk.

The solution

Alex chose to discuss his position with a support member who was able to confirm that he had acted appropriately in trying to get the issues resolved. They discussed Alex’s ongoing relationship with the company and agreed that Alex would consult a solicitor about potential constructive dismissal and to create a compromise agreement to allow Alex to leave the organisation without loss of reputation or financial hardship, as he felt he had no future with the company.

Talking through his situation with a support member gave Alex re-assurance that he had behaved in an appropriate way. It also helped him to focus what he wanted and enabled him to reach a decision to negotiate an exit from the company and make a fresh start.

P11D problems

The enquiry

Ann is a recently qualified Chartered Accountant, working for a medium sized manufacturing company. She has been enjoying the work, but is finding it difficult to deal with her boss, the Managing Director. She complains that he is very aggressive and won't allow her to record his company credit card expenses on his P11D. She doesn't know what to do but would prefer not to resign from her position. After struggling with the situation for some time, Ann decides to call a support member to see if they can help.

The solution

The support member was able to confirm that the issue of the expenses and P11D needs to be resolved and suggested some different approaches. After her discussions with a support member, Ann was armed with enough information and support to be able to deal with a successful outcome. The support member also provided Ann with details of the ICAEW's on-line recruitment site (icaewjobs.com) and the financial support provided by the Chartered Accountants Benevolent Association should she be unable resolve the issue.

Taking a stand

The enquiry

James is a finance manager in a listed company reporting to the finance director (FD), who in turn reports to the Managing Director (MD). James has realised that there is going to be a serious shortfall in the company's funds leaving it unable to meet its liabilities. James has raised the issue several times with the FD (a fellow Chartered Accountant) whose response has been aggressive and unpleasant towards James.

James believes that as a Chartered Accountant he should be seen to be doing something to protect the public and is concerned about his own reputation. He has also heard about the possible termination of his employment because the MD says he is always giving a gloomy forecast.

The solution

James contacted a support member who helped him to recognise that it's a stressful time. After their discussions James put in writing to the board his recommendation that an Insolvency Practitioner is consulted. James also consulted the Public Concern at Work concerning the Public Interest Disclosure Act issues of the case.

With the help of the support member and the other specialist resources James was able to maintain his own professional standards and do the right thing. He has now moved on and is happy in his current position as FD in a small manufacturing company.

If there are any matters that you would like to discuss with a support member please call FREE on 0800 917 3526 or email support.members@icaew.com.

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Additional support is available to members and their families from CABA, which provides emotional support, debt advice, health and carer support, financial assistance and career coaching. To find out more visit caba.org.uk or call +44 (0)1788 556 366.