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This week’s edition of Corporate highlights includes the FRC’s updated sanctions guidance for auditors, accountants and actuaries, analysis on gender pay gap reporting and HMRC’s recommendations for companies to delay the grant of EMI share options.
The Financial Reporting Council (FRC) has updated its sanctions guidance for auditors, accountants and actuaries in order to implement the recommendations of an independent review of sanctions undertaken in 2017. The updated guidance will take effect on 1 June 2018.
A panel chaired by former Court of Appeal Judge Sir Christopher Clarke conducted the independent review of sanctions, publishing its report in October 2017. The panel made several recommendations, including: an increase in fines to £10m or more for seriously poor audit work by a ‘Big 4’ firm, exclusion from the accounting profession for a minimum of ten years for dishonesty, greater use of non-financial penalties and sanctions that reflect the level of co-operation by respondents.
For further information, see LNB News 09/04/2018 6.
The FRC has announced plans to enhance the way it monitors the six largest audit firms by focusing on five key pillars it says are critical to the stability of the audit firms and quality of audit work. The results of the FRC’s inspection of audit quality by the firms will be published in firm-specific reports in June 2018 and summarised in the annual Developments in Audit report in July 2018.
The changes to monitoring aim to avoid systematic deficiencies within firms’ networks, disruption in the provision of statutory audit services and instability in the financial sector.
The five key pillars are: leadership and governance, values and behaviours, business models and financial soundness, risk management and control and evidence on audit quality, including from the FRC’s annual programme of audit quality reviews.
For further information, see LNB News 10/04/2018 79.
The Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee is inviting written submissions to the gender pay gap inquiry until 10 April 2018, after the final gender pay gap figures for UK companies were revealed, finding that, on average, 78% of firms pay men more than women. Lawyers from Charles Russell Speechlys, Lewis Silkin LLP, and Stewarts have described the reporting as a ‘seminal moment’ but warn that action against companies who failed to report by the deadline of 4 April 2018, may be ‘little beyond naming and shaming’.
BEIS seek to examine the extent of compliance of businesses with gender pay gap reporting, how effective sanctions for non-compliance are, and if the annual information related to pay required under the Equality Act 2010 is sufficient.
Nick Hurley, partner at Charles Russell Speechlys, discusses the potential impact of the findings: ‘It seems likely that this will lead more women to question whether they are being paid less than those men in their organisation doing similar work, and it is likely that this will lead to an increase in equal pay claims as women test the water.’
For further information, see LNB News 05/04/2018 113.
Hundreds of companies have filed their gender pay gaps prior to the deadline at midnight on 4 April 2018. Shirley Hall, senior office partner in the employment team at Eversheds Sutherland, and Daniel Zona, solicitor in the employment team at Bindmans LLP, examine the different options available to employers following the disclosure and looks at how businesses can close the gender pay gap in the long-term.
Shirley Hall noted that the main issues employers face when revealing the gender pay gaps are: high pay gaps causing confusion about equal pay, which could be a litigation risk, negative press commentary, which could potentially affect reputation and the impact on recruitment and retention.
Additionally, particularly if contracting with the public sector, there are concerns that a high gender pay gap could impact on the award of public sector contracts.
For further information, see News Analysis: Gender pay gap—the employer’s perspective.
HMRC has advised companies to consider delaying the grant of enterprise management incentive (EMI) share options on or after 7 April 2018, until the EU reaches a decision on renewing state aid approval for the EMI scheme. The UK government acknowledges that there will be a delay between expiry of the current approval on 6 April and any new approval. During this period, EMI share options may be treated as non-tax advantaged employment-related securities options.
EMI share options granted in the period from 7 April 2018 until EU State Aid approval is received may not be eligible for the tax advantages presently afforded to option holders, and accordingly share options granted in that period as EMI share options may necessarily fall to be treated as non-tax advantaged employment-related securities options.
Companies may wish to consider delaying the grant of employee share options intended to qualify as EMI share options until fresh EU State Aid approval has been given.
HMRC will continue to apply its current guidance and practice, in relation to employment-related securities options validly granted as EMI share options before 6 April.
A further update will be provided in due course.
For further information, see LNB News 04/04/2018 135.
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