Press Round-Up: Regulatory and Professional Discipline October - November 2020

1 December 2020

Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA)

On the 26th of October 2020, the ACCA published its ‘White Paper’ entitled ‘Ethics in a Covid-19 world’.

The ACCA said:

The paper reveals one in five respondents has directly or indirectly, via a work colleague, encountered a situation where as a result of Covid-19, ethics were at risk of compromise.  Among those who had experienced such compromise, a quarter of issues related to the use of technology.

It also highlights a number of examples in which the pandemic has increased the risk of ethical compromise.”

The paper “reminds and outlines the ethical framework for accountancy and finance professionals. And shines a light on potential risks of ethical compromise across eight area”:

  • Time-constrained decision making;
  • Remote working;
  • Reducing staff size;
  • Assurance services;
  • Presentation of financial information;
  • Increase in fraud;
  • Ethics across the supply chain; and
  • Facilities management.

The paper can be found here.

 

Financial Conduct Authority (FCA)

On the 18th of November 2020, the FCA issued a warning to firms concerning the handling of client data. The FCA said:

The current economic climate is changing the way many firms operate and may cause some to leave the market or merge with other firms. When this happens, firms must make sure they lawfully process and transfer client data.

Principles in the FCA Handbook require firms to organise and control their affairs responsibly and effectively, with adequate risk management systems (Principle 3). Before transferring clients’ personal data, firms should consider whether this is fair to and in the interests of their clients (Principle 6). Firms should also pay due regard to the information needs of their clients and communicate with them clearly and fairly (Principle 7).

The full warning can be found here.

 

Financial Reporting Council (FRC)

On the 8th of October 2020, the FRC published a discussion paper on the future of corporate reporting. Explaining the rationale behind the consultation exercise, the FRC said:

“The paper considers a common criticism that annual reports are too long, and information difficult to access. With companies and society at large facing significant challenges, which have only been heightened by the Covid-19 pandemic, stakeholders are ever more interested in companies’ wider actions and the reporting that supports these.” 

Responses are due by 5th February 2021. Proposals include:

  • unbundling the existing purpose, content, and intended audiences of the current annual report by moving to a network of interconnected reports;
  • a new common set of principles that applies to all types of corporate reporting;
  • objective-driven reports that accommodate the interests of a wider group of stakeholders, rather than the perceived needs of a single set of users;
  • embracing the opportunities available through technology to improve the accessibility of corporate reporting; and
  • a model that enables reporting that is flexible and responsive to changing demands and circumstances.

More information on the proposals and consultation process can be found here.

On 19th October 2020, the FRC published the issued three sets of amendments to UK and Ireland accounting and reporting standards. The amendments relate to:

  • The effective date of IFRA 17:  The revised effective date for the new definition of a qualifying entity is accounting periods beginning on or after 1 January 2023.
  • COVID-19-related rent concessions; and
  • FRS 104 – Going concern: requirements relating to the going concern basis of accounting in respect of interim financial reports.

More details of the amendments can be found here.

On 27th October 2020, the FRC published its response to the Department of Business Energy and Industrial Strategy’s call for evidence.

The FRC said, in its response:

“[…] whilst we consider we are making progress in implementing many recommendations in order to deliver all the recommendations we need legislation. Without legislation, there can be no new regulator, with new powers or obligations to act in the public interest in a timely way, with appropriate levers and transparency to build the deserved confidence of our stakeholders.”

The response can be found here.

On 30th October, the FRC published its inspection findings into the quality of major local audits in England for the financial year ended 31 March 2019. In the first inspection of its kind, the FRC concluded that:

“Some firms are still not consistently achieving the necessary level of audit quality and therefore need to make further progress. […] The key areas of concern requiring action by some audit firms were the valuation of property (including investment property), sufficiency of audit procedures over the occurrence and completeness of expenditure, the response to fraud risks, the impairment of receivables, valuation of pension assets and the effectiveness of the Engagement Quality Control review.”

The inspection findings can be found here.

 

General Chiropractic Council (GCC)

On 5th November 2020, the GCC issued revised guidance in light of the (then) new COVID-19 restrictions.

The GCC said:

“[…] there is no prohibition on chiropractors providing care for patients.[…] Chiropractors must continue to use their professional and clinical judgement in their risk assessments of treating patients relevant to the setting, procedure and context. We expect these assessments to take into account the increase in cases of coronavirus and in ensuring appropriate PPE is worn. We also expect the involvement of the patient in both of those considerations. ”

The guidance can be found here.

 

General Dental Council (GDC)

On 21st October 2020, the GDC published its Fitness to Practise statistical and insights reports for 2019.

Executive Director of Fitness to Practise Transition at the GDC, John Cullinane, said:

What is clear from these reports is that the large majority of concerns received by the GDC are assessed and completed without sanction, but they also highlight that early engagement in the process will typically end in a smoother resolution to any concern that’s raised, which ultimately must be in everyone’s interests.”

The reports can be found here.

 

General Medical Council (GMC)

On 29th October 2020, the GMC announced that it is to reschedule revalidation dates for a further group of doctors due to the on-going demands of the coronavirus pandemic.

The GMC said:

“[This] means around 9,000 doctors who were due to revalidate between March and July 2021 will have their revalidation dates postponed for four months.”

Further details on the rescheduling can be found here.

On 9th November, the GMC’s new guidance on decision making and consent came into force. The guidance can be found here. Our Shannett Thompson and Imogen Roberts provide an overview of the GMC’s updated consent guidance here.

On 24th November, the GMC issued a statement relating to the impact of the end of the Brexit transition period (31 December 2020) on doctors from EU countries.

The GMC said:

“The registration status of doctors from the EEA with provisional or full registration in the UK won’t change. They can continue practising as they are now, after the transition period ends. If doctors have a different type of registration, such as temporary and occasional, we’ll contact them to discuss the options available to them.”

You can see the GMC’s full update here.

 

General Optical Council (GOC)

On 6th November 2020, the GOC issued an update on how it shall continue to regulate in light of the (then) new COVID-19 restrictions, including a reintroduction of in person fitness to practise hearings.

The GOC said:

Our staff will continue to work remotely instead of from our London office […] In certain circumstances, the office will be open for essential work such as Fitness to Practise hearings.

[…] From 19 November, we will be undertaking some in person hearing days at our London office. We have considered the latest guidance from government regarding new national restrictions and will facilitate, where required, hearings in person with new measures in place. New guidance will be published ahead of the first in person hearing.”

The update can be found here.

On 27th November 2020, the GOC issued an update relating to the impact of the end of the Brexit transition period (31 December 2020) on EEA and Swiss optometrists and dispensing opticians who wish to join the GOC register.

The GOC said:

“From next year, EEA optometrists and dispensing opticians applicants will need to apply for registration via our non-EEA international registration process. […]

EEA and Swiss applicants who have started their application for registration prior to 11pm on 31 December 2020 will still be able to apply on the same basis that they started the process.”

You can see the GOC’s full update here

 

General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC)

On 28th October 2020, the GPhC published an update for registrants on revalidation.

The GPhC said:

Registrants due to submit their revalidation records between 1 January – 30 April 2021 will only need to submit a reflective account when they renew their registration during that period.”

The update can be found here.

On 29th October 2020, the GPhC opened a consultation on the future of its Fitness to Practise strategy.

The GPhC said:

The GPhC is asking for views on the proposed strategy including the following key aspects:

  • Strategic aims and outcomes
  • A new approach to assessing concerns once they are raised with us
  • Introduction of several, more flexible, outcomes to conclude a concern, such as using a reflective piece and mediation
  • Addressing any inequalities and the risk of bias within decision making
  • Improving the service it provides by being more person-centred
  • Sharing best practice and learning from others”

On 16th November, the GPhC updated its guidance on the supply of COVID-19 tests from pharmacies in Great Britain.

The GPhC said:

we do not regard it as appropriate for community pharmacy to be selling and recommending rapid COVID-19 antibody test kits at this point in time.”

The update can be found here, and the full GPhC guidance can be found here.

On 27th November, the GPhC issued further guidance relating to the impact of the end of the Brexit transition period (31 December 2020) on to pharmacy professionals and owners who are EU nationals.

The GPhC said:

The Brexit transition period ends on 31 December 2020 and from 1 January 2021, the registration process for some pharmacists and pharmacy technicians with non-UK qualifications will change.”

The GPhC’s full guidance can be found here.

 

Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC)

On 26th November 2020, the HCPC issued a statement relating to the impact of the end of the Brexit transition period (31 December 2020) on its registrants from EU countries.

The HCPC said:

“The Government guidance confirms that those already on our Register do not need to take any additional actions. Following the UK’s exit from the European Union and the end of the transition period on 31 December 2020, the renewal process will be no different than from previous years.”

You can see the HCPC’s full update here and related Government guidance for EEA-qualified healthcare professional practising in the UK here.

This statement follows the HCPC’s response to the Department of Business Energy and Industrial Strategy’s call for evidence. The HCPC response, published on 23rd October 2020, “focussed on two priority areas: Recognition of International Qualifications and Regulatory Reform.”

The HCPC press statement accompanying the response can be found here, and the response itself here.

 

Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC)

On 4th November 2020, the NMC launched a consultation process on the future use of emergency powers.

The NMC is:

“seeking views from the public, professionals and health and care sector partners on its future use of powers, which it was granted in response to the coronavirus pandemic.”

The consultation, which looks at the NMC’s registration process and fitness to practise procedures, focuses on:

  • The NMC’s use of virtual meetings and hearings
  • Public access to hearings
  • The number of people on a hearing panel
  • The NMC’s use of email to communicate notices of a hearing, and
  • The NMC’s use of extensions for revalidation and fee payment

On 23rd November 2020, the NMC issued a statement on nursing and midwifery students during the next phase of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Further details can be found here. Responses are due by 15th January 2021.

The NMC said:

“At the current time it is not planned to return to the previous emergency standards, so we are maintaining the supernumerary status for all students.

This means that students are not being deployed into paid placements as was the case earlier in the year. […]

We will continue to monitor the situation to determine whether the implementation of further changes may be necessary.”

The NMC’s statement can be found here.

On 25th November 2020, the NMC became the first regulator of health and care professions to publish a Workforce Race Equality Standard and ethnicity pay gap report.

Andrea Sutcliffe CBE, Chief Executive and Registrar for the NMC, said:

These reports hold some uncomfortable truths and I am particularly alarmed by the lack of confidence black and minority ethnic colleagues have shown in their equal access to career opportunities/progression. The ethnicity pay gap report shows why – we simply do not have enough diversity in our senior roles.”

You can read the NMC’s reports and data submissions here.

 

Bar Standards Board (BSB)

On 27th November 2020, the BSB published its Anti-Racist statement, setting out a series of new requirements on those barristers and chambers it regulates.

The BSB will now impose an obligation on barristers’ chambers to:

  • complete a race equality audit to identify the barriers to race equality within a practice;
  • design and implement positive action measures, where the audit shows that there is an underrepresentation of, or adverse impact on, people from BAME backgrounds;
  • undertake comprehensive anti-racist training for all barristers and staff; and
  • produce and publish an anti-racist statement for members of chambers and the public.

The full statement can be accessed here.

On 27th November 2020, the BSB also published its first Regulatory Decisions Report, covering the year ending March 2020.

The report identifies a number of “notable trends,” including:

  • 175 cases where conduct reported clearly fell outside normal professional life, versus 405 cases where the conduct clearly occurred in relation to professional legal work;
  • An increase in cases relating to sexual harassment;
  • A higher proportion of reports arising in areas of family and criminal law than in other areas;
  • A downward trend in the imposition of administrative sanctions.

You can access the full report here.

 

Institute and Faculty of Actuaries (IFoA)

On 13th November 2020, the IFoA announced a proposed change to Regulation 16 its constitution, which concerns the admission criteria for Affiliate members.

The IFoA said:

there is merit in ensuring the Affiliate membership category is open and flexible enough to be available to anyone with an interest in actuarial work but who is not an IFoA student or qualified member. The proposed amendment to Regulation 16 provides this flexibility.”

The announcement can be found here.

 

Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA)

On 23rd November 2020, the SRA published the latest edition of its Risk Outlook, looking at covid-heightened risk, and issued a warning to law firms to be “more vigilant than ever in how they plan for - and protect against - key risks currently facing the legal sector.”

The SRA said:

“Highlighting the rise in cases of money laundering and cybercrime attacks during the first half of 2020, the Outlook predicts that risk in these areas is only likely to increase further into 2021. In particular, it points to the 300% increase in phishing scams seen during the first two months of lockdown and warns of similar spikes being likely as Covid vaccines come online.

As well as anti-money laundering and cyber security, other priority risks identified by the SRA for the coming year include issues such as protecting client money, diversity in the profession and standards of service, maintaining integrity and ethics and ensuring legal needs are met.”

Paul Philip, SRA Chief Executive, said:

“The Covid-19 pandemic has presented real challenges for all of us and how we work. While it will take some time for the implications to be fully understood, it is already clear that the pandemic has also exacerbated many of the wider, day-to-day risks faced by law firms and their clients.”

You can access the full Risk Outlook report here.

 

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