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Are you or were you an employee in practice?

Can you share your experience?

Hello

To my regret, before going on my own, I did not gain any practice experience. Outside the practice world, my work experience is good and varied. 

It would be very helpful to learn how practices operate.  I would be grateful if you could share your practice experience, from an employee's perspective, and state the size of practice(s) you worked in.  Feel free to share any aspect.

If you are able to comment on any the following, it would help me and I am sure others as well. 

1. How did the employer(s) inform you to use a new system? Let's say a new practice management software. Was it YOU need to use it. No other option? Like it or lump it. Did the approach adopted by your employer work from the employee's perspective? And employer's perspective? 

2. Time Sheet - How often were these completed? Were employee chased or reminded daily to complete time sheets? 

3. How many hours a week was a full time working. I have seen a range of 35 hours to 40 hours. 40 hours with a pay matching 35 hours. How many days annual leave? More than statutory? 

4. Flexi hours/ working from home was it allowed? How did it work?

5. Were they strict with their employees? For example, come on the dot at 9 am or whatever the start time. 

Thanks

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By marks
14th Nov 2017 22:26

Worked in practice for about 15 years for 5 different CA firms. Time with them ranged from a couple of months to 8 years. Firms ranged from 1 partner firm to 4 partner firm with staff ranging between 6 and 40.

Re your queries

1. Systems didnt really change back then. You just used what was there. Things like PM systems and the cloud didnt really exist between 1996 and 2010.

2. All firms I worked with recorded timesheets and billed based on them. They were required to be completed weekly. Things such as fixed price fees didnt really exist back then.

3. Working week was always 35 hours with statutory days given (no more). However it was expected that you worked more than 35 hours per week (so normal working week was anything between 40-60 hours depending on time of year)

4. Never had the option of working from home. Again wasnt really in vogue at that time.

5. All places worked was always a 9am start (with the exemption of the training firm where i started where you could start anytime between 8.15am and 9.45am and finish correspondingly between 4.15pm and 5.45pm - however was frowned upon if you ever left on time).

Thanks (1)
to marks
15th Nov 2017 09:31

marks wrote:

Worked in practice for about 15 years for 5 different CA firms. Time with them ranged from a couple of months to 8 years. Firms ranged from 1 partner firm to 4 partner firm with staff ranging between 6 and 40.

Re your queries

1. Systems didnt really change back then. You just used what was there. Things like PM systems and the cloud didnt really exist between 1996 and 2010.

By implication, the cloud existed before 1996.

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14th Nov 2017 22:32

The answer to most of your questions is - you're the boss. You decide.

Thanks (2)
By DJKL
14th Nov 2017 23:30

First employer/ training firm

1. You got told Firm has adopted this process, we are sending you on a training course. (Usually to Hull office or University of Warwick campus) However given we only had about 3-4 computers in an office of about 18- 20 ( this was 1985-87) courses re things about computing were pretty rare- only got sent on one. We did though change audit process (we had merged with another bigger firm in 1985) and I and other year one apprentice were sent south for three/four days re that, plus a few other 4.5 day courses with all trainees in UK, and some in office training; but as firm had a technical team and in house training this sort of firm wide training was pretty common, this was a national firm with four offices in Scotland and about 30-40 offices in rUK.

2 & 3. Time Sheet- weekly, 35 hours, no timesheet no pay (as payroll processed with any authorised overtime in Hull (HO))

3. Think four weeks plus stat hols, but also block release/study release re ICAS.

4. Hours were as needed, I can recall re one audit getting up at some daft hour, travel Edinburgh to Glasgow on train for circa 8.00, tube round to point where car met me at 8.15, 1.75 hour drive up past Helensburgh, do return, back to Edinburgh about 9.00 p.m. Rinse and repeat. If away from office in hotels on audit you worked all hours you could, say 8.00-20.00 plus Saturdays and Sundays (which in say Western Isles involved sneaking client books back to hotel, Sabbath working being a no no) Overtime was great, on a three week visit could clock extra 80-90 hours.

5. Only time I ever was late was when commuting from Edinburgh and the points froze- however went and worked in Edinburgh office instead until we had a thaw, we were all pretty punctual so did not really arise.

That was as formal as it ever got, other firm I was with was much smaller (about 16-20 staff) and then it split and I went with smaller part which was 8-9 in total, we had little structured training and I would tend to do a fair bit of the firm IT selection myself; I remember trialing all the tax software pre 1997 re SA and picking the winner (Tax Assistant) and showing other staff how to operate the software once set up in office, but very little formal study. (And I suspect I was a terrible tutor)

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to DJKL
15th Nov 2017 09:51

DJKL wrote:
Usually to Hull office ...

Did you work nahn to fahve, use whaht fern bocksis and drink kerkerkerler ?

It's a different language out there.

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By DJKL
to lionofludesch
15th Nov 2017 10:43

Visits to Hull were like cultural apartheid, you tended to find the Scots, those from Yorkshire, Lancashire, Liverpool, Hull, Beverely and rest of North etc became one group (Y & L in same group- who would have thought )whilst those from London (two offices) formed the core of another group, with SE offices gravitating to them, but then there were places like Hereford which could gravitate to either.

I never had a language problem understanding the Hull/Beverely trainees but a few had a problem understanding me (one exercise was public speaking-we all had to talk- I got heckled as they could not understand my accent (which is not that strong)

What I found strange about Hull was going out, we have been in a pub, pubs have shut, someone says they know a club that will be open, we pop in a taxi, arrive in a street of semi detached houses, wander up the drive beside a house to what looks like a very large garage, this turns out to be the club- in the back garden of someone's house- try getting planning or a licence for that in Edinburgh .

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to lionofludesch
15th Nov 2017 12:24

and, drink a bottle of coak? They'd ask, "do you have tahm"?

I did a slot for BBC Radio Humberside, between 2003 and 2009, each month. I got to quite like the City and, the people were the salt of the earth. All, of course, before they became the City of Culture.

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15th Nov 2017 08:29

1. We most definitely had to use the systems that were chosen for the firm.

2. Yes, timesheets were required. You would get chased and chased until you had handed them in.

3. 35 plus statutory minimum

4. No chance!

5. 9am on the dot. If people were late, it got noted. No such thing as Flexi time.

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15th Nov 2017 08:31

First firm. No "systems" as such. It was a father/son partnership with only 10 or so clerks. F/S micro managed everyone else, no trainee/senior/manager structure. Either F or S (or both) would come round to our desks twice a day to look at what we were doing (check up on us). They'd allocate work when we needed something. They did all the reviews and seeing clients. We had no systems at all. No timesheets, no written job progress/control charts - it was all in F/S heads. No computers, not a single one in the building (mid to late 80s).

Second job (same era) was the opposite despite similar size. A single partner/owner, but he had 3 "managers" for tax, accounts and audit, and each manager had their own hierachy in their department. Everything was systemised. Computerised work control, computerised time sheets that we had to do daily and would be chased for at 9am the next morning if not done! We barely ever saw the owner and he had no involvement whatsoever in the day to day operations - he just spent his time in client meetings. This was back in the 80s so it was very impressive that he had computerised the practice, with networked PC on everyone's desk - it must have cost a fortune in that era.

Third practice, a mix of the two really. They had a couple of computers but only for payroll and VAT returns. There were 2 partners, but it was a mix of formal systems and "hands on" micro management - we had a manual time sheet system, but no work/job control, neither computer nor any form of manual board. Funny thing was it the receptionists who allocated jobs - if you needed something, you went to reception and they'd give you your next job - I never did work out the criteria, but I think it was pretty random. If you got given something really complicated, then you'd just ask someone more experienced for help. But the really big stuff (such as audits, quarterly accounts, etc) didn't come in through reception anyway - it was just the carrier bag jobs that the receptionists allocated.

Just shows how things can differ in three very similar sized firms in the same era. I don't think there are any hard and fast rules at all. They were all successful in their own way and by different routes. The only common thing was that all the staff did the same - there were no "mavericks" using their own systems. However good/bad the systems, they were in use throughout each practice.

Thanks (1)
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15th Nov 2017 09:20

I have worked for a few small accounting firms (generally 2-3 partners with up to 20 staff)

1. The Firm picked the software and you had to learn it. Would be crazy for employees to be demanding other software.

2. Timesheets had to be completed by the end of the week. These were used for billing. We would be chased on Monday morning if previous week's timesheet was not complete. Very useful tool for identifying where employees were continually over budget or possibly where budgets were too small and needed to consider increasing the fee.

3. Generally 35 or 37.5 hours per week. Most firms were 9am start with 5pm finish. Some were slightly different, one place I worked we did 9-5.30 Mon - Thu and then 9-4 on a Fri as it was considered the last hour of a Friday no one did much work anyway so they tried to squeeze more out of you on the other days.

Generally holidays for non-qualified/students/admin staff were the standard 20 + public holidays. If you were qualified or manager then this would increase (I had 32 days in total). Students generally got minimum as they were away on block for ICAS etc. throughout the year and also got the minimum study leave. Any additional study leave (think it was 2 days per exam) would have to be taken out of holiday entitlement.

4. Generally flexitime is not allowed. In one-off cases and with approval in advance people could work through lunch and get off slightly early etc. but a blanket flexi-time was not allowed as it ends up being abused by employees. Qualified staff and managers were expected to do more than the 35 hours without overtime. I know one relatively large firm that advertises flexi-time when advertising jobs but through speaking to people there, the reality is that it is not as flexible as it would suggest and is frowned upon and barely ever used.

5. Punctuality was expected. Being late was not "noted" every time but in a small office it was noticeable when people were more frequently late and this would result in them being spoken to.

The bottom line was always that the clients needs had to be met, this could mean starting early or going straight from home to client. When on audit we were expected to be at the clients office for 9am and finish at 5pm so additional travel was taken outside of these hours. Obviously in some cases clients were significantly far away and travelling down the night before and staying in a hotel during the week was expected (this was not considered as overtime).

I agree with someone's post earlier - you are the boss, don't let your employees dictate the firm's policies.

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15th Nov 2017 09:23

Small practice concentrating mostly on tax advisory type of work. One partner, few tax people, a person preparing accounts, bookkeeper and few admin staff.

New systems are decided by the partner and everyone just needs to use them. The choice is based on what fits the bill.

Timesheets completed weekly, but checked by the Partner on a monthly basis when doing the billing.

35 hours working week, but expected to work longer hours if required (which is pretty much every week), so really ending up working 40-45.

Remote access to office pc so can work from home if needed.

Thanks (1)
15th Nov 2017 09:45

1. How did the employer(s) inform you to use a new system? Let's say a new practice management software. Was it YOU need to use it. No other option? Like it or lump it. Did the approach adopted by your employer work from the employee's perspective? And employer's perspective?

We didn't really have systems back in the day.

2. Time Sheet - How often were these completed? Were employee chased or reminded daily to complete time sheets?

Usually collected weekly. Filled in Friday afternoons usually.

3. How many hours a week was a full time working. I have seen a range of 35 hours to 40 hours. 40 hours with a pay matching 35 hours. How many days annual leave? More than statutory?

Ranged from 35-37 hours a week. Started off on 3 weeks + bank holidays, plus extra days at Easter, Whit (yes, Whit), August and Christmas. Then 4 weeks + bank holidays.

4. Flexi hours/ working from home was it allowed? How did it work?

My last employer introduced a time clock for flexttime. I used to use it to build up time so that I could have extra days off. Others worked it round the kids or whatever.

Earlier, there was a loosely based time off in lieu system in case they needed worked doing sharpish like.

5. Were they strict with their employees? For example, come on the dot at 9 am or whatever the start time.

Not really, but, equally, no one took the pi$$. If folk came in late there was a genuine reason for it. On the other hand, if I worked, I expected to be paid for it. The firm didn't say to their clients, "oh, we'll knock a bit off your bill because Lion did some unpaid overtime" so I expected to see my time reflected in my pay packet.

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15th Nov 2017 10:29

10 years practice experience at 3 firms - 1 a traditional small town 4 partner fairly easy going place. 2nd firm a small office of a top 20 firm with about 8-9 fee earners and 3rd a large 20 partner practice with 150 staff.

1. Systems use was non negotiable at all firms.

2. Weekly time sheets which had to be completed before leaving office on Friday. Last firm operated daily time sheets using time recording facility on practice management software. Big black mark on your personnel file if you were consistently late in completing the time records.

3. between 20 - 25 days holiday plus statutory days. Generally qualified /senior staff had more days than juniors. Normal working hours were 37.5 and I didn't as a rule work much more than 40 excluding travelling time to clients. Overtime was only worked by me if I had gone over budget.

4. Flexitime was allowed at 2 of the three firms I worked and it is a much better way of working than rigid 9 -5 routine.

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15th Nov 2017 10:32

Worked as an employee in practice for the past 17 years. 4 different practices, ranging from half a dozen people to a contractor practice of more than 300.

I didn't get on with the whole way of working at the contractor one. No personal responsibility, no cradle to grave working, and a CS team who's job it was to keep the clients away from us as much as possible.

One was around 20 - 30 staff, which was more my style, but too many partners involved, and no real understanding of management. Again, there seemed to be a lack of ownership of the work.

Finally, the other two of similar size (7 - 10 employees). Much more autonomy and much more say in how the job gets done. If I don't like the software that I use exclusively (payroll, Tax Return etc.) then I can recommend a change and it will usually happen (probably helps that my last recommendation was to dump Sage payroll in favour of Moneysoft, with a significant cost saving).

I decide how the work is managed, handled, and done. I have direct contact with the majority of clients, and so that relationship builds up much better.

But, as seen, all four have had subtle differences (the other small practice the MD was a lying control freak). It depends on what you want to offer, and what you want back.

Thanks (1)
15th Nov 2017 11:24

Currently an employee in practice, with a few clients of my own as well. There's four partners and around 25 staff.

1. The employer chooses the system because everyone has to use the same systems, anything else would be madness. I don't know which clients I'll be working on from one week to the next and it may be ones I've never come across before so I have to be able to pick up the work of any other employee from last year.

When there's a new system or a new process relating to existing systems it is usually adopted by one or two staff who get the requisite training then train the others on how to use it. It's usually me or our IT manager doing this. It doesn't work very well most of the time.

2. Weekly time sheets, we're trying to get people to do them daily and enter them in the practice management software themselves but at the moment they're on paper and submitted Monday morning. People are chased for them if they're late.

3. The timesheet shows 35 hours work a week, breaks are variable so long as those 35 hours are completed.

4. Flexi time and WFH allowed by prior agreement.

5. Not as strict as some places but it will be noted and queried if someone is meant to be in at 9am and are consistently late.

Thanks (1)
15th Nov 2017 12:48

Did 5 years in a 3 partner, 20+ staff firm whilst studying for ACA. 2005 to 2010.

1. Training sessions demonstrating how the system works and what the expectations were from the employee. Non negotiable but presumably there are benefits of the new system for the user as well as the practice?

Examples at the time were a new paperless audit system and document management solution.

2. Weekly by about 11am the following Monday. Non compliance meant a 'fine' which went to the firm's social fund. You would get hassled mercilessly until it was done.

After a while you settle into a pattern of doing it as you go.

3. 37.5 hours with statutory annual leave whilst training then from years 6 to 10 an extra day would be added until you reach 25 days.

In return, you got time off to attend exam courses (could be 6-10 weeks a year) and the firm paid the exam and course fees (for first attempt only) - the only downside was you only ended up with minimum wage plus whatever you could accumulate in mileage!

4. Start time was flexible within boundaries but there was no system to carry over time from day to day. You start late, you finish late.

5. No, but everyone was there to learn & develop. You made an effort. Those that didn't make progress were shown the door.

The workplace culture is the biggest thing I miss about practice days (now an employee in business). There was a sense of all being in it together and helping each other meet client deadlines etc. The social side was also much better.

Thanks (1)
15th Nov 2017 16:37

Hello

Thank you for sharing your experience. It is a fantastic response. It was interesting to read varied working practices and cultures in practices. From the hierarchical to giving autonomy to employees.

Fair enough, as a business owner, it is my way or the highway. At the same time, not having any exposure to practices outside my own, the response gave me a wider perspective on treating employees. I thought I was the worst employer. On reflection, I am too soft. Within reason, it will be my way or the highway.

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15th Nov 2017 16:49

I worked in practice for a couple of years for a medium sized practice.
1. pretty much the same as everyone else the partners picked the systems basically Sage and time sheeets
2. Time sheets were filled in as they passed through various departments by who ever had completed the work.
3. I worked 37.5 hours and expected payment if i worked more.
4.No flexi hours or working from home
5. Not really strict about start times as some people would do the school run before starting work.

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15th Nov 2017 16:41

I worked in practice for a couple of years for a medium sized practice.
1. pretty much the same as everyone else the partners picked the systems basically Sage and time sheeets
2. Time sheets were filled in as the passed through various departments by whoever had completed the work.
3. I worked 37.5 hours and expected payment if i worked more.
4.No flexi hours or working from home
5. Not really strict about start times as some people would do the school run before starting work.

Thanks (0)
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