Can I only accept female clients?

Female clients for female only staff

Didn't find your answer?

I know a couple of ladies who want to work as accountants but for religious or personal reasons don't interact with males. They have asked me, as a female accountant, if I can open a firm so they can work with me, without them having to speak with male clients. I know from experience that its is better for the person responsible for the accounting work to be the one to communicate with the client. For curiosity, if I were to only accept female clients and only have all female staff, is that considered discrimination or could I do it as type of targeted client? Something of a point for female clients who may prefer a female accountant.

Replies (55)

Please login or register to join the discussion.

avatar
By Tax is always taxing
04th Apr 2024 08:33

That would be a question for a lawyer

Thanks (9)
Replying to Tax is always taxing:
avatar
By Justin Bryant
04th Apr 2024 08:58

Or J K Rowling.

Thanks (16)
Replying to Justin Bryant:
avatar
By FactChecker
04th Apr 2024 17:05

... who, as an author, might point out that I suspect OP has mis-worded the title question: "Can I only accept female clients?"

Presumably "Can I accept only female clients?" was what was intended?
The former places a restriction on how OP can react to female clients (so rejection for instance would not be allowed); whilst the latter (as was presumably intended) places the restriction on the gender of clients OP is prepared to accept taking on.

Thanks (5)
Replying to FactChecker:
avatar
By Justin Bryant
05th Apr 2024 12:41

Yes; I was taught in school that the word "only" can radically change the meaning of a sentence depending on where it's put e.g. only he drinks whisky in the morning vs. he only drinks whisky in the morning vs. he drinks only whisky in the morning vs. he drinks whisky only in the morning etc.

If more people knew only that.

Thanks (8)
Replying to Justin Bryant:
avatar
By Dr Fauci
05th Apr 2024 12:47

Hilariously on point!

Thanks (0)
avatar
By paul.benny
04th Apr 2024 08:55

With the caveat that INAL, my understanding is that you can pitch yourself as a firm with women staff set up to serve women. But to turn away male clients and reject male employment candidates would be unlawful.

That said, we all know there there are times when you don't have capacity to take on a new client and there were other more suitable candidates. Just as long as you never ever refer to gender when turning them away.

In practice, though, you can't exclude every possible male that your staff may come into contact with - spouses of clients, tax inspectors, training providers, IT support, etc. I've no idea what the fall out could be if this happens when you've promised an exclusively female environment.

Thanks (5)
Replying to paul.benny:
avatar
By 17RDR12
04th Apr 2024 09:01

Also NAL so no idea if what you have said is correct, but I think if you had a full staff and full client base of females it would be hard to argue against discrimination even if gender isn't referred to when turning people away.

Thanks (4)
Ivor Windybottom
By Ivor Windybottom
04th Apr 2024 09:36

Er, it's 2024.
We are all striving to provide equality in every sphere.
Discrimination, however well intentioned, is not appropriate or an acceptable way to go about a business.
You may want to obtain ICAEW (or similar) ethics advice to see if this can be accepted.
What happens if a client replaces its female staff with male staff?

Thanks (14)
avatar
By Paul Crowley
04th Apr 2024 09:39

Why would you start a business that immediately breaks the law?
How can you be fit to be monitored for AML

Just men, or will certain religions be banned as well.

Thanks (16)
Danny Kent
By Viciuno
04th Apr 2024 09:40

I'm going to stick my head above the parapet here and just come out and say it. This is obvious sexism and should be called out as such.

Replace Female with Male, White, Straight. Does that make you uncomfortable? It should.

Furthermore, why would your client's "preference" dictate that you only take on female clients? We are accountants. Do you run group bookkeeping sessions or tax reviews? Our clients don't interact with each other.

FWIW a business owner refusing to deal with 50% of the population because of what may or may not be between their legs will probably, I hope, fail miserably.

Thanks (22)
Replying to Viciuno:
avatar
By Jackie UK
05th Apr 2024 12:54

Very well said....oh and I am a practicing female accountant that has had a long and enjoyable career with client's of all races, genders and ethnicity, also I trained in a very multicultural office at a time when women were not the norm in the profession. Having worked and acheived equal status over the years in a profession I am proud of, I am appalled anyone would want to consider sending us back to the dark days.

Thanks (2)
avatar
By bernard michael
04th Apr 2024 09:43

How do they get on talking to men on the phone eg HMRC ??

Thanks (7)
avatar
By 356B
04th Apr 2024 09:51

Well, taxi drivers do it, so why not?

Thanks (1)
avatar
By Roland195
04th Apr 2024 09:56

I can't believe this is a genuine question and I am not aware of any religious considerations that would go to this extreme but surely its impossible (if not illegal and discriminatory) to try to run a business where the female employees would never have to deal with a male in any capacity?

Thanks (5)
avatar
By Leywood
04th Apr 2024 09:58

As a woman who has had a long hard struggle to break the glass ceiling in two professions, dealing with sexism and discrimination much of my working life, I am disgusted and dismayed by such a suggestion.

I also find it baffling that someone would consider this at all, especially on the back of 2 people suggesting someone else set up the business, take all the risks not only of the practice itself and all that comes with it, but with the additional HR and legal problems this would cause.

If a female client wants a female Accountant, they aren’t difficult to find!

Thanks (13)
By Ruddles
04th Apr 2024 10:06

My non-legal tuppence worth

I know of at least 2 female driving instructors that deal exclusively with female learners. I see nothing wrong with that - in this woke era my view is that a business person should be entitled to deal with (or not to deal with) who they want, provided the reasoning is sound. When it comes to hiring employees, however, where there are specific rules, that is a different matter.

Thanks (4)
Replying to Ruddles:
avatar
By FactChecker
04th Apr 2024 16:15

I was thinking of just that scenario (and know a couple of taxi drivers operating the same way) ... so interesting if the 'divide' entirely relates to 'if employees involved'.

What happened to Sheilas' Wheels (Aussie origin but came over here - car insurance for women drivers only)?

I suspect that the reality, irrespective of legislative aspects (not to be ignored of course), is that market forces and their interaction with societal changes are what mostly drive decisions of this sort. And the general 'mood' now is to avoid any variety of exclusion - although JKR and others will disagree (to some extent).

EDIT: I see it took only a few years for Sheilas' to drop their USP:
"Counselling was also an important part of Sheilas’ Wheels comprehensive cover, and we decided to extend our reach to help men as well as women with driving issues, such as coping with the aftermath of an accident to controlling road rage".

Thanks (3)
Replying to Ruddles:
avatar
By Mr_awol
05th Apr 2024 10:59

I often see FaceBook request on the local town community group for 'any recommendations for a driving instructor - female only please' or such like. I dont get offended by it, but do occasionally ponder how a request for a tradesperson, driving instructor, etc etc etc would be treated if the OP followed up with 'thanks for the suggestion but i only want a bloke to do it'.

I do appreciate that it may be a young female, or a parent of one, who might feel more comfortable with a lady driving instructor. I feel a bit sorry for the male ADIs who, it is inferred by this, must be a bunch of dangerous sex-pests or perverts not to be trusted to give a driving lesson without groping their student.

As such i'm not sure there is ever 'sound reasoning' for choosing your service provider by their gender - merely prejudice and paranoia. I'm all for freedom of choice over who people work with/for but less convinced that those exercising that choice on the basis of gender, etc are any less bigoted just because 'personal preference'.

Thanks (1)
By Duggimon
04th Apr 2024 10:20

I assume, given these women are not allowed to meet with men under any circumstances, that this will be a business where all staff work completely remotely from their own homes, which they never leave?

Otherwise I think control of who you employ and control of who you service is insufficient to guarantee they won't encounter men. Or is there a subsidiary rule where those men they meet when out and about don't count?

It seems untenable and exhausting to me to navigate such an absurd rule while still trying to interact with society at a normal level, but I imagine the entire lives of people compelled by either their own beliefs or the beliefs of others to live like this have entire lives that are untenable and exhausting.

In any event, legalities aside, I can't imagine logistically you will be able to run a business in this manner and get to a sufficient size that anyone will notice the ludicrously sexist policies on which you are founded. Like stealing blades of grass form the park, it's probably technically illegal but nobody will notice.

Thanks (7)
avatar
By johnward
04th Apr 2024 10:29

I doubt religious people would be allowed to reject gay clients because of there religion so I wouldn't think it's the same for woman who don't want men.

Thanks (2)
Replying to johnward:
RLI
By lionofludesch
04th Apr 2024 11:14

johnward wrote:

I doubt bible bashers would be allowed to reject gay clients because of there religion so I wouldn't think it's the same for woman who don't want men.

I dunno - they certainly don't have to bake cakes.

Thanks (1)
Replying to lionofludesch:
avatar
By johnward
04th Apr 2024 11:24

They lost that case in court musn't have got the judge a cake either

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-32065233

Thanks (0)
Replying to johnward:
RLI
By lionofludesch
04th Apr 2024 13:31

johnward wrote:

They lost that case in court musn't have got the judge a cake either

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-32065233

They won on appeal.

Thanks (1)
Replying to lionofludesch:
By coops456
17th Apr 2024 12:19

I think it's important to note that the bakery (Ashers) won their appeal in the Supreme Court only because the court held that the order was rejected due to the slogan requested on the cake rather than because of a protected characteristic, i.e. the customer's sexual orientation.

As LJ Hale said: "It is deeply humiliating, and an affront to human dignity, to deny someone a service because of that person's race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion or belief.
"But that is not what happened in this case."

N.B. The European Court of Human Rights didn't hear the case - it ruled that the case was inadmissible because the customer had not raised Convention rights at any point in the domestic courts. https://hudoc.echr.coe.int/app/conversion/pdf/?library=ECHR&id=003-72211...

Thanks (0)
Replying to lionofludesch:
avatar
By carnmores
04th Apr 2024 12:56

that would be the norther irish protestants perhaps

Thanks (0)
Replying to carnmores:
RLI
By lionofludesch
04th Apr 2024 13:31

carnmores wrote:

that would be the norther irish protestants perhaps

Ashers.

Thanks (0)
Replying to lionofludesch:
avatar
By carnmores
04th Apr 2024 14:05

Hi Lion

I followed the whole case via the Belfast Telegraph :-)

Thanks (0)
Replying to carnmores:
RLI
By lionofludesch
04th Apr 2024 14:20

carnmores wrote:

Hi Lion

I followed the whole case via the Belfast Telegraph :-)

Oh - it was marvellous entertainment.

Has it been to the ECHR yet?

Thanks (0)
Replying to lionofludesch:
avatar
By carnmores
04th Apr 2024 14:32

wasnt it just! not to my knowledge religious freedom and all that

Thanks (0)
Replying to carnmores:
avatar
By johnward
04th Apr 2024 15:16

I think you should be calling them British :)

Thanks (0)
Replying to johnward:
avatar
By carnmores
04th Apr 2024 15:23

NO NO NO ;-)

Thanks (0)
Replying to carnmores:
RLI
By lionofludesch
04th Apr 2024 16:02

carnmores wrote:

NO NO NO ;-)

[chuckle]

Thanks (0)
avatar
By taxdigital
04th Apr 2024 10:36

bmariam89 wrote:

For curiosity, if I were to only accept female clients and only have all female staff, is that considered discrimination or could I do it as type of targeted client? Something of a point for female clients who may prefer a female accountant.

Edit - in the absence of a written constitution - the Human Rights Act 1998 (+European Convention on Human Rights) gives you all the freedom to pursue whatever business activity you have in mind so long as you operate within the boundaries set by various other laws. In deciding to serve only a particular section of the society I don't think discrimination laws should be in point. If that was case then we would never have heard about 'Islamic Finance' which gets niche-marketed. With that all said I believe that religious beliefs should be a very personal matter and shouldn't be subject matter for a public discussion.

Thanks (1)
Replying to taxdigital:
avatar
By bernard michael
04th Apr 2024 10:48

taxdigital wrote:

bmariam89 wrote:

For curiosity, if I were to only accept female clients and only have all female staff, is that considered discrimination or could I do it as type of targeted client? Something of a point for female clients who may prefer a female accountant.

Edit - in the absence of a written constitution - the Human Rights Act 1998 (+European Convention on Human Rights) gives you all the freedom to pursue whatever business activity you have in mind so long as you operate within the boundaries set by various other laws. In deciding to serve only a particular section of the society I don't think discrimination laws should be in point. If that was case then we would never have heard about 'Islamic Finance' which gets niche-marketed. With that all said I believe that religious beliefs should be a very personal matter and shouldn't be subject matter for a public discussion.


It may not be religious belief just pure misogyny
Thanks (1)
Replying to bernard michael:
avatar
By mumpin
04th Apr 2024 11:19

Don't you mean misandry?

Thanks (6)
Replying to mumpin:
RLI
By lionofludesch
04th Apr 2024 11:21

mumpin wrote:

Don't you mean misandry?

Absolutely.

Thanks (1)
Replying to taxdigital:
Danny Kent
By Viciuno
04th Apr 2024 11:16

Although I've never tried, I don't believe Islamic Finance is only available to Muslims.

Thanks (5)
Replying to Viciuno:
avatar
By taxdigital
04th Apr 2024 12:27

I've no clue what Islamic finance is about: I was just driving home a point. In any case I don't believe in a professional going down the religious route to advance their business interests.

Thanks (1)
Replying to Viciuno:
avatar
By Rgab1947
05th Apr 2024 11:02

True.

Thanks (0)
avatar
By lesley.barnes
04th Apr 2024 10:47

Ignoring the legal side which I'm not qualified to comment on.

As an accountant I can't see how this would work, this seems really extreme. Partners of female clients drop off their accounts, when I meet with clients their partners sometimes come along. Are you going to stick a notice on the office door - no males allowed? You can't police who these females will meet. What will they do if a male answers the phone when they call a client or HMRC drop it like a hot potato? How could they hope to deal with anything associated with their roles.
You would be making a big problem for yourself, if you can't ensure 100% they don't come into contact with males what will happen then? Presumably they will require employee contracts that state they don't deal with males. You might not see them again until they are in an employment tribunal if it all goes wrong.

Are they qualified accountants - if so how did they obtain their qualifications? Surely their training can't have been in an all female enviroment with only female clients?

If they want to start a business let them do it on their own.

Thanks (3)
avatar
By bmariam89
04th Apr 2024 11:59

Thank you for all your comments. I will take in consideration. Like I said, it was for curiosity sake as I have warned one of them that it would be difficult, if not impossible not to have any contact at all with males and I wouldn't always be able to communicate on their behalf.

Before I start my own practice, I would like to consider all aspects, even the most outlandish and weigh them. Although I would like to help them get to their own feet, I do not want to discriminate or make promises to future staff that I can't keep.

Thanks (4)
Replying to bmariam89:
avatar
By FactChecker
04th Apr 2024 16:33

Hadn't realised you were still at the planning stage for yourself - so the key points that may be relevant to you from amongst all the comments above are IMHO:

- Marketing a business with a strong focus is not the same as excluding/refusing to provide services outside that focus ... the former is fine, the latter problematical;
- An employer who tries (but can't guarantee) to provide a specific environment for certain employees would be tough but do'able; but providing those assurances to co-partners beyond foolish.

If you feel that there is a viable market within those constraints, then you might want to consider (preferably *after* establishing your core business) setting-up a 'sub-division' which offers to match clients and staff with the same criteria (in this case female only).
BUT that'd be a big gamble (hence get one business up and running first); and could prove quite a drain on your profits (unless you feel those clients would pay a hefty premium for the special service).

Thanks (7)
avatar
By DonDan
04th Apr 2024 12:05

Ignoring all the other valid points about this clearly being sexist and (probably ) not legal, wouldn't it be easier for them to provide you with subcontracted accounting services so they are only dealing with you and you deal with the clients ?

Thanks (3)
Replying to DonDan:
avatar
By mumpin
04th Apr 2024 12:17

Easier still, open a beauticians!

Thanks (1)
Replying to mumpin:
avatar
By bmariam89
04th Apr 2024 12:24

Between me and my husband, my husband would be the one visiting one.

Thanks (2)
Replying to DonDan:
avatar
By bmariam89
04th Apr 2024 12:22

If I am not wrong, unless they provide their services to other accountants, I may be in breach on not employing staff that are technically mine.

But if that were to be correct, that would help them and myself. They would have either limited contact with males or none that they don't wish for. I could then accept everyone according to their risk factor and at the same time help these women.

Personally, I like to not discriminate even against people who discriminate against myself, as long as no one is getting hurt or any crime is being committed.

Thanks (1)
Replying to bmariam89:
avatar
By Leywood
04th Apr 2024 12:58

Why can they not set up in practice themselves?

How do you know these people?

Thanks (2)
By SteveHa
04th Apr 2024 15:43

How would they get on with transgender clients, male clients who identify as female (or vice versa), etc.

I'd walk away from any such suggestion with no further consideration.

Thanks (3)
Replying to SteveHa:
avatar
By kim.shaw-and-co.com
05th Apr 2024 03:01

SteveHa wrote:

How would they get on with transgender clients, male clients who identify as female (or vice versa), etc.

Indeed ... considering gender now appears to be a matter of self-identification rather than biological determination it's hard to know how such distinctions can be drawn unless discrimination occurs either overtly or subvertly through bias.

Perhaps the 'Crocodile Dundee' test is intended to "accidentally" form part of the interview process ?

Thanks (0)

Pages