The Labour Party has begun to set out firm plans to democratise the corporate world.
Currently, it is unclear quite how far this will extend with regard to the accountancy profession. At present, the talk is of companies and that would certainly include the small number of firms set up with a corporate structure but presumably also those that use service companies to pay employees ie most of the larger practices.
The present proposals will only apply to those employing at least 250 workers, although who knows whether, if the plan is successful, they could extend downwards in the not too distant future.
The bare bones are set out in an article published in City AM today.
"Under the new plans, companies with a workforce of 250 or more, regardless of whether they are public or private, would be required to reserve at least a third of positions in the boardroom for employee representatives.
"The change would force companies to have a minimum of two employee representatives regardless of board size, and stipulate that representatives would have to be members of a trade union."
Picking off one of the minor points, it might be hard for the accountancy industry to identify a trade union that would be appropriate for those employees who are most likely to get the nod from their colleagues to become employee representatives. I'm not sure that the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales or its equivalents would be that happy about being referred to as trade unions.
Putting that aside for the moment, the implications are fascinating, particularly as these new directors would have to be "paid at a level equal to other board members". That last point alone should cause significant controversy. I'd love to sit in on a board meeting at PwC, where they discussed giving (say) a popular junior and a janitor something in the region of £1m a year.
While typical companies might not be that concerned about having employee directors from a control point of view, since by definition they would be in a minority with little influence unless the other directors were at odds with each other, the same might not apply to partnerships.
In my experience, there generally tends to be a reasonable degree of democracy and a great deal of disagreement around management board tables in mid-size firms of accountants. In such a scenario, if the employee stakeholders chose to join up with one faction or other, they could literally affect the future of the firm, for example determining whether or not it sells out to a competitor.
The discussions over general pay levels would also be stormy one would imagine, once again possibly threatening the future of the business.
Looked at from a different perspective, I can only say that I feel great pity for anyone stupid enough to put themselves up for such a role. If my own Experiences anything to go by, partnership meetings are deadly dull.
The worthies who get themselves elected to these roles would be obliged to spend hours on end discussing the sizes of paper clips, bad behaviour by partners with rather too strong a taste for alcohol and the technical aspects of the latest auditing or tax edict from the Institute or, if the Labour Party does call a second referendum which goes the other way, the European Union.
Frankly, I'm almost tempted to vote for Labour since if the party gets into power, we will have fun times ahead of us.
About The Imprudent Accountant
Someone who should know better, but can't resist the occasional rant about the more exasperating aspects of the accountancy profession.