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We deliver the best recruitment news and advice to the Tax, Legal, Finance, HR and Marketing sectors, including market updates, CV tips, interview advice, and exclusive interviews.

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Hiring an Interim Finance Professional - Benefits to an Employer

With the many changes to the economy, business activity and ways of working; A relatively recent development in the recruitment and job industry is that many employees are choosing to quit their positions in a company to work as a freelancer/contractor instead. As working from home and digital independance is on the rise, fixed-term contracts are becoming a popular option for those who don’t want to be tied down to a specific employer or who have been made readily available to employment due to redundancies during the pandemic. There are many reasons why hiring an interim finance professional may benefit your firm, but here are just five: 1. Flexibility HIring an interim finance professional or contractor allows you to meet business demands and manage fluctuations in the market. You may need to bridge a gap in your team temporarily, or bolster your team for a crucial deadline. There is more flexibility with a contracting than permanent employment, meaning that you can bring in workers during busy periods to help relieve the pressure on your permanent staff. 2. Cost Efficient Freelancers/Contractors do not require the additional provisions which are expected by a permanent member of staff, which may include additional costs to total remuneration. By very definition, contractors and freelance staff will work with you knowing they are only there to fulfil a role in a temporary time. Outsourcing contractors only when you need them is a more efficient way of running a business, and makes sure that you never have employees left with nothing to do. 3. Highly skilled with broader experience You will find that the majority of finance contractors come with a wide range of skills due to the number of assignments they have posted themselves to. Hiring a temporary contractor is incredibly useful in cases where you have a ‘gap’ in your company resources that needs to be filled for a short period of time; contracting is the best way to bring in someone with particular knowledge and skills when a specialist is required for a project. 4. Quicker hiring process With an interim professional or contractor you are hiring a specific skill set for a predefined period of time. Therefore the hiring process can be quicker as you do not have to factor in the cultural fit of the individual to the organisation and you can just concentrate on the requirements for the specific skill set. Less management is required when working with contractors, as they often only need a briefing or outline before going away and completing a task under their own esteem. 5. Try before you buy If you’re looking to develop a new role within your team, hiring an interim member of staff will allow you to test the waters and really help you shape a role within your team before having to put resources into onboarding a permanent member of staff. If you are really impressed with the work of a contractor, you can offer them a permanent role in your company at the end of their short-term employment. In summary, interim finance experts provide a efficient solution for organisations experiencing a staffing crisis. However, they can also inject specialist skills, deal with fluctuating workflow or form part of a business transformation project. A contract worker is hired on a fixed-term contract in order to offer their services to your business or work as part of a project. Typically, they are paid an hourly or daily rate and usually work independently. For more information about how an interim finance professional can help your oganisation, contact Petra on  07791 400 731 or email petra.brown@pro-recruitment.co.uk  

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IR35 - What's Changed?

For years, the stigma of IR35 has been a concern for working Contractors across the board in the Public Sector, however, up until now the ‘impossibility’ of HMRC policing such an issue has allowed the majority of contractors to operate outside (whether they legitimately are or not!). So what has changed? As of 6th April this year, the liability on IR35 status and correct tax reductions have shifted from the contractor’s Personal Service Company (PSC) to the end client and agency payrolling the contractor. Before 6 April 2021, if your worker provides services to a client through you in the: Public sector, the client must decide your employment status Private sector, you must decide your worker’s status From 6 April 2021, all public sector clients and medium or large-sized private sector clients will be responsible for deciding your worker’s employment status. This includes some charities and third sector organisations. If the off-payroll working rules apply, your fees will be subject to Income Tax and National Insurance contributions. What does this mean and what have been the ramifications thus far? Well, the most apparent change is everyone involved has become more risk-averse, in the fear of being liable for up to 7 years of back-dated tax payments to HMRC. The end organisations, who are legally responsible for deeming whether an assignment falls inside or out, are largely taking the risk-free approach and are stating that everyone is ‘inside’. This has, in turn, meant that each assignment has received less interest by true professional interim contractors (who are used to consultancy-like assignments), and has limited the talent pool. For those that have accepted the changes, it has meant that they have to operate through an additional intermediary, such as an Umbrella company – where the contractor is forced to pay full tax and National Insurance (at 13.8%) at the source. Conversely, we have seen many contractors who have put themselves through the HMRC tool, deemed themselves as out, and have the prerogative to challenge the clients and ask at least for the due diligence that has led to their ‘inside’ decision. We have also seen a number of Housing and Charitable organisations who have managed to stipulate, quite confidently, that they are outside, and have been able to offer ‘outside’ IR35 assignments. The risk that professional interims take differs to that of a permanent member of staff. When professional interim finish an assignment there is no guarantee that they will secure the next assignment anytime soon. A contractor could quite easily see themselves out of work 2-3 months at any time whilst they look for another opportunity. A lot of interims also have their own specialist remits such as a particular system implementation, culture transformation and reviewing financial processes and procedures to name a few. Professional interims are important for all companies going through change. Change can be difficult for any organisation that is going through the transition as it means going into something new without reassurance that it is going to work for the better. A lot of projects/assignments focus around someone who has gone through this change period and perform the same project for different organisations. If every permanent member of staff stayed at their company for a year on average just to move on to another company this would cause a huge disruption in the market. One of the important factors for someone to consider permanent over interim is having that security and stability. Every person is different and in the same respect, everyone’s motivators are different. With the IR35 changes, should contractors really have to take a hit in the public sector whilst the private sector remains unaffected? For more information about this article, or to speak to Petra about your interim finance recruiting needs in London or Nationwide, contact her on 020 7269 6350 or petra.brown@pro-finance.co.uk.

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Market Update from Pro-Group: Pat Keogh - Chairman January 2021

Hello, a quick update on the recruitment market from me, Pat Keogh, Chairman of the Pro-Recruitment Group. January 2021 We've been asked recently by a number of candidates "What's the state of the Market like?", and if you know us, we cover the Tax, Legal, Finance, Marketing & HR sectors. All five sectors are really strong, and we've been really pleased with the number of new vacancies registered by the organisations we work with. Surprisingly, 2020 was a very good year for a number of our clients, especially the professional services firms, law firms and accountancy firms. Even a lot of our Not-For-Profit sectors and tax commerce and industry surprisingly had a really good year. And that's been reflected by their levels of recruitment. We have a large number of vacancies we are looking to fill. It's really a character of the market, and that might be a surprise to a lot of people, but candidates and those now looking for new opportunities now have a really good choice of roles out there, clients are really keen to recruit and some have really aggressive growth plans. Many organisations are seeing this time as a good opportunity to grow their business and grow their headcount. If you are looking and considering moving, it's definitely worth exploring the market. Do call us, do explore our website and you will be really surprised to see the number of vacancies out there. Come and speak to us. We will give you good solid advice. We will always give you the best advice as to your career options. Ot's definitely a good market, so definitely give one of our team a call.

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5 Lessons We've Learned from Lockdown

What have we learned from lockdown? There’s no doubt that this year's events and pandemic have taken a huge toll on all of us, mentally, financially and economically, however there are plenty of lessons learnt that will allow us to improve ways of working, our lifestyles and our personal wellbeing going forward. Not for one minute am I suggesting the lockdown was a positive experience however I am a believer in looking for the positives in every situation and I cannot deny the lockdown has helped us learn several lessons.  Technology is the future For many years we have often heard clients say that we are not set up to work from home or have the infrastructure to support this. As a result of the pandemic it has accelerated the need for businesses to change their infrastructure and modernise their approach! Technology has enabled us to stay connected and allowed us to communicate with our friends, families and colleagues through some challenging times. Video calling and virtual meetings are now the norm and working from home is no longer viewed with trepidation and fear from Senior Management. If there is one thing we can take from the last few months it is that our employees can be trusted to perform effectively from home and that the working world has changed forever.  Flexibility is here to stay  How many of us have had the discussion with colleagues around flexible hours and working days? My guess, would be a considerable high amount! Well moving forward flexible working will no longer be ‘sold’ by companies as an additional benefit but will just be the norm for employees. No longer will individuals feel compelled to be at their desk 8.30am - 5.30pm but they will be empowered to manage their working day around other commitments and the focus will be on meeting key deliverables rather than time spent at a laptop!  Time is precious  Lockdown has meant life has changed to a slower pace. Gone are the days where our diaries are filled with meetings and social events and long commutes being squashed on tubes or trains. Personally, I am saving 4 hours per day not commuting to the office and I certainly have seen the benefits. Whilst I miss seeing my colleagues, I am using the time I am saving to take extra rest, spend with my family or exercise. I am ‘switched off’ from work at a good time to allow me to enjoy my evening without the rush-hour commute.  Lockdown has given us the space to reflect on the effects our busy working live has on our personal life and re-establish our priorities leading to some permanent, constructive changes.  Home is no longer a “pit stop”! "Don’t be like race car drivers and treat home like a pit stop” HBR Review. Before 2020, home for most people was unfortunately treated as a fueling station, a space to eat and sleep before heading out to work again and facing the early morning commute. Lockdown, and this pandemic has allowed all of us to treat our homes as more of a sanctuary, people are now spending more quality time together with their families and loved ones.  Putting our health first  According to YouGov, Covid-19 has resulted in 300,000 people giving up smoking, and has led to a further 550,000 trying to quit. The hashtag #QuitForCOVID has circled around Twitter in order to warn of the higher risks and severity of coronavirus on smokers. Personally, with the daily commutes, and the aforementioned ‘pit stops’, unconsciously I had been taking my health for granted through eating at ridiculous times and having little exercise. Throughout the last few months though, exercise has suddenly become a “no-brainer” and far easier to fit into my daily plan. I cannot use the ‘I don’t have time’ excuse anymore and on a personal level, I have seen the benefits through weight loss, feeling healthier and my individual mental wellbeing.  What other benefits have you taken from lockdown? I’d be keen to hear your thoughts on how you’ve utilised your extra time this year. Please give me a call on 020 7269 6349 or email tom.eagle@pro-finance.co.uk

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Finance Practice vs. Industry: The Big Debate

Once you become a newly qualified accountant, you will inevitably come up against the decision of whether to build a career in practice or to move into an industry role. Both have their pros and cons, and your decision will ultimately come down to what type of person you are and what is important to you in your career. Making this decision can often feel daunting, but our specialist finance recruiters have put together key advice to help you make an informed decision! Recession Proof? Those who have worked through recent recessions and the current 2020 pandemic will share the same sentiment that those working in financial services have experienced reductions in their teams, but for most firms money movement is important, which explains why financial professionals are always in demand. Accountants, Auditors, Actuaries, Claims Specialists, Tax Preparers, Insurance Underwriters — the list of financial service jobs is long and varied, however, in good times or in bad, everyone needs to file a tax return or oversee their accounts, Auditors, see consistent demand during recessions. Financial regulations don’t go away during recessions, so neither does demand for Auditors.  From my daily conversations, and understanding of the recovery from the last recession, I have found that Practice is the safer route for newly qualified accountancy professionals, particularly those looking to specialise in Audit. When reflecting on earlier in they year, when the nation went into flux, many accountancy firms reduced their team sizes and made cuts to keep their operations profitable and afloat. However, upon entering the second lockdown, they are far more technically prepared, and recuiting Auditors in practice is again on the rise, with many firms now recruiting as normal, albeit virtually. Type of Work Many newly qualified accountants are attracted to industry roles because the companies themselves often seem more interesting, or just because they’re not audit roles! But in reality, although moving from practice to industry gives you the opportunity to use your skills in a very different environment, roles in industry can lack variation and excitement. You will find yourself working on the same or similar things on a day-to-day basis and you will most likely lose the client-facing aspect of a role in practice. If you are looking to be involved in the business development side of the firm you work for, you are best to seek a role within practice as opposed to industry where business development focused roles tend to be limited. As well as this, with a finance practice role, you will find you have a varied workload and responsibilities with certain busy periods throughout the year. Depending on your firm and department, your work could be audit, tax-focused, or accounts-focused to name but a few, and you will have autonomy in your work. Every week will see you working with different clients across different types of work that can vary in size and topic. Salary & Benefits Newly qualified accountants are often drawn into industry with an attractive pay rise compared to starting salaries within practice. Salaries within industry for a new-qualified accountant are typically around the £45,000 mark, occasionally going up to around £55,000 in certain sectors like Financial Services. However, the initial pay gap between industry and practice has reduced considerably and the salary for a newly-qualified candidate within practice can actually be higher than in industry, with many firms now matching the money offered in order to retain the best talent. Not only this, if you were to stay in practice and become a future Director or Partner, the pay would more than equal itself out and you would be looking at earning more further down the line. When it comes to benefits, packages in industry are very variable depending on the sector and business, however, more often than not they do include a bonus and a wide variety of benefits. Benefits within practice are typically better for two reasons - they are better-established companies with defined risk & reward teams, and you will also receive benefits in line with longevity of service, compared to industry where it would be a new role. Working Hours Industry roles tend to be busy when it comes to month-end but, again, that is very dependent on the size of the business. Practice roles will have seasonally busy periods throughout the year, but it’s also important to note that accountancy firms are very bottom-heavy meaning there will always be juniors carrying out work that is perhaps more menial, which is often not the case within industry. Typically, working in an industry role offers the opportunity to have a better work-life balance, with regular working hours and no late nights in the office! However, improving work-life balance is something that a lot of firms are increasingly working towards for their employees. The Big 4, for example, are not known for having the best work-life balance but this is improving on a daily basis with more firms understanding the value a healthy work-life balance adds to employee happiness. Progression Prospects Progression will depend entirely on the organisation and its structure. It can be possible to progress quickly within industry depending on your personal performance, as these companies do not have a rigid structure. However, progression within these companies is often very competitive! Teams tend to be smaller and while this is good in terms of extra responsibility, these teams typically do not offer a set career path and it is more difficult to stand out. On the other hand, a finance role in practice tends to offer a clear career progression path. This is particularly true when you get towards higher levels and there are targets to hit to move up in the company. The path for progression is very clear and structured into people’s careers, all the way up to Partner with equity in the firm, and CPD training and development is often a primary focus. Ease of Finding a New Opportunity If you are looking to move from practice into industry you will find yourself in a highly competitive market, particularly if you have trained in a smaller practice as you will be competing against Big 4 ACA qualified candidates, as well as industry-trained CIMA/ACCA candidates who will have more relevant experience in industry-specific roles. Therefore, it is often worth moving into a Big 4 or Top 10 firm to gain the experience and skills needed to open up a range of options for your next career step - whether this be a move into an industry role, a role at a smaller practice or SME, or remaining and progressing within a larger firm. Once you have chosen a route in industry it can be difficult to move sector or change your role type. For example, if your first move from practice to industry is within a Financial Accountant role, you will rarely be able to move within the same company to a Management Accountant role. It can also be challenging to move back into practice if you change your mind later down the line, particularly after a period of time longer than 12-18 months, as advances in the profession and working towards the new reporting standards would require a significant catch-up. However, within practice there is room for movement between different aspects of the business, offering variation and the chance to decide what type of role is best for you. Ultimately, your decision will come down to what type of work suits you and what you want from your career as a finance professional. If you are looking for a role within a company whose brand and household name excites you, then a role in industry may suit you. However, if you are looking for a client-facing role that offers autonomy and variation in your day-to-day responsibilities with a clearly defined career path, you should pursue a finance role in practice. For more information on this article, or for advice on your next career move into a finance role in practice, contact Jordanne on 020 7269 6353 or jordanne.napier@pro-finance.co.uk.

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Calls for a Job Retention Scheme in the Charity and Not-for-Profit sector

30 charity leaders have written to the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, requesting the need for  a job-retention scheme for the Charity & Not-for-Profit Sector. Civil society leaders call for the Chancellor to reassess decisions to ensure communities are supported, and fund  as the best way to recover from the pandemic. The letter highlighted that the sector faces a “critical dilemma” and calls for a tailored job retention programme.  The coalition is led by the Charity Finance Group and backed by over thirty other UK organisations, including the Chartered Institute of Fundraising, Association of Charitable Foundations, Acevo (the charity leaders’ body) and the Small Charities Coalition. They represent thousands of charities and social enterprises nationally across the UK.  The request for a time-limited scheme that enables organisations in the sector to furlough staff and allow them to volunteer their time and skills back to their not-for-profit, public benefit employer has been raised by the group for the Chancellor’s consideration. The letter highlights that the sector faces a “critical dilemma” and calls for a tailored job retention programme.  “The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme was an exceptionally generous scheme which was welcomed by the sector and which charities and social enterprises have availed themselves of during its first phase,” the letter states. “However, as a scheme designed predominantly with private enterprise in mind, it had the perverse effect of incentivising mothballing of provision and not mobilisation. It finishes with, “It is counterproductive to be paying for a charity or social enterprise employee to stop working when our citizens so desperately need helplines, advice, support and guidance; whether on mental health, unemployment, homelessness or loneliness and isolation.”  From my perspective as a recruiter in the NFP and charities space, a delayed response for the need of support in the third sector space can be detrimental to charities delivering their services in these unprecedented times. It certainly is a ‘social dilemma’: Access the government’s job retention scheme to save on salary costs, and thereby closing or reducing vital services, or risk financial collapse.  The sector is so well served by those giving their time and skills on a voluntary basis, and yet employees who often work in the sector because of the cause and wanting to make a difference are unable to do so if they want too. Whilst this rule was undoubtedly made to stop rogue employers abusing the scheme and employee’s rights; should the charity sector be different?  I am interested in hearing your thoughts? Some have had the added cost of seeking short term, and part time interim flexible workers to help and we have certainly seen an increase in demand for part time and shorter term flexible interim workers. Please reach out on 020 7269 6351 or email me claire.stradling@pro-recruitment.co.uk

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900km run for CALM charity

With the impact of the pandemic this year taking a huge toll on people’s mental wellbeing, myself and 8 others at Pro-Recruitment Group have decided to raise money for CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) a small but growing charity, to support their campaigns, increase awareness, and offer our support. ​ Sadly, suicide rates have increased dramatically in both male and female in 2020, with Male suicide rate being at the highest for two decades. CALM is leading a movement against suicide, the single biggest killer of men under the age of 45 in the UK. CALM runs a free and confidential helpline 0800 58 58 58 and webchat 7 hours a day, 7 days a week for anyone who needs to talk about life’s problems, as well as help from other organisations.  CALM has experienced a record surge in demand for our helpline recently… 37% more daily calls in the first week of the Spring lockdown, to be precise. That’s why, during this second lockdown, myself, Rebecca English, Jennifer Nelson, Kevin Racher, Ashleigh Polakiewicz, Dominic Watt, Chris Davey, Tom Eagle and George Tatnell are aiming to run 100km each during a 30 day period to raise money and awareness for CALM, and hopefully improving our own mental wellbeing at the same time! With fundraising events being cancelled due to the pandemic, this charity needs our help more than ever - help fund CALM's life-saving helpline and webchat. Just £8 pays for a call that could turn someone’s life around. We understand that times are tough, however if you would like to donate, please visit our JustGiving funding page, where any donation is extremely appreciated. Stay tuned to socials for updates on our progress!               

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The Money Trap – Why you should avoid progressing in salary without progressing in experience

So, I am going to tell you a story about an Audit professional in a small accountancy firm in London…  This Audit professional is very keen to progress their career and when they finally finish the ACA, they receive an offer from a bigger firm that gives them access to a range of sectors, better experience, bigger brand on the CV, more audit, more experience to be surrounded by etc. The offer is a good one! They currently receive a £38,000 salary and the firm have offered them £45,000 + bonuses & benefits. They are really happy, they resign within minutes and then every Partner comes into the room and they demand they stay, the Partners in the firm love them, the firm is pushing for them to be a Partner one day and here is an offer for £50,000 as a Manager! Excellent! The audit professional reluctantly accepts the counter offer, but what they didn’t realise was that the Manager title doesn’t actually come with any different experience. They are still leading audits as a Senior, not directly managing clients or a team. A year later, they realise they still want to move to a bigger firm, partnership isn’t coming, and so they start looking for a Manager role and their current firm has already increased the current salary to £52,500. Suddenly, the audit professional finds they receive very little interest from other firms for Manager roles (as they do the work of a Manager). They get frustrated with recruiters explaining that a move as a Senior is more likely and the possibility of taking a salary drop. They continue to hold out but get no success with any of the bigger firms. The audit professional results in getting an offer of £48,000 as an Audit Senior and their current firm counter-offering with £55,000 again. Here we are again, in this same circle, should they fall for the money trap yet again?​ This tale is common, one that I have come across many times every year and I feel it is my responsibility to widen the awareness of small experience and high salaries. This is not just for audit, this is for all professions and sectors. It’s not just counter-offers, it’s starting offers and just overpaying out of desperation. It is far easier (and much cheaper) for a firm struggling to find staff, to offer you £5k-£10k more and the promise of progression or a fancy job title than to say ok, good luck and scour the market for another Audit Senior (recruitment fee, training, time out of Partner/Manager schedules). It pains me to say this but it is possible their interests come far above yours. That is cynical but I have seen it time and time again – “you will be made a Partner within a year”... to be a Partner you need portfolio management, business development experience, a large network developed over years - do you have this? Always be conscious of your skill level, role and salary. It’s great you are getting a raise but is it ridiculous that you are doing the same job to the same standard, not learning anything new and now earning £15,000 more than you were when you started? Probably. My golden rule would be to make sure you are conscious of how much you are developing, how much you have to learn, the internal structure of your organisation (does progression come with change or just a title?) and be honest with yourself. If you find yourself in the position where you are pricing yourself out of the audit market, do not panic but be reasonable. You may have to drop down in title, you may have to drop in salary – short term pain for long term gain; if it gets you to the right firm and the start of a big learning curve, it’s worth it! The key thing to consider is your long term goal, as difficult as it is, take the money out of the decision and consider which opportunity pushes you closer to where you aim to be. If I or any of my team at Pro-Finance can help you with any of your audit and finance  recruiting needs or advise you on your next steps in your career, please give me a call on 020 7269  6357

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Pat Keogh - Pro Group - October 2020 Update

Here is a quick update on the markets we cover from Pro-Recruitment Group's Managing Director, Pat Keogh. It's no surprise that all five of our markets, tax, legal, finance, marketing and HR slowed down earlier this year, but we were really encouraged when we brought everyone back fully in September, there were clear signs and green shoots across all five divisions. It was slightly stunted when we had to go back to a work-from-home strategy, but we are hoping that will lift soon. That said, all markets are still responding well. A lot of organisations are taking the opportunity to obnboard remotely. There are a few clients who are more gung-ho than others, and some a recruiting in serious numbers, which is pleasing to see. On the candidate side, unfortunately there are a lot who are now immediately available, through no fault of thier own, but due to current market conditions. There are plenty of skilled professionals who are immediately available, so its a great time to recruit if that is your strategy. We are producing a monthly market-tracker which will allow us to keep you informed of recruiting trends, covering professionals seeking new roles and opportunities available on the market. Do sign up to receive our newsletters. We haven't seen a single market without an increase, understandably it has been relatively flat market since March, but more recently we are seeing monthly increases in jobs being registered with us, which is very encouraging. The approach we have taken as a business is that we are looking to help kick-start the economy. Of course, whilst balancing the safety of our teams and those around us. We are currently working remotely, whilst allowing those who prefer to safely come into the office the opportunity to do so. This is paramount in us ensuring we are servicing all of our clients and candidates alike. I hope this gives you a bit of an insight into where the market is at. Feel free to pick up the phone to me directly, I am more than happy to share market intel and looking to share this information as regularly as we can. We are always here and our lines of communications are always here to help you with your reruitment needs. For now, stay safe and speak soon!

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COVID-19: How it affected my maternity leave, my business and changed my focus!

With many returning to work in the office, and new patterns of working emerging across the employment landscape, the Director Team here at Pro-Recruitment Group are sharing their experiences and insights around the returning to work post COVID-19 Alison Humphries, Board Director, shares her experience of returning to the workplace after maternity leave, and rediscovering the unprecedented new ways of working. Alison: I am one of the owners of Pro-Recruitment, I have been in the business for 13 years and been in the working world for 20 years without ever really having time off. I went straight from education to work, even in my teen years I worked on weekends. Other than a 2-week holiday or a few extra days over the Christmas period I am admittedly a bit of a self-confessed workaholic! In October 2019 as I walked out of the office I was about to embark on a new journey through maternity leave…I was excited, I was nervous, I was scared. I was about to have a baby, my body, my heart and my head were about to be turned upside-down and on top of that I had to relinquish control of my business . To say this was going to be hard was an understatement, as i've been involved throughout the whole 'Pro-Journey', but after working with so many experienced consultants and developing and training a knowledgeable Management Team, I knew it was being left in good hands. Fast-forward to January 2020 I’d given birth to a beautiful little girl called Charlotte, everything was starting to get back to normal and I was feeling like my old self. Everything at work was going so well, I had been into the office and all of my teams were reporting success. As an owner of the business I was keen to know how the company was performing (that’s the workaholic in me), so I had committed to attend every Board Meeting from January onwards and I was so pleased that things were going so well. Maternity leave wasn’t so bad…I booked myself and my daughter onto swimming lessons, rhythm time, baby sensory…you name it we had signed up for it. It was important to me that Charlotte was sociable from day one and that I made some mummy friends in the local area. My focus slowly changed and allowed me to realign myself from the workaholic and enjoy being a mother. The Unthinkable  During the week we would stay at our flat in London and at the weekend, we would head to a place that we had recently bought in the Midlands as it was close to my family. On March the 15th I waved my other half off to work. Unexpectedly I got a call at midday, he was coming home that evening and working from home indefinitely. The UK was being hit hard by COVID-19, it wasn’t going away and businesses across the country were telling people to work from home. Luckily for us at Pro-Group, we already had the infrastructure in place for us to make that swift move without causing to much disruption to our day-to-day work. Pro-Recruitment made this decision on March 15th and then what was to follow was unthinkable. We went into lockdown on March 23rd. The range of emotions that followed included fear, anxiety and dread. I had brought a baby into the world and this was our generation's war. Were we going to survive, how serious was all of this if the world was now in lockdown. Pro-Group was impacted heavily, like everyone else in the UK, we were moved to reduce our team size, we had to think strategically, we had to act fast, we had no idea how long this was going to last and if we were even going to have a business at the end of this. I was being informed of decisions that were being made, furlough schemes that we were using and many other things that were impacting our business and we had no control over any of it. I wanted to be involved in calls, decisions, meetings that were loaded with information, but I also had a baby that was breastfeeding, teething and was struggling to sleep - finding this balance was challenging, but upon reflecting, it feels like an accomplishment to balance work and life as this extreme level. How could we make this a more positive experience? We had to make this a positive experience, it became apparent as places like Wuhan started to ease their lockdown that this wasn’t going to last forever, we would come out of the other side. I  took advantage of the time that we had as a new family of 3. My partner was there for every bath time and bedtime, he was there when we were having a bad day of crying just to ease things for me, even if it was only for half an hour so I could shower and have a cup of tea. We took advantage of the late summer evenings and beautiful weather; we have transformed our garden and I have become somewhat a pair of “green fingers”. We made time for each other and made every evening a time to cook, talk and enjoy dinner together. We became really close to our neighbours and would now consider them friends. All of these things would be interrupted ordinarily by work, travel and other outside factors. August came around, before I knew it I was thinking about heading back to work on 1st September. Our business had halved, I had relocated and life was so different. I had to put Charlotte into nursery and think of a back to work plan. Given the amount that I had been in touch with Pro-Group whilst I had been on maternity leave we started talking about my return fairly early on. I had a plan, a strategy and lots of time to think about how we could get out of the other side of this pandemic. Pro-Group had been excellent in considering my return to work I have come back to work 3 days a week and 1 day is working from home. I have the full support of my co-Directors and walking back into the office on Tuesday 1st September was daunting. It felt as if it was my first day at school again, I was nervous, had I forgotten how to do this? Turns out I haven’t thankfully, in fact I am even more focussed now than I have ever been. With only 3 days a week at work every minute counts. I have to be extremely productive on those days, I have time on the train to work and think of ways in which I can help my team, I am refreshed when I get to work and I feel like I have a new found energy and enthusiasm to help my company out of a slow market and back to winning ways. ​In Summary Maternity leave was completely interrupted by lockdown and COVID-19, but I tried to make the very best out of a very disruptive situation. I don’t feel like I have stood still for six months, the world hasn’t passed me by, I have had time to re-energise, re-focus and be in a better mindset coming out of this. Whilst it saddens me that the business I have helped to build for 13 years has changed dramatically, I have managed to better my personal life in a way I hadn’t imagined I would. In my opinion, flexible working and taking into account a good work-life balance and a happy home life is the most important thing in the world and allows you to be at your best when you leave your house in the morning ready to face whatever the world throws at you. For advice and information about returning to work after maternity leave, or for a more detailed discussion with Alison about her experience, email alison.humphries@pro-tax.co.uk or call on 020 7269 6312

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March 2020: Finance Movers and Shakers

Stay up-to-date with the movers and shakers in the finance sector. Here are the key movements in March 2020: EY have announced the appointment of Hywel Ball as EY UK & Ireland Regional Managing Partner and UK Chair, effective 1st July 2020. Ball will be responsible for leading the business in the UK and Ireland, succeeding Steve Varley, who has been appointed as the first EY Global Vice Chair – Sustainability. Financemoves.co.uk Thomas Westcott has appointed Ian Pring as Partner based in the firm’s Plymouth office. Pring has joined following a 30-year career at PKF Francis Clark, where he was Director of the firm’s Property and Wealth teams. Accountancydaily.co UHY Hacker Young have appointed Tracey Moore as Head of Charities and Not-for-Profit. She takes over from Subarna Banerjee who has headed the group for the last five years. Moore joined UHY Hacker Young in 2019 from BDO and has over 20 years’ experience working in the not-for-profit sector. Financemoves.co.uk Hugo Parson has joined Deloitte as a Partner to lead its Origination team for Private Equity. Parson was previously Global Head of Origination for Private Equity at EY, where he worked for over seven years. Prior to this Parson worked at Morgan Stanley and JP Morgan. Accountancydaily.co Dominic Treays has been appointed as Commercial Director (Global Business Services – Tax & Accounting) at TMF Group. He joins from Cragus Group in Dubai where he was Managing Director and spent 12 years. Financemoves.co.uk For more information about this article, or to speak to Callum about your recruiting needs or Finance jobs in London or Nationwide, contact him on 020 7269 6369 or callum.macrae@pro-finance.co.uk. Back to Finance Movers & Shakers Archive >>

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Regional Accountancy Practices – The Search for Accountants & Auditors Continues

COVID-19 has undoubtedly influenced the economy with much of the UK working from home and jobs, as we know them, rapidly adapting to this change. However, regional accountancy practices have been using methods of agile and flexible working for years, with lots of opportunity to work from home. Whilst working entirely remotely is somewhat in untested territory, accountancy practices have adapted swiftly and efficiently enabling the transition to be as smooth as possible. Agile working in Regional Accountancy Practices With most of the country currently working from home, agile working has been thrust into the forefront of employment. Employers and employees alike are still adjusting to the transition, with methods of communication, adapting to the virtual space, and self-discipline being key. Regional firms have long been offering flexible working policies with most already offering the opportunity to work from home – even across audit. This makes them well-suited to people with other commitments, such as return to work parents who need to accommodate for term times and the school run. Much of my client portfolio across Berkshire and Surrey offer flexible working arrangements, with perhaps 3 or 4 days in the office alongside working from home and remote working. Whilst the current situation surrounding lockdown and social distancing is not the norm, accountancy practices across the UK have shown “resilience, flexibility and above all the need to protect their staff while delivering the necessary services to ensure their clients survive” (Accountancy Daily, 23 Mar 2020). Recruitment Continues I work closely with accountancy practices across Surrey and Berkshire, many of which have had agile working policies in place for years, and for many of these firms, recruitment has not been put on hold. Currently, I am closely working with Top 15, Mid-Tier and smaller accountancy practices on urgent roles across accounts and audit. Some of the roles I am currently recruiting for: Audit and Accounts Manager – Slough Audit Team Leader – Leatherhead Outsourcing Senior Manager – Reading Accounts Assistant Manager/ Manager – Reading Audit Senior – Oxford Whilst times may seem uncertain, accountancy practices continue to recruit and stand strong in the face of isolation and social distancing. Now is the perfect time to update your CV and get a head start within the market. If you have decided that you would like a stronger work-life balance, whether this be by cutting down your commute, working from home or having flexible working hours, working regionally would be the ideal choice. If you would be interested in a confidential chat surrounding the opportunities Pro-Finance are currently recruiting for, please do get in contact with Jordanne Napier on 0207 269 6353 or jordanne.napier@pro-finance.co.uk.

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