REUTERS | Jorge Adorno

Nearly one in three employees have witnessed some form of misconduct in the past year, but nearly half did not speak up or report it, according to the Institute of Business Ethics (IBE) European Ethics at Work survey.

The freedom to raise concerns is a core component of a supportive ethical culture where employees are confident they will be supported to ‘do the right thing’. Yet, despite increasing encouragement from organisations, employees still remain reticent. The reasons they give in the IBE survey range from a belief that nothing would be done (28%); feeling that they might jeopardise their job (27%) or a belief that it was none of their business (23%).

Speaking up is often an experience that provokes a mix of emotions; it can be complex and feel daunting, which is why the IBE has developed its IBE Speak Up Toolkit, to empower employees by demystifying the process and managing expectations.

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REUTERS | Molly Riley

At LawCare, the charity offering emotional support to legal professionals, we have listened to thousands of people tell us about the stress, anxiety and depression that they are experiencing, which is often caused or exacerbated by a difficult working environment. Lack of support or supervision, an overly critical manager, being undermined after a career break, an unreasonably heavy workload, long hours and sleep deprivation are all common issues we hear about.

Organisations need to do their best to create a healthy and happy place to work, not only because it is the right thing to do, but because there is a strong proven business case for it. Happy employees lead to greater productivity, better morale, better retention of valued and experienced staff, and reduced sickness absence.

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REUTERS | Ricardo Moraes

It’s been shown repeatedly that diverse workplaces make business sense (McKinsey made the point in its “Women Matter” report back in 2007; a World Economic Forum blog by Vijay Eswaran repeated it in April this year). Yet there is still a long way to go before big businesses will be in a position to challenge the “pale and male” stereotype. The business of law is no stranger to that label. As regards gender equality, the consultancy “20-first” has produced research showing that of the top 10 UK law firms, only one has 30% female partners and therefore (just) makes it into 20-first’s “Progressing” category (the other nine are either “Asleep” or “Starting” to make progress).

The Law Society’s International Symposium on “The power of gender equality to transform the business of law” took place on 20 and 21 June and was the launch event for its “Women in Law Pledge”, which aims to tackle gender inequality in the legal profession. A message which surfaced loud and clear throughout the two days of Symposium discussions was the power held by law firms’ clients to “move the needle” on this issue. I was also struck by how much support the usually divisive subject of quotas received from both panellists and attendees.

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REUTERS | Luke MacGregor

MOSAIC stands for Mentoring Opportunities Amongst In-house Counsel and is the global mentoring programme for in-house legal professionals. People frequently ask us how MOSAIC came into being and where it’s going in the future, and why it’s set up as a not-for-profit company. We are always happy to talk about the philosophy behind MOSAIC’s creation as it’s very much part of the strategy for the future.

Having been in-house lawyers ourselves for several years, we understand the benefits and the challenges that working in-house can bring. Thankfully, the tired old cliché of a nice, comfortable 9-5 sleepy job has passed, and in-house lawyers are able to give our private practice confreres a run for their money.

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REUTERS | Luke MacGregor

With the announcement of a new Prime Minister due in July, Brexit remains at the top of the agenda for businesses. This month there are also some corporate governance developments to keep an eye on and Thomson Reuters is hosting its annual GC Leadership Summit.

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REUTERS | Julius Hunter

NEDonBoard recently welcomed James Wates CBE, chair of the Wates group and the chair of the coalition group for the Wates Corporate Governance Principles for Large Private Companies (the Principles), to an event promoting the Principles. The discussion was chaired by Clare Chalmers, an experienced board effectiveness reviewer and NED, and was introduced by Ben Ward, corporate partner at Herbert Smith Freehills, our host for the evening. Key points from the discussion are outlined below.

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REUTERS | Ognen Teofilovski

In the last couple of years in-house lawyers have been flooded with extra work, first from GDPR preparedness and then Brexit. Were it not for these two events it is likely in-house lawyers would already be focusing their minds toward climate change risks. However, despite the ongoing distraction of Brexit, climate change is a fundamental risk that in-house lawyers need to get ahead of.

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REUTERS | Gloabl Creative Services (no copyright)

Last week, the Institute of Business Ethics launched its Board Briefing on “Corporate Ethics in a Digital Age”. A wide-ranging panel discussion and Q&A session at the launch event tackled some of the implications of new technology for ethical business practice and emphasised that, despite its novelty and seeming complexity, it should be subject to the same standards of review and control as any other risk the board might consider.

For those board members exasperated at hearing that they might be expected to drill down into the detail of AI and machine learning on top of their usual agenda, the discussion gave some practical examples of when ethical problems arise out of the use of technology, and reassurance that in fact they may already have all the tools they need.

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REUTERS | Vasily Fedosenko

M&A lawyers are well aware of the importance of assessing the possibility of litigation when their companies (or clients in the case of external lawyers) are acquiring new companies. No company likes to get sued, and even less so when this relates to actions taken by a predecessor.

We have discussed elsewhere that anticipating and quantifying litigation risks is increasingly challenging to do when it comes to a target company’s human rights-related actions: we now have a surge in human rights-related litigation and law suits against companies for allegations of past human rights violations, resulting in acquisitions that can end up costing significantly more than anticipated.

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REUTERS | Ricardo Moraes

In our Spring agenda piece, Brexit dominated the horizon in the privacy and cyber world. And while many of us will still be transfixed by political events, the extension of the Article 50 process, in all likelihood up to 31 October, has given us momentary relief.

With the Brexit hiatus, attention has turned back to day-to-day compliance concerns. The summer is traditionally a quiet time of year of course but this agenda piece will highlight a number of events coming up you may need to be aware of. It will also highlight some of the key recent developments you may have missed. Continue reading