Leaders’ digest: EY cancels its break-up, the LGBT+ salary gap and is the party over for Tupperware?

This week in business, EY is left dealing with the fallout of its failed plan to split, while Tupperware has warned on its future as sales plummet
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EY’s messy break up

A proposed split of EY’s auditing and consulting businesses was approved by the firm’s global leadership team last September but Project Everest, as it was referred to internally, has proved too difficult a climb for the Big Four firm. 

The separation of the two arms of its business was first requested by the Financial Reporting Council in 2020, after it raised concerns that auditors may not be objective in their dealings with a client that is also paying for the same firm’s consultancy services.

The split had been described as a “roadmap for reshaping the profession”. But the Financial Times broke the news this week that, after months of internal dissent, the plans have been scrapped.

The decision is likely to have big repercussions for the accounting firm, most notably for staff. Consultants at the firm had been looking forward to receiving shares in the new company, when it floated on the stock exchange, worth up to nine times their salary, while auditors were expecting bonuses of up to four times their annual pay. But instead, with $600m having been plowed into the split, EY staff are now facing a wave of cost cuts.

On a call to employees, EY’s UK managing partner for financial services, Anna Anthony, spoke about how Project Everest had highlighted inefficiencies within the business. There are also fears that there may be an exodus of staff, who had been holding out until the completion of the project before weighing up their options elsewhere.

Rather than being a radical step forward for the company, EY is now left with the challenge of repairing internal divisions, restoring its image and recouping the costs that the failed split has already incurred. 

The party ends for Tupperware

230413 Weekly Digest
Obsessively organised kitchens have become something of a status symbol on social media.

Despite the rise of #pantryporn, where people declutter and organise their kitchen cupboards by decanting food and staples into various containers, it looks like the days of Tupperware parties could be about to end.

Shares in the company, which rose to prominence in the 1950s and 1960s, fell by almost 50% earlier this week after it told investors there is a “substantial doubt about the company’s ability to continue as a going concern”. It warned that it does not have enough cash to fund its operations unless it can secure extra funding in the coming days and is also looking at redundancies and selling property to try to save money.

The company saw an uptick in sales during the pandemic but has suffered in recent months, with this the second time Tupperware has issued a “going concern” warning in the past six months. It is also at risk of being delisted from the New York stock exchange after filing its annual report late and with “no assurance” it will file it within the next 30 days.

Tupperware is a cautionary tale both for brands that performed well during the pandemic but also those failing to reach new consumers. The firm at one point had more than 1 million representatives, with popular products including a portable cake carrier called the ‘pie taker’ and a ‘dip ‘n’ serve’ serving tray.

While those of a certain age may look back fondly on Tupperware parties, the brand has failed to connect with younger consumers — both in attracting them as sellers and in giving them reasons to buy Tupperware rather than cheaper brands now available.

Gen Z still face LGBT+ discrimination in the workplace

A quarter of LGBT+ young adults go back into the closet after starting work, and may earn less than their straight peers, according to new research from charity Just Like Us. 

LGBT-identified young people were more likely to report being unemployed, having experienced workplace bullying, and feeling as though they could not be themselves at work, the survey of British 18- to 25-year-olds found. Gay men were the most likely group to hide their sexuality at work, with 31% reporting they went back into the closet on entering the workforce.

The salary gap was also wider. While 16% of straight men and women said they earn less than £19,999, that increased to 25% for other identities. Worst-affected were lesbian and asexual youths. A third of these groups reported earning below £19,999.

The research highlighted the “serious, disproportionate” challenges facing LGBT+ young people in the workplace, Amy Ashenden, interim CEO of Just Like Us, told PA Media. 

“The research suggests not only a potential salary gap for gender, but also for sexual orientation as young as the 18-25 age bracket, meaning many LGBTQ+ young adults are hit extra hard. Huge differences like this so early on in their careers will no doubt have a long-lasting impact on their future abilities to thrive at work.” 

The findings may seem shocking in an era where companies are routinely criticised for over-enthusiastic “rainbow-washing” during Pride Month. But it tallies with dozens of other studies. A global 2014 review found gay men earned 11% less on average than their heterosexual counterparts (while lesbian women earned 9% more, researchers believe this is because they avoid the maternity pay hit experienced by many straight women).

It’s a reminder that while discrimination based on sexuality or identity may be lower down on many corporates’ agendas than gender or ethnicity, it is still alive and well in Britain today.