Written answers

Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation

Departmental Correspondence

Photo of Fergus O'DowdFergus O'Dowd (Louth, Fine Gael)
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537. To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if a reply will issue to correspondence from a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5653/20]

Photo of Heather HumphreysHeather Humphreys (Cavan-Monaghan, Fine Gael)
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The Government’s Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business sets out five stages for unlocking the restrictions put in place to contain the Coronavirus, at three week intervals. The Roadmap sets out how we can keep the level of transmission of COVID-19 as low as possible while balancing continuing restrictions in proportion with the positive social and economic benefits which will be brought about by businesses reopening.  It is important to note that all decisions taken by Government on the timing of any lifting of restrictions as envisaged in Phases 2 to 5 of the Roadmap will be guided by the public health advice at the time.

On 15 May the Government announced that we would move to Phase 1 of the Roadmap from Monday 18 May. This is in line with advice received from the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET). The categories of workers, list of retailers and other facilities that can re-open under Phase 1 are available on the Government’s website gov.ie.

Businesses should review the Roadmap carefully and carry out a detailed assessment of their activities with regard to the continuing public health measures.  Businesses should, based on their assessment, identify which category in which phase of reopening they will be in a position to reopen safely and in line with the continued public health measures.  It is not necessary for businesses to seek official authorisation to reopen.

The National Return to Work Safely Protocol is a useful guide for businesses in making their assessments and adapting their workplace procedures and practices to comply fully with the COVID-19 related public health protection measures. It sets out in very clear terms for employers and workers the steps that they must take firstly before a workplace reopens, and then while it continues to operate. 

The Protocol is available at

The Health and Safety Authority, which is an agency of my Department, is the lead agency in overseeing compliance with the Protocol in the workplace.  If employers or employees need further guidance on the Protocol, the HSA Helpline can be contacted at 1890 289 389 or wcu@hsa.ie.

In order to assist businesses to address the challenges posed by COVID-19, the Government has put in place a comprehensive suite of supports for firms of all sizes, which includes the wage subsidy scheme, grants, low-cost loans, write-off of commercial rates and deferred tax liabilities. These supports are designed to build confidence, to further assist businesses in terms of the management of their companies and to allow them to begin looking to the future and start charting a path forward for weeks and months ahead. For a full list of supports for business please see .

On 8 May the Government agreed details of a further support which will give direct grant aid to micro and small businesses to help them with the costs associated with reopening and reemploying workers following COVID-19 closures. The Restart Grant will be available to businesses with a turnover of less than €5m and employing 50 people or less, which were closed or impacted by at least a 25% reduction in turnover out to 30 June 2020. It is a contribution towards the cost of re-opening or keeping a business operational and re-connecting with employees and customers. The grants will be equivalent to the rates bill of the business in 2019, with a minimum payment of €2,000 and a maximum payment of €10,000.

I recognise the impact that this pandemic is having on businesses right across the country. I know that employers and employees want to get back to work and I support them in that ambition, but it must be safe to do so.  My Department contributed to the considerations around the phased re-opening of sectors and I will work within Government to secure further details and clarity for businesses as we progress through the phases outlined in the Roadmap.

A wide range of stakeholders including employers, unions and representative groups were consulted and their advice formed part of the considerations when drawing up the Roadmap. It is a living document and Government has the ability to amend its plans depending on the circumstances existing as we progress through each phase. It will be subject to regular review in the context of the progression or suppression of the disease in Ireland or new guidance or research that emerges from other sources.

Photo of Fergus O'DowdFergus O'Dowd (Louth, Fine Gael)
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538. To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if a reply will issue to correspondence from a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5655/20]

Photo of Heather HumphreysHeather Humphreys (Cavan-Monaghan, Fine Gael)
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The Government recognises that the COVID-19 emergency has had an unprecedented impact on our economy, as well as society.  It is acknowledged that as the reopening of the economy begins, in line with the Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business and based on public health advice, businesses will require additional supports on top of the existing measures such as income support schemes and enhanced liquidity supports. 

Consequently, on 2 May the Government agreed a package of measures, with a value of over €6bn, to further support small, medium and larger business that are negatively impacted by COVID-19.  The package aims to help our businesses to restart, reconnect and rehire staff.  It includes grants, low-cost loans, write-off of commercial rates and deferred tax liabilities, all of which will help to improve cashflow amongst SMEs.  Full details of the package are available at www.gov.ie.

The specific questions raised in the correspondence you reference cover a range of issues, some of which are outside the remit of my Department.  A response will issue from my Department in respect of matters within my remit and the correspondence will be forward to other relevant Government Departments for their consideration. 

Photo of Seán SherlockSeán Sherlock (Cork East, Labour)
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539. To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if a reply will issue to a query by a person (details supplied). [5656/20]

Photo of Heather HumphreysHeather Humphreys (Cavan-Monaghan, Fine Gael)
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A major part of my Department’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been to expand the range of financial supports to ensure businesses have sufficient liquidity to see them through the crisis and to prepare for the announced reopening phases.  My Department and I continue to monitor the needs of companies as the situation evolves and provide new supports where required and appropriate to do so. 

Included in the now €7.5 billion of liquidity supports which I announced over the past few weeks, is a Sustaining Enterprise Fund for Small Enterprises which is being administered by Enterprise Ireland. This fund for smaller businesses provides €25,000 and €50,000 in repayable advances, depending on size and turnover of company. This fund will provide liquidity to enable these enterprises to steer a pathway towards recovery and to introduce measures in response to the controls and health and safety requirements in line with changing work patterns and protocols and guidelines being introduced as we begin the re-opening of the economy.

On 15 May last, the Government also agreed the arrangements for the new €250m “Restart Grant” for micro enterprises and small businesses.  The "Restart Grant" is a contribution towards the cost of re-opening or keeping a business operational and re-connecting with employees and customers. It will be a critically important tool to support small businesses to reopen their doors and get back on their feet. This grant will enable small and micro business reconnect with their employees and customer base by helping to defray ongoing fixed costs and the costs, such as PPE, associated with re-launching the business.

The grants will be equivalent to the rates bill of the business in 2019, with a minimum payment of €2,000 and a maximum payment of €10,000.  Applications for the "Restart Grant" can be made online to all local authorities from Friday 22 May.

In addition to the extensive package of liquidity measures announced, the full range of Enterprise Ireland, IDA, Local Enterprise Office (LEO) and Údarás na Gaeltachta grant and advisory supports continue to be available to eligible firms to help with strategies to access finance, commence or ramp-up online trading activity, reconfigure business models, cut costs, innovate, diversify markets and supply chains and to improve competitiveness. 

In line with its statutory responsibility to enforce specific consumer protection legislative provisions, officers from the CCPC have been monitoring pricing compliance in both online and on-premises retail markets within three areas:

1. Trader obligations under S.I. No. 639 of 2002, European Communities (Requirements to Indicate Product Prices) Regulations.

2. Trader obligations under S.I. No. 484 of 2013 European Union (Consumer Information, Cancellation and Other Rights) Regulations.

3. Trader obligations under The Consumer Protection Act 2007.

The provisions outlined above are primarily concerned with ensuring that products are properly priced in accordance with the regulations and that consumers are not being misled by being charged more for a product than the advertised price.

In the course of our monitoring activities we have conducted 110 store visits and 730 spot price checks on a range of consumer products. Our information to date would indicate that compliance levels with the obligations referred to above are currently not a cause for concern. Monitoring activities in that respect will continue.

With respect to emerging trends, the number of contacts received by the CCPC from the general public relating to concerns about price increases and product availability have been very low.

I can assure the Deputy that I continue to work with my colleagues across Government and all stakeholders to examine further appropriate supports to assist businesses impacted by Covid-19.  In that regard, Government will continue to explore funding potential for all enterprises as they work through the challenges facing them, including through any mechanisms allowable under the EU’s state aid framework.

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