Written answers

Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation

Covid-19 Pandemic

Photo of Peadar TóibínPeadar Tóibín (Meath West, Aontú)
Link to this: Individually | In context

554. To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the estimated costs to businesses for March and April 2020 with regard to Covid-19 closures and reductions in business activity; and the estimated monthly costs to businesses nationwide for May, June, July and August 2020 due to the announced restrictions. [5693/20]

Photo of Heather HumphreysHeather Humphreys (Cavan-Monaghan, Fine Gael)
Link to this: Individually | In context

It is unclear which costs are referred to in the question. Costs may include ongoing operational fixed costs, stock depreciation, opportunity costs in terms of declining revenues, costs associated with preparing workplaces to align with public health and physical distancing guidelines, and so forth. There are also of course human costs associated with the letting go of staff and reduced social contact.

These costs, and other impacts, will be contingent on the particular situation for every business and will be influenced by factors such as sectoral dimensions; the relevance and impact of current restrictions; the relevant phasing in the Government’s Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business; the adaptations made by the business, for example using e-commerce channels; the uptake of available supports; and available sub-supply and customer demand.

With so many variables, and the challenges of having timely data for same across the breadth of the enterprise base, monthly estimates are not available.

Considering the Stability Programme Update (SPU) published recently by the Department of Finance, and notwithstanding that there is a huge degree of uncertainty, it is clear that the economy has suffered a severe shock without historical precedent. Under the Department’s central scenario, GDP is projected to decline by over 10% in 2020. Some 220,000 jobs will be lost with the unemployment rate exceeding 25% in the second quarter of the year. Based on the analysis in the SPU and other detailed sectoral and labour market analysis it is clear that as of now the most-heavily impacted sectors are accommodation and food, construction, and other personal services.  Other sectors where the impacts are significant but somewhat less severe include the manufacturing sector, administrative and support services, wholesale and retail trade and transport and storage. This pattern of sectoral impacts is similar to that observed in other countries. Sector where remote working is not feasible or that rely on personal contact with consumers are hugely exposed to the necessary travel and other restrictions that containment of the virus requires.

The phased reopening of the economy will see a slow return to economic activity although it is anticipated that it will take considerable time before the economy returns to the levels which pertained prior to COVID-19. Therefore, the Government will continue to focus on assisting the enterprise sector through financial and advisory supports as well as continuing to develop new measures which help address the particular challenges across enterprise sectors as they arise and as sectors reopen.

Photo of Niamh SmythNiamh Smyth (Cavan-Monaghan, Fianna Fail)
Link to this: Individually | In context

555. To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if consideration will be given to reopening cinemas earlier than planned with social distancing proposals (details supplied). [5711/20]

Photo of Heather HumphreysHeather Humphreys (Cavan-Monaghan, Fine Gael)
Link to this: Individually | In context

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 May 18. 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 Niamh SmythNiamh Smyth (Cavan-Monaghan, Fianna Fail)
Link to this: Individually | In context

556. To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if consideration will be given to reopening cinemas earlier than planned with social distancing proposals (details supplied). [5712/20]

Photo of Heather HumphreysHeather Humphreys (Cavan-Monaghan, Fine Gael)
Link to this: Individually | In context

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 May 18. 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 .

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.

Comments

No comments

Log in or join to post a public comment.