Written answers

Tuesday, 20 October 2020

Department of Trade, Enterprise and Employment

Covid-19 Pandemic

Photo of Richard BrutonRichard Bruton (Dublin Bay North, Fine Gael)
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127. To ask the Minister for Trade, Enterprise and Employment if he has received a submission from a body (details supplied) seeking relaxation on deadlines and compliance rules due to the exceptional pressures created by Covid-19; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31113/20]

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Dublin West, Fine Gael)
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I received a representation from Chartered Accountants Ireland on 22 July 2020 regarding the question of a legislative amendment to extend the six year rule for the cycle of quality assurance reviews of statutory auditors and audit firms and a response has issued from my office.

In summary, in view of the importance of the review function in terms of safeguarding small businesses, the length of the review cycle as it stands, the number of auditors and audit firms impacted and the mitigating measures already available it is not considered that a legislative amendment is appropriate at this time.

I have also recently received further representations from Chartered Accountants Ireland on a range of matters including the extension of company filing deadlines and the loss of the audit exemption and these are being considered and responses to the representations will issue in due course.

Verona Murphy (Wexford, Fine Gael)
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128. To ask the Minister for Trade, Enterprise and Employment the reason the Workplace Relations Commission and the Labour Court are bringing parties from other counties to Dublin during level 3 restrictions for face-to-face hearings in view of the fact that these bodies have the facilities to convene such hearings remotely; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31116/20]

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Dublin West, Fine Gael)
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The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) and the Labour Court are offices under the aegis of my Department. Both the WRC and the Labour Court are statutorily independent in the exercise of their quasi-judicial functions and I as Minister cannot intervene when they exercise those functions.

In common with the Courts Service and other quasi-judicial bodies the offices of the WRC and Labour Court, currently remain open and operational during level 3 restrictions.

However, in light of the decision to move the country to Level 5 from midnight on Wednesday 21st, the WRC and Labour Court must now consider if it is appropriate to postpone all in person hearings for the period of Level 5.

In this scenario, it is expected that a virtual alternative will be offered in all instances, in so far as possible, where a hearing has been scheduled during the period of level 5 restrictions.

Thus far, in circumstances where parties have been unable to attend in person, where such a hearing is proffered, the WRC is in a position to offer remote hearings to parties where the matters may be disposed of virtually. The Labour Court also schedules hearings for a virtual Court room wherever possible.

While it is desirable that hearings which can be heard in a virtual Court room are conducted through that medium, cases may be assigned to a physical Court room when necessary for practical or fair procedure reasons.

Where hearings are held in a physical Court room, both the WRC and Labour Court provide for social distancing at all times, the wearing of face masks, strict movement protocols within the building, strict entry and exit protocols, comprehensive signage including directional signage, strict recording of attendee identity and contact details, personal sanitisation facilities and Court room sanitisation following hearings and during breaks in proceedings.

Both the WRC and the Labour Court will continue to provide their services in line with public health guidelines.

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