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Latest News

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In March, organisations had to act quickly to create a remote working culture in response to the COVID-19 crisis. Now, they need to consider what the next phase of work will look like, and how and where work will be done into the future. Kevin Empey explains. COVID-19 has prompted a lot of discussion about the next phase of work and working life. For many, the pandemic has provided an unwelcome but informative and possibly pivotal experiment in how and where we work. It has also accelerated trends and practices in world of work that were already happening, bringing them firmly into the mainstream. Most agree that we will not return to pre-COVID ways of working, nor will we see continue with this pandemic model of work we have experienced in recent months. The next phase of working life will be some form of a blended approach that historically carries a variety of labels such as remote working, flexible working and smart working. Whatever label we choose for it, employers (and employees) now have an opportunity to create a broader working culture – beyond the provision of ad-hoc flexible, technology-enabled, remote working practices which, on their own, may miss a much bigger message and opportunity. Levels of flexible working There is a clear spectrum of strategies or ‘levels’ that employers have taken in relation to flexible working. While health and well-being concerns are clearly dictating short-term return-to-work approaches, these different levels of flexible working are now informing more deliberate, ambitious and strategic workforce options that employers are considering for the longer-term. The choice of strategy comes down to whatever best suits the future business model, culture, and talent strategy for each organisation. The choice of approach should also complement other transformation objectives and not just be a stand-alone, isolated initiative.   Tactical levels – focused mainly on employees only Level 0 – Little or no flexible working offered or actively promoted. Level 1 – No formal guidelines but some ad-hoc, isolated and unstructured practices have evolved over time and are allowed. Mainly based on informal agreements and accommodating some work-life balance arrangements. Level 2 – Formal guidelines do exist but limited based on certain clear parameters e.g. Fridays optional for remote working or 80% expected in the office etc. Specific arrangements that are role specific and not universal across all job types. Strategic levels – focused jointly on the business and the employee Level 3 – Formal guidelines and principles exists as part of a wider workforce strategy. More freedom and discretion allowed at local business, team, and individual level. Parameters exist based on business and customer needs, but they are kept to a minimum. Remote working seen as part of a deliberate and wider agile working culture and integrated with other programmes and people priorities, e.g. diversity and inclusion, talent and skills strategy, recruitment etc.  Level 4 – Maximum level of freedom and choice provided. Clear business rationale (e.g. talent, efficiency, dispersed workforce, property benefits etc.) for optimal remote working offering and formally expressed as part of the organisation strategy.  Working remotely accepted as the normal practice with variances based on business need to be in the office for certain activities. These COVID times are presenting a once-in-a-generation opportunity to ‘reset’ a vision for how work will be designed in the future. This will help not only to increase organisational agility and future-fitness, but it will also distinguish employers in the battle for top talent who will be watching your next move with huge interest. Talent that will have higher expectations regarding how and where they work than they have ever had before. Kevin Empey is the Managing Director of WorkMatters Consulting.

Jul 17, 2020
Press release

Liquidity and cashflow are key concerns for one third of businesses in a post-Covid economy according to new data released today by Chartered Accountants Ireland from almost 2,000 members surveyed by the Institute on the island of Ireland. With 33 percent of respondents reporting a need to overhaul their business model post-pandemic, businesses, in particular SMEs, have highlighted specific measures that can help in the period ahead, including: One in four called for changes to company law to give businesses greater flexibility to navigate unprecedented circumstances like a pandemic Almost half of those working in practice called for greater leniency on filing deadlines, interest and penalties Digital transformation is a priority for 1 in 4 businesses post-Covid, with calls for accompanying digitalisation of government services Longer term business supports post-Covid and the use of VAT rate decreases as short-term stimulus were raised by 28 percent of members, rising to 39 percent of those in practice. The findings are released as the Institute publishes “The Next Financial Year: Making Irish Business More Competitive”, a new position paper which identifies pathways to a better business environment post-pandemic. Informed by extensive engagement with members working in practice, industry, SMEs and the public sector, the paper sets out proposals to create workable solutions and alternatives across a range of areas, including digitalisation, tax measures and business supports now open to Government / policymakers to consider. [Details below] Commenting, Dr Brian Keegan, Director of Public Policy, Chartered Accountants Ireland said “SMEs are fighting to stay afloat and post-pandemic, many will reimagine how they function or will pivot into new activities. Supports are currently based on the way that business has always been done, but with this changing, “The Next Financial Year” outlines a simplified, more flexible approach.  “Now is not the time to rely on dogged and uncommercial approaches. Government policy must be focussed on providing maximum support and flexibility to businesses.”  The proposals include an emphasis on digitalisation and ensuring government services and supports keep pace with changing business models post-pandemic, and the realities of operating as an SME at this time. These include: - Digitalisation Remote working has been one of the most visible signs of change since March. Many workers are now trusted to work productively from home where possible; and it is now acceptable to hold significant business meetings online. Chartered Accountants Ireland calls for the momentum to be maintained by increased support for the education and adoption of digital competencies across the business community through increased grant-funded programmes. Government must also play its part in supporting digitalisation, namely: full digitalisation of CRO services including the acceptance of electronic signatures and the electronic filing of documents to relieve the administrative burden and speed up processing, changes to the Companies Act to allow all companies to hold virtual AGMs, changes to the Companies Act to allow creditors meetings to be held by telephone and/or video conferencing, full automation of the professional services withholding tax system so that the record of the tax withheld is generated in electronic format and automatically issued to Revenue, pledge by Revenue to provide a MyEnquiries query response rate of five working days.  Other key proposals include extension of filing deadline for accounts due for 31 October to 31 December 2020 to 31 January 2021, increase of the examinership period to 150 days, simplification of existing support and funding schemes, especially those aimed at the SME sector, which are too onerous and complex to administer, push by Government for increased share of the €750 billion EU Recovery and Resilience Fund to deliver grant support to the hospitality, tourism, leisure and retail sectors. ENDS Read Next Financial Year

Jul 17, 2020
Press release

Today's decision by the General Court of the European Union in the already protracted Apple case recognises commercial realities and principles of fairness over legal technicalities. An initial reading of the decision suggests that the Court did not accept the Commission’s contention that the administrative decisions in the Apple Case were flawed. The Commission had not challenged Ireland's tax laws but rather how they were applied. The outcome vindicates Ireland’s adherence, not just to Irish but also to European rules when levying taxation. While the amounts of money involved are vast and the additional tax estimated at some €13bn would be welcome particularly now as we struggle to pay for the cost of the pandemic, it would have been wrong to claim money that is not rightfully ours, and  the Court has established that this is the case. The Apple case taken by the Commission is one of a number of cases opened in in recent years concerning the granting of State Aid using the tax system by Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands as well as Ireland. The Commission has not been successful in every instance.   It is to be hoped that the Commission will accept the decision of the General Court of the European Union, and not seek to damage the country’s reputation further with protracted legal proceedings.  

Jul 15, 2020