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It's not just an organisation's leaders who strive for higher productivity. Most employees want to be productive, too. Not only does it pass the time while they are at work, it also gives people a greater sense of fulfilment when they feel like they are being a productive member of their team. There is a satisfaction that comes with being able to make a plan and stick to it. And that satisfaction allows employees to switch off after work, which in turn allows them to relax and refresh. However, in today’s workplace, where priorities and deadlines are constantly shifting, people often don’t feel in control and, despite working hard and long hours, employees often feel they are not on top of their workload. A lack of productivity can have a negative effect on the employee’s stress levels and general mental wellbeing. Causes of stress in the workplace If we look at some of the causes of workplace stress cited by employees, we see factors that also cause a lack of productivity: changing demands and priorities; inefficient systems and processes; lack of clarity about roles and expectations; poor communication with managers; and long hours and a poor work-life balance. The benefits of a productive culture By removing barriers to productivity, an organisation can also reduce the stress levels of their employees. Not only will employee wellness and happiness increase, employee engagement and output will, as well. To foster this culture, an organisation should strive to provide the best tools, processes, managers and training. Here are some questions to help identify your productivity barriers: Are people clear about what is expected of them? What are the bottlenecks or inefficiencies? Are people collaborating when deadlines change? Have the employees got the right skills to be productive? Are the managers enabling productivity? Improving productivity and wellness Once you have some answers, encourage the managers and their teams to work together. Ask them to identify their specific barriers to productivity that impacts them on a daily basis. By encouraging solutions from within, employees will be more committed to making and sustaining any improvements. This can strengthen relationships as people work together towards a common purpose. Managers and their teams need to be empowered and supported to achieve the required changes. Your organisation also needs to be committed to (where possible and practical) making the changes identified and to fostering a culture of continuous improvement. Quick tips There are many practical changes an organisation can make quickly for very little cost. Here are some ideas to consider: Provide clarity about everyday roles and responsibilities. Develop a productive approach to meetings to reduce time and improve follow up. Use smart email practices to reduce processing time. Make sure everyone understands individual and team priorities. Identify and eliminate distractions within the office. Employee wellness is not just about supporting health and wellbeing in the workplace. It's also about making sure that the workplace is running smoothly and supporting employees to do their job. An environment where people are productive will reduce employee stress and maintain employee wellness to the benefit of both the employee and the organisation. Moira is the founder of Be Productive.

Dec 17, 2018
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By Professor Neil Gibson While there are growing concerns about the global economy and the spectre of Brexit looms large, Ireland enters 2019 in a position of strength. Its renowned international sector is now complemented by a strong domestic economy which is fuelled by fast job growth, real wage increases and strong inward migration flows. This domestic strength provides Ireland with short-term insulation against a global slowdown. However, this growth brings with it new problems, such as labour shortages, rising prices and pressure on public services – each of which will provide major challenges for policy makers and business alike. In the spirit of the season, Ireland should celebrate the success of 2018, but some New Year’s resolutions will be necessary to stay fit and healthy for what lies ahead. Based on the EY-DKM Economic Advisory, here are my predictions for 2019: Prediction 1: GDP growth will rise by 4.2% GDP growth is projected to remain robust and above trend due to the strength of the domestic economy. Rising levels of employment coupled with increasing wages and higher levels of government spending all provide a solid platform for 2019 growth. Biggest forecast risk: A slowing global economy hitting Irish multinational profitability. Prediction 2: Employment growth will rise by 2.7% or 60,000 net jobs The strength of the domestic economy should allow for growth in consumer businesses, including retail, restaurants, leisure and housing. The rapid move to online shopping is a notable headwind for high street retailers, but the scale of growth in consumer spending should be enough to offset this for now. Employment in public services is also increasing and, according to the EY’s Brexit tracker, Dublin is currently the most popular choice for relocation for those financial services firms who are decanting elements of their business from London. Biggest forecast risk: High wage inflation deterring businesses from hiring. Prediction 3: Wage growth will increase by 3.6% A tight labour market should support strong wage growth, as will the easing of restrictions on public sector pay. Wage growth has accelerated throughout 2018 and should continue in the year ahead. Across certain sectors such as IT and construction, wage growth will be more than twice the national average. Biggest forecast risk: Businesses ease off on hiring as nervousness over macroeconomic conditions grows. Prediction 4: Consumer spending will grow by 2.9% Population growth, an increase in the number of people in work, and above-inflation pay increases should provide very strong consumer spending growth conditions. This combination of positive factors makes 2018/19 something of a sweet spot for businesses selling to Irish consumers –  welcome relief after a very challenging decade. Biggest forecast risk: Loss of consumer confidence arising from global concerns and a consequent increase in the tendency to save. Prediction 5: Net migration will increase the population by more than 40,000 A growing labour market and lack of local supply will boost inward migration. In addition, there may be a positive Brexit effect as migrants looking to locate (even temporarily) to a prosperous market with English as the predominant language may choose Ireland. Even if the UK migration rules are relatively relaxed, or not yet in place, there will be a perception effect which will boost Ireland’s attractiveness. Biggest forecast risk: The high cost of rent and availability of housing may curtail migrant flows. Prediction 6: Inflation will push upwards by 1.8% Inflation depends heavily on exchange rates, and an appreciating euro would keep inflation low, but housing costs and the effect of rising wages should allow prices to push upwards. Low oil prices may ease the pressure somewhat, but in such a rapidly growing economy, inflation is likely to begin to pick up from its current very low levels. Biggest forecast risk: An appreciation in the euro or falling oil prices. Prediction 7: House prices will increase by 4% Prices have been rising significantly (more than 30% over the last three years) but the impact of policy changes to tighten lending criteria, and a steady growth in supply, should provide something of a cap on increases. A more sustainable rate of growth is predicted, but the migration outlook will keep applying upward pressure, though this will be more acutely felt in rental prices. Biggest forecast risk: If supply does not keep pace with demand then prices may rise faster. Prediction 8: Construction inflation will rise by 7.5% Strong demand for house building in addition to an acceleration in government infrastructure spending create positive conditions for construction and, therefore, rising prices. Labour shortages in the sector will further apply upward pressure on construction inflation. The long slowdown severely reduced the number of firms in the sector and it is more difficult to attract construction workers to return to Ireland, given the pain of the previous crash. Equally, the supply of labour from a number of Eastern European markets is not as plentiful, as those markets are enjoying stronger domestic conditions themselves. Biggest forecast risk: Demand and supply mismatches may make this prediction conservative. Prediction 9: Housing completions will top 25,000 Demand for housing is very strong heading into 2019, and increased migrant flows will give it a further boost. Housing is also a political priority, and the modest slowdown in commercial building is diverting resources into the booming residential market. Biggest forecast risk: High construction price inflation could mean that some developments are no longer viable. Prediction 10: Total tax collected from businesses and tax payers will rise by 4.2% A strong labour market and high levels of growth in consumer spending should support growth in VAT and income tax receipts. Corporate taxes are more difficult to predict and more heavily impacted by global conditions than domestic taxes. Biggest forecast risk: A global slowdown sharply impacting corporation tax and, therefore, the overall tax take. Prediction 11: Government will spend more than it collects in taxes by 0.1% of GDP  Ireland looks set to enjoy its first positive general government balance (the difference between what it collects in taxes and what it spends) in a decade in the 2018/19 fiscal year. This is largely due to above-forecast corporation tax receipts, which are notoriously volatile. The political pressures to spend are considerable, and the forecast is therefore that the fiscal balance will tip back slightly into the red in 2019 as public spending pressures remain acute. Biggest forecast risk: A global slowdown sharply impacting corporation tax and, therefore, overall tax receipts Prediction 12: The unemployment rate will reduce further to 4.9% A strong rate of jobs growth is predicted to drive unemployment lower, back to levels last seen at the peak of the previous boom. Rising wage rates may draw some people into searching for a job who were previously not actively looking (economically inactive) and the strong migrant flow will prevent the rate falling more sharply. Biggest forecast risk: A loss of consumer confidence from wider macro conditions which would reduce employment in consumer sectors quickly and sharply. Professor Neil Gibson is the Chief Economist at EY Ireland.

Dec 17, 2018
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David Carson says planning for maximum change should be the priority for Irish businesses. ‘Brexit means Brexit’ has one fundamental flaw: it means different things to different people. It is complicated further by the fact that, for many people, as they grasp the evolving details, it means something different today than it did on 23 June 2016.  The unknown Negotiation of the Withdrawal Treaty was supposed to be the easy part. It has proved anything but easy. Recent events in London demonstrate the challenges facing anyone trying to understand Brexit, how it will eventually play out and when we will have certainty. Predictions on this later point have at least one common feature – they have all been wrong. What is clear is that when the UK leaves the EU, the conditions in which Irish businesses trade with the UK will change, and those changes could be significant. The nature and timing of the changes are unknown. Businesses operate on a daily basis in an uncertain and disruptive environment. It is the degree to which Brexit adds to that uncertainty and disruption that is a cause for concern. I suspect that the hidden cost of Brexit to date has been significant for very many businesses and they haven’t even left the EU yet.    The ongoing, some might suggest, increased level of uncertainty has discouraged some businesses from taking action. Encouragingly, in a recent survey of Irish CEOs carried out by Deloitte and Enterprise Ireland, almost seven in ten (68%) said that they had acted to mitigate against the potential impact of Brexit. The 29 March 2019 is fast approaching and many false dawns have come and gone. Even if the Withdrawal Agreement is agreed – and at the time of writing this is by no means certain – there is likely to be significant elapsed time before there is clarity on a future trading relationship between the EU and the UK. In summary, it is imperative that organisations assess their level of exposure and plan on the basis of maximum change. How to prepare It is important to understand the potential areas of exposure and risk for your company. Plans need to be made for disruption. Many businesses are considering measures to ensure that they have adequacy of supply and stockpiling features high on most agendas. Here are the business issues that may be impacted by Brexit: Trade and supply chain; People; Tax, systems and data; and Regulation and market access. Within these areas, a number of key questions should be considered: Are any suppliers based in the UK? And, if yes, have you contacted your key suppliers to ascertain whether they are Brexit ready? Could the movement of your imports or exports be delayed by border controls and what impact would that have on your supply chain?  Could your trade be subject to tariff and non-tariff barriers? Are any customers based in the UK? Do you hold data which relates to the UK? Are the goods or services which you provide regulated and by which regulatory bodies? The Irish people have proven to be resilient in the face of challenges. That trait will continue to be tested by Brexit. The referendum in the UK has proven to be more divisive than decisive. Irish business needs to respond to the unprecedented challenges by planning for maximum change.  David Carson is the Brexit Lead in Deloitte.

Dec 17, 2018
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The Financial Reporting Council (FRC) has issued an International Standard on Auditing Accounting Estimates and Related Disclosures, covering the audit of expected credit losses in banks and which reflects the increased importance and complexity of estimates in financial statements. The FRC strongly supported the development on this standard. The FRC is also consulting on updates to its Practice Note on The Audit of Banks and Building Societies in the United Kingdom, an area where the FRC has called for improved quality. The consultation reflects findings from the FRC's audit inspection work covering bank audits, which were covered extensively in public reports in June 2018. The revised standard (ISA UK 540): Reflects revisions to the underlying international standard, and addresses issues arising from evolving financial reporting frameworks, particularly the move to accounting for financial instruments on an expected loss basis, which is of particular significance for banks;/li> Ensures the quality of auditing of management estimates and disclosures in the UK develops to meet users' needs, as financial reporting becomes more forward looking, leading to an increase in the volume and complexity of accounting judgements; Requires better risk assessment and greater work effort on the part of auditors, who will also need to apply a higher benchmark in assessing the adequacy of disclosures; and Early adoption of the new standard is permitted and is encouraged. It is effective for audits of financial statements for periods beginning on or after 15 December 2019. Feedback Statement and Impact Assessment (PDF) The consultation period on the Practice Note (PN 19) closes at 5pm on Friday 8 March 2019. Source: Financial Reporting Council.

Dec 13, 2018
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Measures to increase transparency and prevent abuse of limited partnerships, which some criminals have used to launder dirty money through the UK were unveiled on 10 December, as the UK Government published its response to the consultation on the reform of Limited Partnership law. Scottish Limited Partnerships (SLPs) and Limited Partnerships (LPs) are used by thousands of legitimate British businesses, particularly the private equity and pensions industry, which invest more than £30 billion a year in the UK. However, there are concerns that they are being abused by criminals following large-scale money laundering scandals. New filing requirements for all Limited Partnerships will make them more transparent with their information, preventing their abuse while enabling investors to continue to use them legitimately and invest in the UK. The key proposals are: Those registering Limited Partnerships must demonstrate they are registered with an official anti-money laundering supervised agent, such as an accountant or a lawyer, or an overseas equivalent; The Limited Partnership must demonstrate an ongoing link to the UK, for example by keeping its principal place of business in the UK; All Limited Partnerships must submit a confirmation statement at least every 12 months to Companies House to ensure their information is accurate and up to date; and Companies House will be given powers to strike off dissolved Limited Partnerships and Limited Partnerships which are not carrying on business. The proposed reforms will apply to all Limited Partnerships in the UK. In addition to requirements that are in place for Scotland, the reforms will also include new reporting requirements for Limited Partnerships in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. This will confirm that the information they have placed on the register is up to date and correct. Last year, the UK Government introduced laws requiring SLPs to report their beneficial owner and make their ownership structure more transparent, seeing an 80% reduction in the number registered and these reforms seek to raise standards further. This announcement comes ahead of a broader package of reforms to Companies House to ensure it is fit for the future and continues to contribute to the UK's business environment – the best place to start and grow a business. The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy plans to consult on these reforms in the New Year. Source: Office of the Secretary of State for Scotland.

Dec 13, 2018
News

The Irish economy looks set to register another exceptional performance in 2018; employment is growing at 3% with taxation receipts across most headings also experiencing better than expected returns. The ESRI's latest Quarterly Economic Commentary states that GDP is expected to grow by 8.2% in 2018, followed by 4.2% growth in 2019. Unemployment is expected to average 5.7% in 2018 before falling to 5.1% in 2019. The ESRI's forecasts for 2019 are subject to the technical assumption that the UK's continued membership in the EU will effectively remain in place after March 2019. However, the economy faces an unprecedented degree of uncertainty in 2019; the outcome of the Brexit process, combined with the possibility of increased international trade tensions, could have significant implications for the economy's performance in the New Year. In the commentary, the ESRI illustrates how a Brexit scenario, where WTO tariffs would apply, could almost halve the growth outlook in 2019. Budget 2019 saw a significant increase in Government expenditure, particularly on capital projects. As a result, it is now likely that there will be a deficit in the general Government balance in 2019, whereas a surplus had looked a possibility before the budget. While most taxation headings are witnessing sizeable increases in 2018, a key feature of the public finances in the present year is the significant growth in corporation tax receipts. As a substantial portion of this growth is due to a small number of companies and so potentially vulnerable to a reversal, it is imperative that policy makers do not base expenditure on potentially volatile revenues going forward. Source: The Economic and Social Research Institute.

Dec 13, 2018