Public Policy Bulletin, 18 September 2020

Sep 18, 2020

In this week’s Public Policy news, read how European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen presented her vision to make Europe green, digital and more resilient; what official figures reveal about the labour market in the UK; and how Ireland has extended its redundancy provisions to help reduce insolvencies, bankruptcies and further job losses.

A green, digital and more resilient Europe 

This week, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen gave her State of the European Union address where she set out her vision to make Europe become green, digital and more resilient. Key points covered were:

  • Protecting Health: Building a stronger European health union in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak with measures such as:
    • an EU4Health programme;
    • a reinforced European Medicines Agency (EMA);
    • a strengthened European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC); and
    • a new European agency for biomedical advanced research and development (BARDA).
  • Protecting livelihoods:
    • protecting workers by introducing a legal framework for setting minimum wages and protecting businesses from external shocks; and
    • boosting the single market by reinforcing the Economic and Social Union, getting the Schengen area working in full again and updating the EU’s industry strategy and competition framework.
  • Reinforcing the Green Deal:
    • increasing the emissions-reduction target from 40 percent to 55 percent by 2030 to achieve climate neutrality by 2050 and meet Paris Agreement obligations
    • revising all of the EU’s climate and energy legislation by summer 2021;
    • raising 30 percent of the €750 billion #NextGenerationEU budget through green bonds; and
    • investing 37 percent of that funding in European Green Deal objectives.
  • Leading a Digital Transformation : 20 percent of NextGenerationEU’s budget will be invested in moves to create a common plan for ‘digital Europe’ with connectivity, skills and digital public services.
  • Deeping Global Relations:
    • revitalising and reforming the multilateral system, including the World Trade Organisation and World Health Organisation;
    • building agreements and relationships with the US, the UK and Africa; and
    • building global agreements on ethical, human rights and environmental issues, and on digital taxation.
  • Deliver a new Pact on Migration, with an approach based on humanity and solidarity.
  • A first annual Rule of Law report covering all Member States.
  • A European anti-racism action plan, with the appointment of an anti-racism coordinator, as well as strengthened racial equality laws.

More on the vision for Europe can be read here. 

Labour market statistics reveal unemployment rates for the UK 

Employment data published this week shows that the overall rate of unemployment in the UK grew from 3.9 percent to 4.1 percent from May to July of 2020. The majority of job losses were among those aged between 16 and 24. According to official figures, almost half of those furloughed since May returned to work by mid-August rather than into unemployment or inactivity; however, it is expected that employment will fall more sharply and unemployment will increase more quickly as the furlough scheme nears its end in November.

In Northern Ireland, labour market statistics published by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency on the same day revealed that proposed and confirmed redundancies more than doubled since August 2019, with record high numbers recorded in June and July. However, the Northern Ireland unemployment rate (2.9 percent) for the period May-July 2020 remains below the UK rate (4.1 percent), the European Union (27 Member States) rate (6.7 percent) for May 2020 and the Republic of Ireland rate (5.3 percent) for June 2020. 

Extension of Ireland’s redundancy provision

On 15 September the Government approved an extension of the redundancy provisions relating to temporary lay-off and short-time work. Minister for Social Protection, Heather Humphreys TD announced that the measure, which suspends redundancy provisions – and which arose as a result of COVID-19 – will remain in place until 30 November.

Describing the measures as necessary to “ensure businesses survive and that permanent job losses are avoided as much as possible”, Minister Humphreys reminded employees who remain on lay-off or short-time work for the requisite period that they will be entitled to exercise their right to claim redundancy from their employer when this emergency measure expires, and that all other redundancy provisions such as notice periods and payments of redundancy lump sums still apply, as does the existing employment rights legislation.

Read all our updates on our Public Policy web centre.