Public Policy Bulletin, 24 August 2020

Aug 24, 2020

In today’s Public Policy news, read about the UK government’s plans to help the country combat climate challenges. In Ireland, a new funding scheme to help small businesses enhance their online presence has been launched. Internationally, a study has shown that we are working longer hours and attending more meetings now than we did before the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Targets to help UK Government to ‘Build Back Greener’ 

Last week the UK Government announced that it is setting out legally binding targets in the Environmental Bill 2020 to help the country ‘build back greener’. This Bill had been shelved due to COVID-19 and will be reintroduced once Parliament resumes after summer recess. The targets are being set in four priority areas: air quality; water; resource efficiency and waste reduction; and biodiversity. These targets will be time-bound and numerical; there will be at least one long-term target per priority area.  The Office for Environmental Protection will report on this progress annually throughout the five-year trajectory of the plan. 

Environment Secretary George Eustice said he hoped that “these targets will provide some much-needed certainty to businesses and society, as we work together to build back better and greener.” It builds on the UK’s 2019 commitment to become a ‘net zero’ emitter by 2050.  

A public consultation on the targets, expected in early 2022, will allow businesses, communities, and civil society to express their views.  

Online Retailer to benefits from €5.5million Government Scheme 

Last week, the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation launched a new funding scheme to help retail businesses in Ireland to increase their online presence.   Funding of €5.5 million is available.  Retailers with at least 10 employees and which have a pre-existing online presence can qualify.  Funds can be used to pay for service providers, work on digital strategy, and enhance websites and systems. Grants of up to 80 percent of project costs up to a maximum of €40,000 are available to successful applicants. There is a list of other stringent conditions that must be met before an application can be made.  

The Minister of State for Business, Employment and Retail, Damien English said he expects that “the increased customers and revenue make an important contribution to the bottom line. It also provides consumers with more opportunities to support local businesses in their community, even when shopping online.” 

The Scheme is available from 31 August 2020 to 28 September 2020 as is being administered by Enterprise Ireland

Employees working longer days in lockdown 

Employees working from home are working longer hours, sending more emails and attending more meetings than they did before the COVID-19 pandemic.  

According to a recent study by researchers at the Harvard Business School, employees in North America, Europe and the Middle East attend 13 percent more meetings by virtual methods and the number of attendees present at those meeting increased by 13.5 percent, perhaps because there are no longer space constraints.  The average length of meetings has decreased by 20 per cent, with the European countries leading the charge.  However, researchers found that employees are working for longer – on average more than 48.5 minutes a day – and that email activity has increased.  

Read all our updates on our Public Policy web centre