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Bill gives breathing space to struggling small businesses – minister
Fianna Fáil's Robert Troy Pic: RollingNews.ie

31 Jul 2020 / business Print

Bill gives 'breathing space' to struggling firms – Troy

The Companies (Miscellaneous Provisions) (COVID-19) Bill 2020 makes temporary amendments to the Companies Act 2014 and the Industrial and Provident Societies Acts 1893-2018 to address issues arising as a result of Covid-19.

Businesses can now hold AGMs, general meetings and creditors’ meetings by electronic means.

The period for examinership has increased to 150 days, and the threshold at which a company is deemed unable to pay its debts increased to €50,000.

The Bill was passed by the Dáil yesterday and will allow 240,000 companies and 950 industrial and provident societies to hold their annual general meetings (AGMs) and general meetings by electronic means.

It is hoped the amendments will provide additional breathing space to struggling businesses.

Practical issues

Minister of State for Trade Promotion Robert Troy said the Bill is an important first phase of work in the area of company law to address real practical issues facing business in terms of compliance and pressures on solvency.

“AGMs are an important forum for members to approve the accounts, appoint auditors and hold the directors accountable for the affairs of the companies and co-operatives.

“In addition, general meetings need to be held if a company or co-operative is commencing a range of activities, for example a merger or members’ voluntary winding up.

“It is a welcome development that these activities can now be facilitated electronically and held in compliance with public health guidance on social distancing and travel restrictions,” he said.

The legislation also makes amendments in respect of insolvency and increases the threshold at which a company is deemed unable to pay its debts and can be wound up by the courts.

Small debts

This change means that small businesses will not be wound up for relatively small debts of €10,000.

It further demonstrates the Government’s commitment to backing business, supporting economic recovery and making sure as many people as possible have jobs to go back to.

The Bill also provides for an additional 50 days in the examinership process, bringing it to a total of 150 days.

The amendments are temporary and only operational initially until 31 December, with the option for extension.

Advisory body

The Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation engaged with the Company Law Review Group, a statutory advisory body charged with advising the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation on the amendments.

Membership of the CLRG includes key stakeholders in company law such as the the Law Society, Irish Congress of Trade Unions, the Irish SME Association, the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement, the Revenue Commissioners, the Attorney General’s Office, the Irish Business and Employers’ Confederation, insolvency practitioners, legal practitioners and academics.

 

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