SFA E-Zine – The Tuesday Edition
Looking back at 2017, ahead to 2018 and GDPR

Dear Member, 


I am delighted to announce that Gillian O’Keefe has joined the SFA to cover for Louise while she is on maternity leave.  Louise welcomed a healthy baby boy in late December.


In this week's e-zine we are reviewing the results of the ‘Small firms outlook 2018’ survey, the details of which were published on the 2 January.  We also bring you a summary of recent press coverage.  


GDPR is a hot topic at the moment across all industries and businesses big and small.  We are delighted to have the next in the series of Business Bytes on the topic of GDPR taking place tomorrow evening.  We will be using the opportunity to launch the GDPR readiness toolkit for SMEs on our website.


We are now accepting bookings for our new and exciting Business Connect event, taking place in the Aviva Stadium on the 01 February.  Places are filing up fast so book now, and best of all its FREE!


We have a new list of 12 training courses available for 2018 focusing on 'Training that counts’.  We also have two excellent articles relating to staff on probation and how to manage dismissal as well as information on the Your Europe Business portal.

As always, we’d love to hear from you about any queries you may have, issues you wish to have raised with Government or other stakeholders and your ideas on how we can improve the business environment for us all. Please contact me on tel: 01 605 1602 or e-mail: sven@sfa.ie or tweet: @SFA_Irl or visit: www.sfa.ie.

Kind regards, 

Sven Spollen-Behrens

SFA Director

Recent press coverage

Recent press coverage

  • Look back at 2017
  • Small firms outlook 2018

  • SFA events

Shortly after Christmas the SFA issued a press release with their end of your statement.

‘2017 has been a challenging but successful year for small businesses. Brexit, wage inflation and increasing business costs are the main obstacles for small businesses in Ireland. However, as the year draws to a close, nearly two thirds of small firms feel that the business environment is improving.’ 

Here is some of the coverage the press release received

Business World

Irish small business set to create 25,000 jobs in 2018


Small firms set to create 25,000 jobs next year


Brexit, wage inflation and increasing costs main concerns for small businesses in 2018

Highland Radio

Brexit and exchange rates remain a major challenge

The Sun (Éire)

Economy on the up

The Irish Times

Small firms could create 25,000 jobs with 'pro-growth' tax strategy

Evening Echo (Cork)

Small firms could create 250,000 jobs

Tipperary Star

Thurle company Ryan's Cleaning has a 'spotless' 2017

The Times

Cut tax on Sme's to help them grow


Small firms set to create 25,000 jobs next year

Highland Radio

Small Firms review of 2017


On 02 January we were delighted to issue a press release for the year ahead.

“The fundamentals of the Irish economy are strong and economic growth and job creation are forecast to continue in 2018. If the specific concerns of small businesses are addressed, 2018 will be a very positive year for the sector.”

Here is some of the coverage the press release received

Irish Examiner

Challenges for 2018: To predict the future we must shape it

The Irish Examiner

To predict the future we must shape it

Donegal Now

Small Firms' Association offers fresh hope for Donegal businesses

Business World

Irish small firms cautiously optimisit as they enter 2018

Newstalk Breakfast

Small Firms Outlook 2018

The Times

Strategy for growth will benefit us all

The Sun (Eire)


Evening Echo (Cork)

2017 challenging but successful for small businesses

Roscommon Herald

Small firms now more optimistic

The Avondhu

Small businesses set to create 25,000 jobs in 2018


Ireland's small firms 'cautiously optimistic'

The Clare Champion

Cautious optimism among small businesses for the year ahead


We also had a mention of our Business Bytes GDPR session taking place tomorrow in the SFA offices



The Irish Times

For your diary (Business Bytes on GDPR)

Small Firms Outlook 2018

The mood amongst the small business community at the start of 2018 is cautiously optimistic, with nearly two-thirds of owner-managers believing that the business environment is improving, up from 50% one year ago and 61% in May 2017. That’s according to the Small Firms Association’s (SFA) ‘Small Firms Outlook 2018’ survey report, published on 2 January. 

Despite this returning optimism, wage demands, the increasing cost of doing business and Brexit dampen the mood. However, nearly 60% of SFA members say their businesses are growing, with only 4% declining. This shows that 2018 has the potential to be a strong year, if the risks are managed effectively at firm level and Government level. 71% of survey respondents indicated their intention to recruit over the coming year, up substantially from the SFA survey in May 2017.


The survey highlighted a number of risk factors for 2018, such as wage inflation, the ability to attract talent, legislative and regulatory burdens, increasing business costs as well as Brexit/Sterling exchange rate. Many of these require decisive measures at Government level and the SFA will work with the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation and other departments to ensure the appropriate actions are taken.

Full tax equalisation between the self-employed and employees will remain a priority in 2018, as will access to public contracts for small firms and cost competitiveness. In recent decades, Government has been successful in attracting FDI. However, the focus must now shift to small businesses and it is time to create a strategy for growth for small businesses with special focus on tax competitiveness and the cost of doing business, especially in light of Brexit.

GDPR readiness toolkit for the SME sector

The Data Protection Commissioner has just released a GDPR readiness toolkit for the SME sector. The Small Firms Association (SFA) worked closely with the Data Protection Commissioner to create this toolkit which will enable your business to conduct a GDPR audit


We will officially launch the new GDPR section at our Business Bytes event tomorrow (10 January). There is still time to book your place here to learn from Brendan Gavin and Sean O'Donnell of ByrneWallace how businesses can start their GDPR compliance process. The toolkit and a number of other GDPR publications are now available through our dedicated GDPR section on the SFA website which you can view at www.sfa.ie/advice


The GDPR readiness toolkit is an ideal resource for SMEs to map out the personal data they currently hold, to document the lawful basis for collecting data and detail the retention periods for each category of data.  Some aspects of GDPR will be more relevant to your business and the toolkit will help you determine the areas that will have the greatest impact on your business, those that are not relevant and the areas that need to be remedied in order to be GDPR complaint.


The toolkit contains a series of detailed questions on:

  • personal data
  • data subject rights
  • accuracy and retention
  • transparency requirements
  • other data controller obligations
  • data security
  • data breaches
  • international data transfers


To help you understand each of the sections, the Data Protection Commission also published GDPR and You – Preparing for 2018. This is a user-friendly guide to help you understand what GDPR entails. It has twelve sections that organisations need to be aware of in preparing for GDPR. These are:


  1. Becoming aware – this section discusses the need for being aware of the GDPR requirements and to understand what is required.
  2. Becoming accountable – this section advices how businesses need to conduct a GDPR audit of all the personal data they hold. We recommend that you avail of the downloadable GDPR readiness toolkit for SMEs that is on the SFA website.
  3. Communicating with staff and service users – this section looks at how best to communicate the data protection changes with staff, clients and suppliers.
  4. Personal privacy rights – this section looks at the rights that individuals have in terms of how their data is held, retention and deletion of data subject details. 
  5. How will access requests change? – this section examines how data access requests should be managed to meet the shorter response timeframes under GDPR.
  6. What they mean by legal basis – this section outlines what legal basis means and how businesses need to define their legal basis for retaining data.
  7. Using customer consent as grounds to process data – this section advises businesses to look at and see how they obtain consent from their data subjects.
  8. Processing children’s data – this section looks at the new requirements for processing data in relation to children and the requirement to obtain consent from an adult.
  9. Reporting data breaches – this section discusses what you should do in the event of a data breach and who to advise in the case of a serious data breach.
  10. Data Protection Impact Assessments (DPIA) and Data Protection by design and default – this section details what is a Data Protection Impact Assessment and what businesses should do if they are required to conduct a DPIA assessment.
  11. Data protection officers – this section discusses how under the new legislation some organisations will be required to have a designated Data Protection Officer (DPO).
  12. International organisations and GDPR – this section is relevant for businesses that operate in multiple states within the EU.


With only five months to go before GDPR comes into force, there is a lot of work ahead for businesses. The changes will impact all businesses, big and small and the new legislation gives the data protection authorities enhanced powers to deal with non-compliance. This includes administrative fines that could be as high as €20 million or 4% of total annual global turnover for serious breaches. The positive side of being GDPR compliant is enhanced reputation and trusted relationships with clients, suppliers and service users as well as improved processes and procedures in the collection and management of personal data.


The SFA are mindful of the significant workload ahead for its members over the coming months and we will continue to give GDPR updates in our e-zine, add resources to our dedicated GDPR web section, rolling out a series of events between now and May as well as providing dedicated GDPR support by phone or email.


If you have concerns about GDPR and would like further advice please contact Helen at SFA on 01 605 1668 or at helen.quinn@sfa.ie or visit our GDPR advice section.



SFA Business Connect Event

The Small Firms Association, thanks to its unique position as part of Ibec, is delighted to launch a new initiative to bring SFA members together with leading medium and large companies across a wide range of industries.


Business Connect, an exciting new marketplace event, will take place on 1 February at the Aviva Stadium.  This new event will see businesses from both large and small industries meet and discuss ways and opportunities to collaborate and work together. 


Delegates will have the opportunity to meet with representitives from some of Irelands leading companies and get a rare view inside the buying processes and decision making in some of Ireland’s leading companies.  You will also hear from small firms that have succeeded in securing major customers and clients.  There will be the chance to share your own experiences with experts and peers and of course, network with buyers whose contracts could transform your business.


This is a free event and is open to all areas of industry and all business sizes. The MC for the event will be Richard Curran of RTE’s ‘The Business’ and the event will be attended by leading organisations such as Three, DHL, Energia, AIB, IEDR, SEAI, Enterprise Ireland, Bord Bia and Skillnets

The sessions during the morning will cover:

  • How to sell to larger organisations
  • How they buy
  • How to develop your pitch
  • How companies can innovate through collaboration.

If you are interested in attending this wonderful event please click here to book.  Places are limited and booking up fast so don't delay. 

Probation - potential costs to your business

Worker awarded €33,419 by Labour Court due to unfair dismissal whilst on probation

Dismissing an employee on probation without following fair procedures can prove to be very costly. In the case of Embankment Plastics Limited v A Worker (CD/15/267) the company had failed to follow guidance as outlined in the S.I. 146 of 2000 Labour Relations Commission’s Code of Practice on Grievance and Disciplinary Procedures and they did not follow their own disciplinary process when it came to dismissing an employee on probation.



A worker was employed by Embankment Plastics Ltd as a Quality Engineer and they commenced employment on 16 February 2015. The employee was placed on a six-month probationary period and their contract was terminated on 27 April 2015.


The employer stated in their submission to the Labour Court that the worker performed below the required standard of a Quality Engineer, that they were late for work which included their first day and the contract had been terminated in accordance with the terms of their contract.


The employee stated in their case that they were never made aware of any performance issues or that it could lead to a dismissal, that they were asked to work thirty minutes ahead of their shift and stay two hours after the close of business every day and they were unemployed for a long period after their dismissal.



The Labour Court reviewed all the evidence that was put forward to them by both parties and noted that the company did not follow fair procedures by outlining the following issues:


  1. At no stage did the Respondent issue the Claimant with a letter outlining its concerns with the Claimant’s alleged underperformance;
  2. The Claimant was not on advance notice that the meeting he attended on 27 April 2015, and at which his employment was terminated, was a disciplinary meeting;
  3. The Claimant was not advised of his right to be accompanied and/or represented at the meeting of 27 April 2015;
  4. The Claimant was not given advance written notice that he was at risk of having his employment terminated at the aforementioned meeting;
  5. The decision to dismiss the Claimant was communicated by the Managing Director in the course of an uninterrupted meeting on 27 April 2005 as such there is no evidence of the Managing Director having taken a break in proceedings to reflect on anything the Claimant may have said in defence of the allegations put to him at the meeting;
  6. The Claimant was not issued with a letter of dismissal confirming the reasons for his dismissal and advising him of a right of appeal.


In addition, the Labour Court noted that the company failed to follow its own disciplinary procedures in relation to probation and that its failure to: “adhere to either its own disciplinary procedures or be bound by the provisions of the Code of Practice on Grievance and Disciplinary Procedures (S.I. No. 146 of 2000) because the Claimant was on probation was misconceived


They found in favour of the employee and they were awarded €33,419.38.


Lessons to learn from this case

There are a number of lessons businesses can learn from this case to avoid the risk of a WRC or Labour Court claim.


  1. An employee who is dismissed whilst on probation can still claim for unfair dismissal under the Industrial Relations Act


It is sometimes the mistaken belief that an employee on probation can be dismissed immediately without giving a reason or following fair procedures. Whilst an unfair dismissal claim cannot be made under the Unfair Dismissals Act, a claim can be made under the Industrial Relations Act. Therefore, it is very important that businesses are aware that they must follow a fair disciplinary process that includes employees who are on probation. In addition ensure clauses for probation in the contract of employment are in line with the company disciplinary procedure.


2. Follow fair disciplinary process


Whilst the probationary period allows time to see if an employee is a good fit for the company and to ensure they work to a required stand, companies should ensure they carry out the following when considering dismissing an employee:

1) Has the employee been made fully aware of the formal allegation made against them?

2) Have they been offered the right to reply to the formal allegation made against them?

3) Were they offered the right to representation?

4) Did they receive a full and objective investigation of the allegation?

5) Were they given the right to appeal?


SFA have a number of resources relating to managing the disciplinary process on the SFA website including a webinar and a copy of the  S.I. 146 of 2000 Labour Relations Commission’s Code of Practice on Grievance and Disciplinary Procedures which the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) and Labour Court expect companies to abide by.


3.Document in writing


It is essential that all stages of the process are recorded in writing from the initial meeting that outlines the issue, minutes of all meetings and review processes right through to the disciplinary process if that occurs. If it is not documented in writing it is almost impossible to prove if a fair process was followed. The WRC and Labour Court rely on documentary evidence when a claim appears before them and when a business documents the performance of an employee it enables them to objectively see if the employee is a suitable fit for the role.


If you have concerns about an employee on probation and would like further advice please contact Helen Quinn at SFA on 01 605 1668 or at helen.quinn@sfa.ie or visit our HR and Employment Law advice section on www.sfa.ie


Your Europe Business – information portal for the EU Single Market

Spotlight on the Your Europe Business portal, a hub for information and advice about trading with the 500 million consumers and 20 million businesses in the EU Single Market. This article provides information on the portal and how to access it.


There are over 80 different government supports available to small businesses but many of them are not well known or understood. Each week in the SFA e-zine, we will profile a different support that could improve your business, giving you information and advice.

Your Europe Business


A portal containing a wide range of advice on doing business in the EU. This short animated video provides more information about how the portal can help your business. 


Topics covered include:

  • VAT rules and rates
  • Recruiting workers from elsewhere in the EU
  • Sending staff to work around the EU
  • The CE mark
  • Labelling and packaging
  • EU grants and funding


Ireland is part of the EU Single Market and this gives Irish businesses access to 500 million consumers and 20 million businesses. By providing a central hub for firms operating in the Single Market, Your Business Europe aims to make it easier for more firms to avail of these opportunities.



The portal is available at https://europa.eu/youreurope/business/


It is managed by the European Commission in co-operation with the Enterprise Europe Network (EEN).


The categories of information available through the portal are:

  • Start and grow
  • Taxation
  • Selling abroad
  • Staff
  • Product requirements
  • Finance and funding
  • Public contracts
  • Environment



Is your business GDPR ready?
  • 10 January 2018, SFA offices

The SFA Business Bytes events, which are entirely free of charge, offer small businesses access to expert information and advice and an opportunity to network with their peers. The series is supported by Bord Gáis Energy.

The EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which comes into force on 25 May 2018, is one of the most significant pieces of legislation for businesses in many years. Making sure that your business is ready for GDPR requires advance preparation, no matter how small the company is.

Taking action now is essential to becoming and remaining compliant, safeguarding your business from the massive fines that can be imposed under GDPR (up to €20 million or 4% of the company’s turnover, whichever is greater). Good data protection practices can also be a competitive advantage in an era where privacy and security are highly valued by customers, employees and clients.  

This seminar will help you to understand the main principles of the GDPR and outline the steps that you should be taking to get your house in order. 

The seminar will be delivered by Seán O'Donnell and Brendan Gavin, Partner and Senior Associate respectively with Byrne Wallace. 

A member of the SFA team will also update members on the GDPR resources that are currently available on the SFA website, the support accessible from our in-house experts and the tools which will be rolled out in the lead up to 25 May.   

The event is open to SFA members and non-members. It will last for approximately one hour with an opportunity to network before and after. Refreshments will be provided.

This event is entirely free of charge but you must pre-register.


SFA Business Connect
  • 1 February 2018, Aviva Stadium

We are delighted to invite you to attend the SFA's brand new event, Business Connect 2018.  Use Business Connect to build your network with many of Ireland’s leading larger companies.


Hear from a range of large companies on how they do business and how they connect with smaller organisations. Hear also from smaller companies who are successfully providing innovative and agile solutions to larger organisations. 


At this marketplace event, indigenous and multinational companies of all sizes will share a platform to discuss how best we can do business together. The event will take place in Aviva Stadium, Landsdowne Road, Dublin 4. Further details on how to book here. 

Introduction to selling to government
  • 31 Jan, SFA offices

InterTradeIreland in partnership with the Office of Government Procurement and SFA is delighted to deliver the first of a series of breakfast workshops to demystify, educate and engage businesses on the island around public procurement, a market worth in the region of €12b pa. 

This introductory level briefing hosted by the Small Firms Association will be opened by Minister of State Patrick O'Donovan and will cover:

  • What is public procurement?
  • The public procurement models on the island
  • How to access opportunities
  • Good bidding practice and common mistakes to avoid

The briefing is aimed at micro businesses and SME’s who are new to public procurement or those who wish to update their market knowledge. 

The briefing will also be an opportunity to network with like-minded businesses.

Date: 31 January 2018
Time: 8:00-10:30am, with registration from 7:30am
Venue: SFA/Ibec Offices, 84-86 Baggot Street Lower, Dublin 2, D02 H720
Register herehttp://www.intertradeireland.com/events/selling-to-government---breakfast-briefing

This event is the first in a series of breakfast briefings. The other events in the series are:

  • Waterford: 28/02/2018, Granville Hotel, Waterford - intermediate level
  • Athlone: 11/04/2018, Hodson Bay Hotel, Athlone - introductory level
  • Cork: 16/05/2018, Clayton Hotel Silver Springs, Cork - intermediate level
  • Galway: 26/09/2018, Menlo Park Hotel, Galway - introductory level
  • Kildare: 24/10/2018, Keadeen Newbridge - introductory level
  • Limerick: 21/11/2018, Radisson Blu Hotel, Limerick - intermediate session
SFA Training that counts 2018 – 12 topics to choose from

The SFA has launched its 2018 training brochure, ‘Training that counts’. There are 12 different courses being offered throughout the year with a focus on skills that can make a real difference to your business in areas such as health and safety, management, employment law and finance.

Is too much time spent on tasks and meetings that seem urgent but are not important for the future of your business? At SFA, we’re here to help you create time for things that can make a real difference, like developing management capacity and other skills for you and your staff.


The courses being offered in 2018 are:

  • Manual handling (half-day)
  • Developing and Implementing Strategy (1 day)
  • Effective Presentation Skills (1 day)
  • Employment Law: Discipline and Dismissal (1 day)
  • Finance and Accounting Made Easy (1 day)
  • First Aid Response (1 day)
  • Manage Your Time Effectively (1 day)
  • Performance Management and Appraisal Skills (1 day)
  • Powerful Performance Conversations (1 day)
  • Project Management (1 day)
  • Safety Awareness for Managers (1 day)
  • Foundations in Management (2 days)

The courses are offered at a price that makes it realistic for small companies to participate:

  • Half-day course: €150 for SFA members
  • One-day course: €220 for SFA members
  • Two-day course: €400 for SFA members

Book your places now at www.sfa.ie/events or find out more about customised training and other options here.