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

Dear Member, 


This week we are continuing with our GDPR tip, focusing on 'What are the conditions for processing special catergory data?'


We also have an article to help you manage sporadic sick leave in the work place and the January 2018 update on the late payments interest rate


There is an article on Ibec's most recent Quarterly Economic Outlook with a link to the full document that will hopefully prove an interesting read, and a great insight in how to save up to 20% off the cost of your energy bills


Book a place on one of our upcoming training courses in first aid and safety awareness for managers


Places are filling up quickly for Business Connect, make sure to book your place today.  We also have a link to a great article written by the MC for  Business Connect, Richard Curran, in our SFA in the media section.


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

  • Challenges for 2018

  • Web domain registrations

Challenges for 2018


The SFA were referred to in an article by Richard Curran, host of RTE's The Business, in the Irish Independent where he wrote a comprehensive article on the challenges facing SME's in 2018


Web domain restrictions


The SFA were referred to in The Sunday Business Post on the 21 January, in an article about changes in web domain restrictions by Emmet Ryan.

GDPR tip – What are the conditions for processing special category data?

Each week SFA will be sharing tips on GDPR and this week we briefly look at processing special category data. Read on to find out more...



In last week’s e-zine we looked at the definitions of personal data and what are special categories of (sensitive) personal data. This week we are going to explore sensitive data in greater detail. The first thing that must be noted is that under Article 9 of the GDPR regulations it is prohibited to process sensitive date unless it meets one of the conditions below.


It is important that proper safeguards are put in place when processing sensitive data and that technical and organisational procedures are put in place ensure that the data is managed securely and safely by the right people and through the correct systems.


To process sensitive data, you must adhere to one of the following conditions:

  1. That the data subject has given explicit consent to process their sensitive data. If you are relying on explicit consent as your legal basis for processing sensitive data, it must be made crystal clear to the data subject why you are processing their sensitive data. It is also important to check EU or Irish law to see if there are any reasons that prohibit you processing sensitive data under this condition.
  2. For the purposes of carrying out obligations and exercising specific rights of the controller or of the data subject. This purpose covers the areas of employment and social protection law.  
  3. In order to protect the vital interests of the data subject. This would be applied if a data subject was physically or legally incapable of giving consent and it could be used in order to protect someone’s life.
  4. Processing is carried out in the course of legitimate activities by a foundation, association or any other not-for-profit body. Examples of this include Trade Unions, religious or political organisations.
  5. Processing relates to personal data which are manifestly made public by the data subject. This would relate to the defence of legal claims.
  6. Processing is necessary for reasons of substantial public interest.
  7. Processing is necessary for preventative or occupational medicine. This relates to medical assessments of the working capability of employees or the management of health or social care services.
  8. Processing is necessary for reasons of public interest in the area of public health. This relates to epidemics or other matters that would impact the health of the general public.
  9. Processing is necessary for archiving purposes in the public interest, scientific or historical research purposes or statistical purposes 

The one area that could prove challenging is the area of consent, in particular explicit consent and we will look at this next week. If you are dealing with sensitive data and want to consider which of the above options apply why not use the SFA GDPR toolkit on our website which you can download here.


If you would like more information on GDPR or to discuss your requirements further please contact Helen 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

How to effectively manage sporadic sick leave absences

This week we look at managing sporadic sick leave absences which can have a significant impact on small businesses. Read on to learn how you can effectively manage this type of absence. 

One of the key queries that we receive from members is how  should they manage sporadic sick leave that occurs on a frequent basis?


Sick leave policy

A robust sick leave policy and absence management process can be an effective means of managing this issue and ensuring a smooth continuity of business services. Our first recommendation is to develop a sick leave policy which should consider the following:

  • How best should your employees notify the business when they are ill? Our recommendation is that they must ring in person and speak to a line manager.
  • Who should they notify in the case of their manager being out? We would recommend that a suitable alternative be listed in the sick leave policy.
  • What time should they notify you by? E.g. two hours before their shift starts or when the business opens.
  • When is a medical certificate required? Should it be two or three days?
  • How will you facilitate medical appointments? Do employees use their leave or make early / later appointments?
  • Will you give paid sick leave? If yes, you can download the SFA sample sick leave policy here

As each business has its own unique needs it is best to identify what other elements you should include within your sick leave policy.


Measuring and recording absence

The next element is measuring and recording the absenteeism to determine what is an unacceptable level of sporadic sick leave. This will also help you if you need to invoke a disciplinary process. Elements to consider are as follows:

  • What is the average number of days lost per employee in the business as a whole?
  • What is the frequency rate of absence? E.g. once a month or once a quarter
  • The average duration of absence? E.g. one day here and there
  • Is there a pattern? E.g. sickness often occurs on a Monday or Friday or a shift they try to avoid.

Managing sporadic sick leave

The most important part of managing sick leave effectively is that there is regular communication with the employee both during the absence and when they return to work. Dealing with absence is a multifaceted and sensitive process so it is essential that you listen carefully and objectively to the employee when they return to work as there could be an underlying issue that could include a disability. If you have any concerns that an employee has a disability and you want further advice on accommodating this please contact Helen Quinn at SFA to get further advice.


In terms of sporadic sick leave absence, we recommend that you consider the following when managing it:

  • Has the employee taken an excessive amount of sick leave? Is there a pattern?
  • Has the employee properly followed the sick leave policy?
  • Review attendance performance from your records and discuss areas of dissatisfaction and how they should improve their attendance
  • Give room for improvement and assess if they are improving their attendance
  • If the issue continues, take corrective action using the company disciplinary process

The most important advice we would offer our members is to remain open and caring to genuine cases of sick leave but do keep records of absence, maintain regular contact with the employee and take corrective action if you have determined there is a problem. If the problem is ignored or left to fester it not only impacts the running of the business but it can also affect the morale of other employees who may be required to cover the work of the absent employee.


Why not download our SFA Guideline on managing absenteeism?


If you would like more information on managing absence or to discuss your requirements further, please contact Helen 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

Late payment interest rate – January 2018 update

The late payment legislation allows businesses to automatically levy penalty interest on late payments in business-to-business transactions. As of 1 January 2018, the current rate is 8.00%, which equates to a daily rate of 0.022%.

The late payment legislation allows businesses to automatically levy penalty interest on late payments in business-to-business transactions, i.e. where payment is not received by the due date agreed in the contract or after 30 days where there is no contractual payment period specified.


Under the Late Payment in Commercial Transactions Regulation, the interest at the rate of the European Central Bank rate plus 8% will apply to payments made after the 30-day payment period has expired (in the absence of a written contract specifying an alternative payment period). 


As of 1 January 2018, the current rate is 8.00%, which equates to a daily rate of 0.022%. This is based on the ECB rate (as at 1 January 2018) of 0.00% plus the margin of 8%.  Penalty interest due for late payments should be calculated on a daily basis.


The full SFA Late Payments Guideline is available here.







Ibec's Quarterly Economic Outlook

Earlier this month Ibec published its latest Quarterly Economic Outlook which forecasts growth of 4.2% in 2018 following expected growth of almost 6% in 2017.

Ibec's Head of Tax and Fiscal Policy Gerard Brady stated: “Since the crisis we have seen a recovery in the Irish economy which has been exceptional. This was driven by the strength of the Irish business model with record FDI and an increasingly global footprint from our indigenous industries. Because of this growth in our business substance, the economic recovery phase is now over, with 2017 seeing Ireland surpass many of the most important pre-crisis milestones. As we enter 2018 the State’s accounts are effectively balanced, employment has returned to 2006 levels, and we are seeing the quickest real wage growth in Europe at 1.8%. Irish households are clearly benefitting with real disposable incomes growing at over four times the eurozone average and per-capita income in working households now likely to have passed out its pre-crisis peak.


“This phase is now more sustainable than the ‘boom’ period. It is being underpinned by business investment in plant, machinery and equipment (excluding IP and aircraft leasing activities) of almost €1 billion per month. In addition, figures show that Irish households are now in a positive net financial position (deposits outweigh loans outstanding) for the first time since the late 1990s. As a result, the net wealth position of Irish households in nominal terms has never been better whilst high Government debt is falling rapidly toward European norms.


“The major question facing the economy over the coming years will continue to be the ability of the economy to meet the needs of a growing population in a sustainable manner. Major challenges are already clear in the housing sector. Our estimates today show that to meet Rebuilding Ireland's target of 26,000 house completions along with other construction needs by 2020 there will need to be in the region of 50,000 additional construction workers. Meeting 40,000 housing units a year would increase this to almost 80,000 workers. Delivering on the promise of growth with stretched capacity and a tight labour market, whilst also maintaining competitiveness, will be a key challenge ahead for both business and the Government.


All indicators are now pointing to strong and sustainable growth in Ireland’s economy in 2017 and 2018 underpinned by business investment and strong consumer spending. The economy has now moved past its ‘recovery’ phase and can look forward confidently despite external threats. It is likely that the Brexit impact on growth in 2018 will be outweighed by positive domestic and global momentum. 


For the full economic outlook please click here 

Cut your energy bills by up to 20% with support from SEAI

Spotlight on the SEAI’s energy advice, and training, free supports to help small companies reduce their energy usage. This article provides information on the training and advice and how to avail of it.



Cut your energy bills by up to 20% with mentoring from SEAI


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.

SEAI Energy Advice, Mentoring and Assessment

Did you know, according to SEAI, for a company with a profit margin of 5% over three years, a €500 a year saving in energy efficiency makes the same profit as €30,000 of extra sales?



Free training and mentoring supports over a three-month period to help small companies reduce their energy bills.


The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) can help your company to reduce your energy usage by up to 20%, cutting costs and minimising your environmental impact.  


Competitiveness is the key to success in small businesses. Energy is a significant cost for many businesses and reductions can boost the bottom line. SEAI’s advice, mentoring and assessment helps and motivates small businesses to assess their own energy usage, identify opportunities for savings and take actions to realise these savings.



Hundreds of organisations already making their operations more efficient and cost effective and reduce energy usage, cut costs and protect the environment. To help you maximise energy savings we have developed a range of small business training workshops (Energy MAP) for SMEs.


The training and mentoring is run by the SEAI. To register, simply email business@seai.ie


For more general information, visit the SEAI website.



If you are interested in applying, don’t forget:

  • Businesses in all sectors can avail of this training
  • The services are free but businesses agree to provide information, take the time to engage with the SEAI experts
  • You will be asked for your total annual energy spend (actual or estimated). Providing actual figures will improve the accuracy of the assessment and you can add information on the breakdown across different subheadings if available (electricity, natural gas, LPG, fuel oil, kerosene/gasoil, solid fuels, renewables, fleet).
  • SEAI can also provide information about accelerated capital allowances, which provide tax relief on the purchase of energy efficient equipment
  • SEAI have recently produced an interactive energy management guide for SMEs, downloadable from their web site here.


Introduction to selling to government
  • 31 January, 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 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. 

Prepare for success – Essential advice for new and micro businesses
  • 07 February, Dublin City Council Civic Offices

Date: 07 February 2018
Time: 17:30-19:30
Venue: Wood Quay Venue, Dublin City Council Civic Offices, Wood Quay, Dublin 8


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.

  • Have you recently started a business?
  • Or have you been working alone/in a very small operation and are now thinking about expanding?

There is a lot to consider in this phase of your business. Make the right decisions now and you will have a solid foundation for future success.

This seminar is aimed at those involved in start-ups and businesses in their first three years, as well as anyone involved in a micro-enterprise (less than 10 employees) who is turning their mind to expansion. The SFA is bringing together a range of experts who can support you and your business to achieve your potential.

Training, mentoring and financial supports: Steven O’Gara, Senior Economic Development Officer for Dublin City Council, will outline what the Local Enterprise Offices around the country can offer to new and micro-enterprises, spotlighting both financial and non-financial supports.

Business loans: Deirdre Parkinson, Head of Marketing with Microfinance Ireland, will give participants a rundown of finance options for small business. She will highlight the Microfinance Ireland offering, which is available to businesses that may have difficulty accessing traditional bank finance.

Getting online: SMEs with a website pick up 22 additional jobs or sales per year on average, with a total value of €24,000. IE Domain Registry, the organisation that manages the dot ie namespace, will help you to understand what an effective online presence could add to your business and how to achieve it. 

Flexing your strengths: Business psychologist Jane Perry of C Zone Coaching will focus on one of the most important elements of long term success – you, the owner-manager. She will guide you through the skills and strengths you need for this crucial phase of your business.

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.

Health & safety courses to reduce the risks in your business

In 2018, SFA is offering a range of health & safety courses for small business, in addition to our regular management development offering. In March, we have a one-day First Aid Response course and a one-day Safety Awareness for Managers course.

First Aid Response


Do you have a staff member who is equipped with the basic skills to deal with a medical emergency before the arrival of medical assistance?

If not, this course is ideal so that there is someone on site with training in CPR (adult and child), using a defibrillator, bleeding control, head injuries and choking.


Date: 9 March, 8:30am-3:30pm

Venue: Ibec, 84-86 Lower Baggot Street

Cost: SFA member rate €220


Register here.


Safety Awareness for Managers


This course provides managers with a practical toolkit for integrating their health and safety responsibilities with operational management. It includes skills for risk assessment, communication and accident investigation.  


Date: 27 March, 8:30am-3:30pm

Venue: Ibec, 84-86 Lower Baggot Street

Cost: SFA member rate €220


Register here.


These courses are part of the SFA’s 2018 training programme, ‘Training that counts’. Book your place for a variety of courses now at www.sfa.ie/events or find out more about customised training and other options here.