SFA Fortnightly Update

Dear Member, 


Welcome to this edition of the SFA e-zine.


Have you registered for the annual SFA Employment Law Seminar, 'Changing HR Landscape' taking place on 22 April? Designed to benefit business owners and HR professionals guiding their small business through this challenging period, this virtual half-day event will give you the opportunity to hear directly from industry experts on HR and Health & Safety considerations for Covid-19, Employment Permits, Managing Probation and HR updates on upcoming trends and legislation - Register today.


Be sure to check out the launch of the assessment tool in the recent expansion of MentorsWork, a Government subsidised programme that helps SMEs to identify and action key skills needs. You can also complete a trial 5-minute assessment and discover if developing certain skills and competencies could boost the financial health and growth of your business. 


See the upcoming changes to the Parent's Leave and Benefit Act 2019 here, expected to come into effect from 1 April 2021.


Read the SFA response to the Government consultation on a new restructuring process for the rescue of small firms, and see how the UK Supreme Court unanimously ruled that a group of 25 drivers working for Uber app were workers rather than self-employed independent contractors. 


We also provide information on the newest Covid-19 business support, and be sure to see our most recent press coverage.


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 our website.


Kind regards, 

Sven Spollen-Behrens

SFA Director


SFA in the media
  • Summary Rescue Process
  • Champion Green
  • MentorsWork
  • Brexit
  • Equine MediRecord

Summary Rescue Process

Following the announcement of the proposed, 'Summary Rescue Process", a restructuring framework for small and micro companies, the SFA was feautred in the Independent, stating that the "new low-cost examinership scheme will leave businesses with significant problems if an option to exit from leases and other onerous contracts is not included".


Champion Green

With the launch of the 2021 Champion Green movement to support small business, backed by a €1m investment to drive consumer support for local enterprise and to help SMEs adapt their businesses, the SFA was mentioned in RTE, Newstalk, Cork Independent, The Echo, Northern Strand, Westmeat Examiner, Bixplus.ie and enviro-solutions.com

SFA Director, Sven Spollen-Behrens, was also on the Pat Kenny show to talk about Champion Green and how to boost Irish business. 



With the recent expansion of ‘MentorsWork,’ an initiative aimed at helping Irish SME business owners and managers to navigate current business challenges and plan for growth, the programme and the SFA were featured in outlets such as the Skillnet Ireland, Irish Times, The Echo and Business Post. 



The SFA was mentioned in the The Times article on the difficulty of post-Brexit trading for small Irish businesses. 


Equine MediRecord

SFA Members and National Small Business Awards 2020 Winners and 2021 Finalists were featured in thatsfarming.com for their success as a global equine regulator.




New phase of ‘MentorsWork’ launched

Launch of assessment tool forms part of a significant expansion of MentorsWork...

Last week, the SFA in partnership with Skillnet Ireland launched the next phase of ‘MentorsWork,’ an initiative aimed at helping Irish small business owners and managers to navigate current business challenges and plan for growth. 


A key new addition is the MentorsWork Competency Assessment, an online diagnostic tool which will help business owners and managers to identify skills and development needs. Developed through extensive collaboration with the industry and current MentorsWork participants, this innovative tool guides users through a comprehensive list of questions and generates a bespoke report that contains insights and recommended next steps. The insights and areas of development are then addressed through a programme of mentoring, masterclasses and workshops provided by Skillnet Ireland in partnership with the SFA.  


MentorsWork has expanded from 8 weeks to 12 weeks in duration and offers unlimited masterclasses and peer-to-peer workshops as well as one-to-one mentoring.  


MentorsWork is a flexible programme designed to provide the skills and supports that small business owner-managers need to improve and grow their business. The programme is fully subsidised by the Government of Ireland and offers integrated learning supports across four key pillars: People, Finance and Growth, Digitalisation and Automation and Business Processes. The programme connects business owners and managers with dedicated expert business mentors to address specific issues on a one-to-one basis. MentorsWork also supports businesses to develop a six-month Strategic Business Improvement Plan.  


First introduced in April 2020, MentorsWork has supported 600 businesses to date and this new phase of the programme aims to support a further 600 SME owners/managers. Developed in partnership with industry to boost SME productivity, the programme is available free of charge to small business owners and managers operating across all sectors in Ireland.  


Business owners and managers can apply to participate in MentorsWork here.


Increase to Parent's Benefit

Read on to learn more about the update to the Parent's Leave and Benefits Act...

The Parent’s Leave and Benefit Act 2019, which was introduced on the 1 November 2019, provides for two weeks of Parent’s Leave for each parent to allow them time off around the birth or adoption of their child or the child of their spouse or partner. In December 2020, Minister O’Gorman secured Cabinet approval for the extension of the €245 a week paid benefit.​ The bill is currently before Seanad Éireann (Committee Stage or Third Stage). It is expected these changes will come into effect from 1 April 2021. The extension will be made available retrospectively to parents in respect of children born or adopted on or after 1st November 2019.​​ Eligible employees can avail of their two weeks until April 2021, where they can then claim their remaining 3 weeks entitlement.​


As provided for in Budget 2021, changes to parent’s leave are as follows:  

  • Parent's Leave and Parents Benefit will be extended from 2 to 5 weeks for each parent. (3-week increase). 
  • Employees will have up to two years to take this leave - previously it was taken within the first 12 months of the birth/adoption of the child.  

The Parent’s Benefit is paid for by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection and there is no legal obligation for employers to provide a top up payment. Considering this, businesses should prepare for and expect more requests from parents seeking time off for childcare commitments this year.


It is important to note that the Government, as part of Budget 2021, had intended to extend parent’s leave in light of a commitment given in Budget 2019 to incrementally increase parent’s leave from 2 weeks to 7 weeks by 2021. Section 5 of the Parent’s Leave and Benefit Act 2019 states that the leave may be extended not beyond a period of 9 weeks. Allowing for a maximum period of 9 weeks takes account of the impending transposition of the Work-Life Balance Directive which provides for two months of paid leave. As Ireland is obligated to transpose the minimum requirements of the Directive by August 2022, an increase to parent’s leave was always expected.


The last year has seen a significant increase in family leave entitlements and the impact will, no doubt, be felt by companies in the current climate. SFA will keep members updated with developments as they arise. You can view more information on family leave or contact Emma Crowley on 01 605 1668 or at emma.crowley@sfa.ie if you have any further questions.

Workers, or self-employed?

See the UK Supreme Court ruling regarding the rights of drivers at Uber Technologies...

Uber Technologies lost a UK supreme court ruling over the rights of its drivers. In Uber BV and others (Appellants) v Aslam and others (Respondents) [2021] the judges unanimously ruled that Uber drivers are workers who are entitled to rights such as minimum wage, paid annual leave, rest breaks. In the UK, workers being of a greater level of protection under employment law to contractors, they were also afforded protections such as, unauthorised deductions from pay, discrimination or being subjected to a detriment for being a whistle-blower, albeit not granting them the wider employment protections afforded to employees.


The Supreme Court set out five considerations which supported their rationale for the decision that the Uber drivers were workers: 

  1. Uber controls over how much the drivers are paid for the work they do. Uber sets the fares for each booking. It was therefore Uber who decided how much drivers received for the work they do. 
  2. Uber required its drivers to sign and accept a standard written agreement, which sets out the contractual terms that govern the services performed by the drivers, with the drivers having no say in those terms. 
  3. Once the driver was logged into the app, Uber controlled whether the driver accepted rides, with enforcement action taken if they cancelled or rejected trips repeatedly. Uber may then take matters further and log drivers out of the app for ten minutes if performance (from Uber’s perspective) does not improve. 
  4. Uber’s rating system implemented a significant degree of control over how the drivers performed the service. For example, Uber guides the driver to the pickup location and sets out a route for the journey. The drivers do not have to follow the specific route but are likely to receive negative customer feedback via the rating if they do not.  
  5. Uber restricts any communication between the drivers and customer to ensure that no relationship develops. Uber handles all complaints and further interactions. 

The Court stated that by “taking these factors together, it can be seen that the transportation service performed by drivers and offered to passengers through the Uber app is very tightly defined and controlled by Uber”. Consequently, the Court concluded that these conditions placed the drivers in a position of subordination and that the drivers had little or no opportunity to improve their economic position via their entrepreneurial skill.


Some key takeaways for employers: 

  • Categorising staff as self-employed contractors does not determine their employment status if, in practice, those “contractors” are being treated as employees or workers. 
  • The more control a business or employer has over its workers or how its service is provided may weaken any argument that the worker is self-employed/contractor. 
  • This case sets a precedent for how tribunals will decide future cases regarding employment status. Although the worker’s status depends on weighing up a number of factors, it is clear that a high degree of control exercised by the business or employer that employs individuals will favour an argument that those individuals are regarded as employees.

It is important that a business does not exercise control over the individual if they are hired as a contractor, if this were to occur, they would be regarded as an employee. Misclassification is not only a breach of employment legislation but can also have costly implications for the employer. If you are unsure about the employment status of individuals in your small business, you can contact the Emma for advice at 01-6051668 or email: emma.crowley@sfa.ie  

Summary Rescue Process | Public Consultation

New restructuring process sought for the rescue of small firms...

SFA submitted a response to the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment consultation on a potential new restructuring process suitable for the rescue of small companies.


It is envisaged that new legislation, if enacted, will set out a stand-alone restructuring process separate from examinership. This new process will be tailored specifically for the 98% of Irish companies that are micro and small companies as defined in the Companies Act 2014. This includes all companies that, in the most recent financial year, fulfil two or more of the following requirements: 

  • The turnover of the company does not exceed €12 million 
  • The balance sheet total of the company does not exceed €6 million 
  • The average number of employees does not exceed 50 

The consultation process follows the publication of a report by the Company Law Reform Group.


The submission was written by SFA member Declan de Lacy, an insolvency expert from PKF O’Connor, Leddy & Holmes, following consultation with members, and answers questions set out in the consultation focusing on: 

  • Key elements of the process 
  • Excludability 
  • Disqualification from entry 
  • Standard forms 
  • Potential users. 

If implemented and utilised correctly, the Summary Rescue Process, has the potential to have a positive impact on the small business community and become an important insolvency tool.


Access the full submission here.

Read a recent Sunday Independent Article ‘Low cost examinership ‘must allow lease exits’ says SFA’ on our submission.  

Small Business Assistance Scheme for COVID

New Covid small business support launched...

The Small Business Assistance Scheme for COVID is a grant designed for businesses that are not eligible for the COVID Restrictions Support Scheme, the Fáilte Ireland Business Continuity grant or other direct sectoral grant schemes. Applications should be made to your Local Authority by the closing date 21 April 2021. Eligible businesses will receive a payment of €4,000 for the first quarter of 2021. A decision on the second quarter 2021 will be made in due course. Rate paying businesses including wholesalers, suppliers and caterers down 75% or more in turnover will benefit.


See more Covid-19 business supports here.

How data can accelerate Covid recovery for small business
  • 24 March

Join the SFA, GeoDirectory and Idiro Analytics for a webinar on 24 March to see "How data can accelerate Covid recovery for small business".


In the last 12 months we have witnessed Irish resilience at its best. Outside of certain sectors such as hospitality, travel and food, many SMEs have sustained their businesses and the jobs of those they employ while facing the constant threats of Covid-19 and Brexit


As we head towards Q2 2021, we look at how best we can accelerate recovery from the impact of a particularly challenging 12 months. One such way is to maximise the potential of an asset you already possess. From researching and planning, to accuracy in targeting new customers and enhancing customer service and satisfaction, the secret weapon for growth is your own data.


The SFA are delighted to team up with GeoDirectory, Ireland’s leading data intelligence expert for this webinar. GeoDirectory’s CEO Dara Keogh will discuss the fear of data and how to overcome it. He will show how you can make it an integral part of your everyday processes in a practical way and to see a real difference in your bottom line. Dara will demonstrate both the tactical and the strategic uses of data with an emphasis on the major benefits of the latter. He will highlight simple steps to accelerate growth both with the data you already have at hand and the data you can add to enhance its effectiveness for greater results.


For this webinar we will also be joined by Geraldine Magnier, Director and co-owner of Idiro Analytics. Geraldine will talk about the 8 - 1 rule: how the data you already have is incredibly powerful in keeping and enhancing the value of your existing customer base.


We would be delighted join us for the 60-minute webinar - Register before 5pm on Tuesday 23 March to receive the Microsoft teams link.

Simple Focus on your business with Bitsing
  • 14 April

Join the SFA and Bitsing for a webinar on how to stop managing your time, and start managing your focus.


What is it about: Delivering real value to you and your business in 1 hour, understanding uncertainty, focus, and growth.


Uncertainty | Face it calmly by understanding the facts of your business.

Focus | Pay attention to these facts.

Growth | Simplify by using these facts to plan and execute measurable actions.


Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Do you have a clear agreed continuity (survival) goal for the next 12 months?
  2. Do you decide what percentage of your resources will be focused on each of your priorities?
  3. Do you understand what your unique message is to your target audience?
  4. Do you have clear knowledge on who your target audience is?
  5. How have you ranked your company's priorities for the next 12 months?
  6. Do you have a clear prediction on what your company will achieve over the next 12 months?
  7. Do you measure the results of each action your company takes to get these results?

What learnings/ takeaways expected: Have a pen and paper with you! 7 simple practical steps to take, to move forward.


Bitsing has been using a unique methodology for over 20 years to work with clients through coaching and training to allow them to achive their goals. In this 50-minute webinar, Noel Quinn will present the Bitsing methodology, walk through case studies, and take questions from the audience.


Register today and you will receive a Microsoft Teams link on Tuesday, 13 April.

SFA Employment Law Seminar
  • 22 April

SFA Employment Law Online Seminar | Changing HR landscape

  • Thursday 22 April, 2021 9am - 1pm

The Covid-19 pandemic has drastically changed the way we live and work – and it has never been more vital to explore the changes and developments that employers are facing. The Small Firms Association’s Annual Employment Law Seminar Changing HR landscape takes place on Thursday 22 April 2021. This virtual seminar focuses on the issues that are affecting Business and HR professionals, with discussions led by employment law experts. On the day, you will hear about HR and Occupational Health and Safety considerations for Covid-19, Employment Permits, Probation and a HR update on upcoming trends and legislation. This seminar is designed to benefit business owners and human resource professionals tasked with guiding their small business through this challenging and evolving period.


Employment Permits and Visa
In order to work in Ireland a non-EEA National, unless they are exempted, must hold a valid Employment Permit. Ananta Kaur, an ibec’s employment Law expert will present key changes to the current employment permits and immigration permissions affected by Covid-19 and Brexit. She will take you through frequently asked questions and give a practical approach to managing them.


Covid 19 – HR and Health and Safety considerations
Last year sparked the realisation that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way of work and the way we live. Lorraine Parkes, Knowledge Centre Senior Executive, and Elaine Bowers, Occupational Health & Safety Executive, they will provide practitioners with an update on recent changes to areas of employment law and health and safety. This session will include a review of employer’s obligations in mitigating the risk to the virus and best practice and procedures when dealing with employee issues.


How to manage probation

It is common for employers to experience performance/conduct/attendance related issues with their employees. Employers may face uncertainty on how to manage these issues during an employee's probationary period. Fiona Mulligan, Childhood Services Ireland’s (CSI) executive will talk you through common misconceptions surrounding the probationary period, review recent case law, IR Issues to consider and go through a step-by-step guide on managing the probationary period.


Preparing your small business for new employment legislation
Covid-19 has not stifled the strengthening of employment law in Ireland. Emma Crowley, SFA’s HR Executive will look at a HR and employment law legislation from a small lens, exploring recent changes such as the statutory sick pay, the right to disconnect, remote working legislation, family leave and many more. There will be a review of challenges for employers, frequently asked questions and will provide a means of overcoming those challenges.


View the brochure here, full agenda coming soon - register today.

SFA Skillnet Ireland Masterclasses & Workshops

Book on to these SFA Skillnet Ireland Masterclasses and Workshops...

The following Masterclasses and Workshops are available through Skillnet Ireland. There are a number of places available first come, first served. These Workshops and Masterclasses are a sneak peek at the many innovative sessions that are running as part of the MentorsWork programme. Please see our website for more information or to apply.

Alternatively, if you would like to attend any of the individual sessions listed below, please register by filling in this short form with your details and we will be in touch.


Workshop | Resilience: Conquer from Within

  • Thur 25 March 11.00am - 1.00pm

In this practical session, learn how to manage your stress levels and enhance well-being. Understand the concept of resilience as an SME owner/manager in challenging times and how to draw on past experiences, pause and restructure yourself. Gain tools and techniques to counteract anxiety, take back control and ‘rewire new beliefs’ to deal with negativity in a more productive way.


Masterclass | Accelerate your Growth – Double the Value of Your Business

  • Tue 30 Mar 1.00pm - 2.00pm

Grow your business in 2021 and beyond to achieve significant growth and double your business. This thought leadership masterclass will help you examine new opportunities & channels - including exporting, tendering and pivoting. We will help you to build a plan to take you there, identify the funding you need and the actions to achieve this.

Masterclass | How to Win New Customers in an All-Digital World

  • Thur 1 Apr 1.00pm - 2.00pm

This deep dive practical masterclass is for business owners looking to find cost-effective ways to win new clients digitally through popular social media platforms. Attendees will leave buzzing with tangible takeaways they can instantly implement in their business.