SFA E-Zine – The Tuesday Edition

Dear Member,   

Following yesterday's ex-hurricane Ophelia we provide answers to the most commonly asked questions on the impact on working arrangements. We also bring you updates from ESB and Irish Water.

Each week in the SFA e-zine, we profile a different government support available to small businesses. In this edition, we focus on the Startup Refunds for Entrepreneurs (SURE) scheme, which could entitle people starting their own business to a refund of income tax paid over the previous six years.

We link to the latest DKP/BPFI SME Market Monitor and ask you to complete a short consultation survey on energy efficiency for business.

Tune into the next SFA webinar on Thursday (19 October) on workplace investigations and avail of a SFA member discount to attend the the 3XE Search conference also taking place on Thursday. Don't miss your chance to apply for the SFA Awards which are closing on Friday (20 October). The highlight of the small business calendar, the SFA Annual Lunch 2017 is taking place in the Mansion House on 10 November - book your seat now. Ensure your managers are prepared for end-of-year appraisals through our one day performance management and appraisal skills course. We also bring you a summary of 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: www.sfa.ie.

Kind regards, 

Sven Spollen-Behrens

SFA Director

Recent press coverage
  • Budget 2018
  • National Women's Enterprise Day
  • Cost of doing business
  • Workplace wellbeing awards scheme

Budget 2018

The SFA issued a press release on 10 October following the announcement of Budget 2018. 

This was covered in:

On 10 October SFA Director, Sven Spollen–Behrens was interviewed on his reaction to the Budget on:

  • RTE Radio 1                                                       
  • Today FM
  • Newstalk
  • TV3
  • DCU Student Radio.   

National Women's Enterprise Day

SFA Chair, Sue O'Neill spoke at a National Women's Enterprise Day event in Leopardstown Pavillion on 12 October which was covered in the Tallaght Echo. 

Cost of doing business

The SFA presented at the Oireachtas Business, Enterprise and Innovation Committee today (17 October) on the cost of doing business, this was covered in the Irish Examiner on 16 October. 


YOUR BUSINESS LIVE which is supported by the SFA and Ibec have announced a change in date for Ireland’s two day SME showcase, due to the scale of the event. The event will now take place on 10 and 11 April 2018 in the RDS Simmonscourt, Dublin. This was covered in the Irish Independent on 10 October.

Workplace wellbeing awards scheme

A report on absenteeism carried out by the SFA in 2014 was referred to in an article in the Evening Echo on 10 October on the launch of a workplace wellbeing awards scheme in Cork. 

Ex-hurricane Ophelia - answers to your working arrangements questions
There has been a significant number of calls received from SFA members regarding ex-hurricane Ophelia and the impact this has had on working arrangements. This article answers the most commonly received queries from members...

There has been a significant number of calls received from SFA members regarding ex-hurricane Ophelia and the impact this has had on working arrangements. We have answered the most commonly received queries from members below.

Do I have to pay an employee if they are unable to attend work due to severe weather conditions?

Even though the employee’s absence is through no fault of their own, an employer has no obligation to pay an employee if they are unable to attend for work due to severe weather conditions. Where an employee has the capacity to carry out their work from home for the duration of the disruption, this should be agreed with his or her line manager. This will not be feasible for a number of roles where the employee’s presence is required. Whilst there is no obligation, employers may wish to be accommodating in this circumstance and offer to let the employee make up the time on another day so they still get paid. Alternatively, the options of annual leave or unpaid leave should be presented to the employee.

If I close my business early and send staff home am I obliged to pay them?

If an employer sends staff home early during the working day or closes the business, they would normally still have to pay the employees. An exception to this is if the employer has an unpaid lay off clause in the employees’ contracts and in this case employees would only be entitled to be paid for the hours actually worked.

Can I make employees take the time off as annual leave if they are unable to attend due to severe weather conditions?

Employers can make employees take annual leave at times when it suits the business but only if certain advance notice requirements are met. To enforce a holiday, employers must give notice that is equal to twice the length of time that the employer wants to be taken off by the employee e.g. 2 days’ notice must be given for 1 day’s holiday; 6 days’ notice must be given for 3 days’ holiday. Typically, the nature of bad weather means that complying with such notice requirements may not be possible. However, if the employee agrees to the employer’s suggestion to take an annual leave day, regardless of notice provided, then there is no issue with this.

Is an employee entitled to be paid when they are unable to attend work because they need to take care of children who are off school?

Where the employer’s business remains open and employees are unable to attend because they need to take care of children who are off school, then, strictly speaking and subject to any custom and practice in operation within the company, there is no obligation on employers to pay employees during this period.


The company’s approach should ideally be clarified beforehand in a company policy or, in the absence of a policy, discussed and agreed with employees at the time the situation arises. It is important that employees are aware of how these matters are dealt with in the company to ensure that there are no surprises on pay day which may lead to a disgruntled workforce.

The SFA have a guideline on severe and inclement weather conditions which can be viewed here. For further advice, contact Ciara McGuone, SFA Executive on 01 605 1668 or ciara.mcguone@sfa.ie.

Storm Ophelia - ESB & Irish Water updates
The SFA has been provided with the following updates from ESB and Irish Water following Storm Ophelia...

The SFA has been provided with the below updates from ESB and Irish Water following Storm Ophelia

ESB - Storm Ophelia Outage update: 330,000 customers across Ireland remain without power

  • Serious damage has been caused to the electricity network by Storm Ophelia 
  • Customers impacted by outages should prepare to be without electricity for a number of days
  • Crews across the country are deployed and are dealing with emergencies and restoring power to customers, where it is safe to do so

Issued: 8:15 pm, Monday 16 October 2017

Approximately 330,000 electricity customers remain without power due to the impact of ex-hurricane Orphelia on the electricity network. Fallen trees on overhead lines are responsible for most of the damage to the network.

The majority of customers who have lost supply at present will be without power overnight and over a number of days. Based on previous experience of Storm Darwin in 2014, where about 280,000 customers were left without supply, ESB can predict that it will take a number of days to restore power to all customers. Five to ten per cent of this number will be without power for up to ten days.

ESB are advising all customers impacted by outages that they should prepare to be without electricity for a number of days. ESB Networks are particularly concerned about customers who use electrically powered medical devices and who are without power. It is important that these customers contact their healthcare professional so that they can receive advice on their care during this period.

An Important Public Safety Message: If you come across fallen wires or damaged electricity network, never, ever touch or approach these as they are LIVE and extremely dangerous. Please report any damage to electricity infrastructure by calling 1850 372 999.

ESB are currently prioritising emergency calls on their 1850 number, but customers without power can check for updates on when their fault is expected to be repaired at www.esbpowercheck.ie or on the PowerCheck App for iPhone and Android devices.

If your fault is not logged you can report it on the website  https://www.esbnetworks.ie/power-outages-updates/report-a-power-outage. Customers should have their MPRN available to access recorded information specific to their location. You can also check @ESBNetworks on Twitter for updates.

ESB Networks is reminding customers of the precautionary measures to take in the event of a power cut:

  • Never approach broken lines or damaged poles, and keep children and animals away – report damage to ESB Networks at 1850 372 999 and listen to recorded messages carefully
  • Turn off electric cookers, ovens, irons, etc. if electricity supply is lost
  • Leave a light switched on so you know when power has been restored
  • Take extra care if using candles, oil lamps or other naked flames
  • Test smoke alarms with fresh batteries
  • Ensure adequate ventilation if using gas heaters.

Real time information on power outages and restoration times is available at: www.esbpowercheck.ie with further information available at: www.esbnetworks.ie/power-outages-updates/latest-updates.

Irish Water

Issued: 8:15 pm, Monday 16 October 2017

Irish Water has been monitoring all of their water and wastewater supplies, working with the 31 local authorities during Storm Ophelia.

At this stage, there are extensive power outages affecting treatment plants and pumping stations which for the most part have not impacted water supplies due to a combination of reservoir storage and backup generators on the more critical supplies. However, there are communities without water mainly in southern counties, on schemes without storage and due to burst mains where it is unsafe for crews to carry out repairs for the moment.

Irish Water have a limited number of small supplies where precautionary Boil Water Notices have been notified due to treatment risks, associated with power failures affecting the disinfection of plants.

Irish Water also have some power outages at wastewater plants and pumping stations resulting in discharge of untreated or partially treated sewage. Rainfall levels have been manageable and we have no reports of serious flooding on our networks.

Irish Water are working closely with ESB to help prioritise those schemes where power restoration will be most urgent tomorrow in order to avoid loss of supply on a greater scale.

If you have issues with your water supply please view Irish Water's service supply map on www.water.ie, visit twitter at @IWCare or call 1850 278 278. 


Recently started a new business? Recoup six years of income tax

Spotlight on the Startup Refunds for Entrepreneurs (SURE) scheme, which could entitle people starting their own business to a refund of income tax paid over the previous six years. This article provides information on the scheme and advice for potential applicants...  

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.

Startup Refunds for Entrepreneurs (SURE)


An income tax refund for those starting their own company of up to 41% of your investment in the company.

You could receive a refund of all income tax paid in the six years leading up to the investment, if you meet the criteria for the scheme and depending on the amount invested.   

To qualify you must:

  • Establish a new company
  • Invest money by purchasing new shares
  • Have had mainly PAYE income in the last four years
  • Work full time in the new company as an employee/director

There are further conditions relating to the investor, the company and its activities, and the timing and nature of the investment. These can be found on the Revenue website


The aim of the SURE scheme is to promote entrepreneurship, providing a direct financial incentive for people to start their own companies.   


The scheme is run by Revenue, in conjunction with Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) and the Department of Business, Enterprise and Employment.

The application, which consists of forms completed by the Company Secretary and the investor, a copy of the bank statement showing the investment and a form outlining the allotment of shares, is submitted to the Incentives and Financial Services Branch (IFSB) of Revenue. Once the IFSB approves the application, the applicant’s tax office deals with the refund.

Examples of how the refund is calculated are contained in the Revenue leaflet.


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

  • Before a claim is made, you must have made the investment and received your shares
  • You cannot get a refund of PRSI or USC paid
  • The amounts invested can be used:
    • For the creation and maintenance of employment and the carrying out of relevant trading activities
    • In the case of a company that has not commenced to carry on relevant trading activities, for research and development activities
  • The minimum investment under the scheme is €250 and the maximum investment is €700,000.
SME environment remains broadly positive, but no room for complacency
The majority of indicators tracked in the latest DKM/BPFI SME Market Monitor are encouragingly positive...

The DKM/BPFI SME Market Monitor is a quarterly publication commissioned by the Banking and Payments Federation Ireland (BPFI). The purpose of the Market Monitor is to present up-to-date trends across a range of indicators which are important for the performance of the SME sector.

In the latest monitor, the majority of indicators tracked are encouragingly positive. The Industrial Production Index recorded a monthly increase of 1.3% in July, with a particularly strong increase in output in the Modern sector (+5.3%). There was also particularly strong growth in the Services Index in July, with monthly and yearly value growth of 6.9% and 10.1% respectively. The positive movement in the indicators can be attributed to the healthy pace of growth in the domestic economy, supported by the strength of domestic demand. Modified total domestic demand, which excludes the activities of multinational companies, totaled €43.5 billion on a seasonally adjusted basis, with quarterly growth of 4.5%.

The publication of the Q2 2017 National Accounts also showed that, for the first time since Q1 2013, personal consumption fell by 1.1% on a quarterly seasonally adjusted basis. Such a drop was primarily due to the notable fall in the level of car sales in Q2 2017, with consumers opting to take advantage of a weak Sterling to make their car purchases in Northern Ireland, therefore causing domestic car sales to decline.

There were also mixed signs from the latest Retail Sales Index. Although the Index recorded a notable annual increase of 4.7% in August, the Index did fall on a monthly basis by 4.2%. When car sales are excluded from the Index expands on an annual and monthly basis by 6.7% and 0.2% respectively. The latest KBC/ESRI Consumer Sentiment Index fell marginally in August as households began reining in spending due to back-to-school costs and rising household costs. The August survey suggested that although consumers’ fears with respect to Brexit have eased to a certain extent, for the majority of consumers, their own personal finances had not improved with most consumers expecting no marked improvement in their household spending power in the coming year.

Uncertainty in regard to Brexit and the subsequent weak value of Sterling continues to affect the number of visitors coming from Great Britain (GB), with visitor numbers down by 3.1% in the quarter and by 8.6% YoY in Q2 2017. Visitor numbers from GB have been on a downward slope since Q2 2016, which coincided with the Brexit vote. Despite such falls, a total of 2.49 million tourists visited Ireland in Q2 2017, representing annual and quarterly increases of 3.8% and 1.8% respectively. There were also significant annual increases in visitors coming from North America (+22.9%) and Europe (+8.3%). The aftermath of the Brexit vote also continues to affect the Food Production Index, as output in the industry has now fallen in five of the last six months.

Nonetheless, at this point in time, the economy continues to perform well in terms of increased domestic demand, positive SME lending and production levels. However, given the unpredictability of these global factors, it is difficult to know whether this shall remain to be the case and to what extent this could impact the SME environment in the medium term.

Download the full report.

Consultation survey on energy efficiency for business
A short survey on the multiple benefits of energy efficiency for businesses and how you can be supported to achieve these. By improving energy efficiency a business can reduce its energy spend, improve competitiveness and resilience and improve their green credentials...
The SFA have been asked by the Department of Communications, Climate Action & Environment (DCCAE) to bring this survey on energy efficiency to the attention of our members. 

The focus is on the multiple benefits of energy efficiency for businesses and how you can be supported to achieve these. By improving energy efficiency a business can reduce its energy spend, improve competitiveness and resilience and improve their green credentials. There are different types of support available as outlined in the survey.

The survey should take no more than 10 minutes to complete. The Department believe participation in the survey should be advantageous and would encourage as many as possible to participate in the survey, for two reasons:
  • It identifies many of the benefits of energy efficiency for business and some supports currently available to you to become more energy efficient;
  • It is an opportunity to have your voice heard on how business could be better supported to improve their energy efficiency. 

Your replies to the survey questions go directly to DCCAE and will not be seen by others – your contact details have not been shared with DCCAE. You have the option to complete the survey anonymously if you wish. Respondents who are interested in any of the support options are asked to give contact details to facilitate follow up.  

The consultation will be open for responses until  5:00pm on 25 October. To access the survey click here.

If you have questions about the survey contact Tomás Murray (Tomas.Murray@dccae.gov.ie / 01 678 2184) or Maurice Healy (Maurice.Healy@dccae.gov.ie).

SFA Webinar - Workplace investigations
  • 19 October

Ciara McGuone, SFA Executive, will deliver a webinar on Thursday, 19 October on workplace investigations. The webinar will take place from 2:15pm to 2:45pm, followed by an informative Q&A session.

The webinar will focus on the legal and best practice requirements when conducting workplace investigations. It is important that employers adhere to fair procedures and conduct an objective and thorough investigation. If carried out early and correctly, an investigation should contain a problem and minimise distraction from the business. The webinar will provide practical tips and advice for employers in conducting investigations and will answer some of the most frequently asked questions by members in this area.

Register online now for the webinar here

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar. If you can't make this time, you can still register for the session and we'll send you a link to the recording afterwards so you can playback in your own time. 

3XE Search
  • 19 October

In 2017 search marketing continues to be the biggest and most powerful form of digital marketing.

Join 600 digital marketing experts at 3XE Search - the most international 3XE conference on 19 October in Croke Park, Dublin.

  • Connect with the world-class speakers, industry innovators and trend disruptors.
  • Learn the tricks of the trade for 2018 and beyond. 
  • Improve your leads and convert them to sales

Limited number of tickets available. SFA members can avail of a 25% off discount using code SFA3XE, book now to avoid disappointment. 

SFA Awards 2018 closing date for applications

Book now - SFA Annual Lunch 2017
  • 10 November
  • The Mansion House

The SFA Annual Lunch is the highlight of the small business calendar. It is an opportunity to celebrate the contribution that small businesses make to the Irish economy and society.

The SFA Annual Lunch 2017, sponsored by Bank of Ireland will take place in the Mansion House in Dublin on Friday, 10 November at 12:30pm. 

Join over 500 guests, including small business owner-managers, politicians, senior government officials and media for the biggest business lunch of the year for small business. This is also the perfect opportunity to bring together your invited guests, special customers, clients and valued employees to kick off the festive season.

Member rate of €750 + VAT for a table of 10 or €75 + VAT per seat - book your tickets online now

Are your managers prepared for end-of-year appraisals?
It is important that appraisals, as well as other aspects of performance management, are handled well in order to address poor performance and ensure that high performers remain engaged with their work. The SFA's Performance Management and Appraisal Skills course will equip the managers in your business with the skills needed to maximise the performance of employees...
At this time of year, end-of-year appraisals are on the minds of managers and employees alike. It is important that these appraisals, as well as other aspects of performance management, are handled well in order to address poor performance and ensure that high performers remain engaged with their work.

Now is the time for you and the people managers in your business to avail of the SFA’s Performance Management and Appraisal Skills one-day course on 14 December.

Topics covered include:
  • The employee lifecycle
  • Managing the appraisal meeting: preparation, structure, style
  • Managing poor and high performers
  • Delivering feedback and dealing with challenging people


  • When: 14 December 2017
  • Where: Ibec, 84-86 Lower Baggot Street, Dublin 2
  • Cost: €190 per delegate (SFA member rate)
  • Book now by clicking here

Other courses

Booking is now open for the following courses:

  • Project Management:7 December (see here)
  • Foundations in Management: 23-24 November (see here)
  • Foundations in Employment Law: 30 November-1 December (see here)

The price for SFA members is €190 per person for the one-day courses and €370 for the two-day courses.

For all upcoming events and training courses, see www.sfa.ie/events