SFA Fortnightly Update

Dear Member, 


Welcome to this edition of the SFA e-zine.


We will be taking a summer break from the SFA Update for the month of August - the next Update will be issued on Tuesday, 31 August.


New research on the importance of ‘supporting local’ sees small business confidence Improving and restoring turnover levels as biggest challenge and Return to Office key to business success. You can also find the frequently asked questions that we have received in recent months regarding the impact of the vaccinations in the workplace and how employers can best manage employee queries. 


Be sure to read about about SCARP (Small Company Administrative Rescue Process) passage and save the date for our upcoming webinar with PKF. The expanded Small Business Assistance Scheme for COVID is also open for applications, make sure to apply before the 29 July closing date.


See how energy audits help businesses with tailored recommendations to reduce energy bills and how you can avail of a €2,000 voucher, and check out the Go-2-Tender Award winning programme from InterTradeIreland. Finally, don't forget to check out our latest 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
  • Champion Green
  • MentorsWork
  • Events Sector


Following the Small Company Administrative Rescue Process (SCARP) Bill passing all stages of the legislative process, the SFA were featured on RTE and in the Irish Examiner welcoming the rescue package. Another article from RTE on how the plan will save businesses and jobs can be found here. The SFA were also mentioned along with the Billl on RTE Radio 1.


Champion Green

The recent Champion Green survey led by iReach has shown what is needed needed to rejuvenate town centres after the pandemic, covered by Wicklow Times, Cork Independent, Extra.ie and Thinkbusiness.ie - playback the webinar going over the results here.



The SFA and Skillnet Ireland free business support programme MentorsWork was featured across numerous outlets this week, including RTE, Irish Examiner, BizPlus.ie, Checkout.ie and Spin Southwest. Check out the programme and apply today here.


Events Sector

The SFA were mentioned in Mayo Advertiser and The Echo after welcoming €11.5 million scheme to help companies working in the events sector with their fixed costs, but cautioned that concerns in the sector remain around reopening timelines. 

Covid-19 Vaccination FAQs

Read on for the FAQs that we have received in recent months regarding the impact of the vaccinations in the workplace and how employers can best manage employee queries...

Q Can we make it mandatory for our employees to be vaccinated? 
The current legal position in Ireland is such that there are constitutional and other legal barriers that would make it extremely difficult for an employer to implement a mandatory vaccination programme for COVID-19. The Irish constitution provides for a right to bodily integrity; the right to a private life and the right to personal autonomy that would make any mandatory vaccination policies problematic. Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) also guarantees the right to a private life. In light of the constitutional and European human rights challenges, it is unlikely that an employer would be in a position to implement a mandatory vaccination programme.


Q Can we ask employees if they have been vaccinated? 
The short answer is no, except in very limited circumstances. Employee’s health data constitutes special category personal data under the GDPR. An employer must therefore have a legal basis for processing such data and ensure suitable safeguards are in place. Employers could seek to rely on the processing of this data being necessary to comply with a legal obligation – i.e., the legal obligation to ensure the safety, health, and welfare of their employees under the Act. This would then enable employers to collect this personal data in line with the GDPR and the Data Protection Act 2018 which allows for the processing of special categories of personal data for ‘purposes of public interest in the area of public health’.


The DPC have re-iterated their view that, in the absence of clear advice from public health authorities that it is necessary for all employers and managers of workplaces to establish vaccination status of employees and workers, the processing of vaccine data is likely to represent unnecessary and excessive data collection for which no clear legal basis exists. 


Q What about Healthcare staff?  
The DPC guidance refers to the Work Safely Protocol and outlines that there are limited set of circumstances in which vaccination should be offered as a workplace health and safety measure. The DPC also identifies that there may be situations, such as for frontline healthcare workers, where vaccination may be considered a necessary safety measure, based on sector specific guidance such as set out by the Irish Medical Council. The DPC quotes the guidance from the Irish Medical Council which states that, practitioners ‘should be vaccinated against common communicable diseases’ and advises that in these situations an employer will be in the position to lawfully process vaccine data based on necessity. Prior to operationalising any activity in this area, employers would need to conduct a data protection impact assessment (DPIA) in advance in accordance with Article 35 GDPR. HSE staff may be re-deployed to a non-patient-facing role where a risk is deemed to exist.


Q Can employers prevent an employee/s from attending the workplace if they refuse the vaccine? 
It is an individual’s right to choose whether to be vaccinated. If an employer, having carried out a risk assessment in line with their duties under the Safety Health and Welfare at Work Act, concludes that there is a risk of an employee coming into contact with the virus, or, that there is a risk of putting patients at risk, the employer can consider re-assigning the employee to another role if they are unwilling or unable to be vaccinated. The HSA has helpful guidance on this which can be found here.


Employers should be mindful of any equality implications regarding those who may not be able to get vaccinated. Where an employee decides not to get vaccinated because of pregnancy, religious belief or medical grounds, excluding such employees from the workplace on this basis could give rise to a discrimination claim.


Q Can we impose a disciplinary sanction on an employee for refusing to be vaccinated?  
This is generally not recommended. Should an employer seek to assert that a refusal to get a vaccine constitutes a health and safety breach by the employee warranting disciplinary action the employee could bring a number of claims including: 

  • A claim of discrimination on equality grounds. 
  • A claim for constructive/unfair dismissal. 
  • A payment of wages claim, if the employee was unpaid for a period because of their inability/refusal to receive the vaccine. 
  • A claim alleging unfair procedures in the application of a disciplinary sanction if a full investigation, disciplinary and appeal process has not been completed. 

Q Do I have to provide my employee with paid time off to attend a vaccination appointment?

Employers are advised to follow their usual company sick pay/absence policy in relation to attendance at medical appointments. It would be reasonable to allow an employee paid time off to attend a medical appointment and to encourage said appointments to be taken at the start or end of the working day where possible.


Q Can employers request sight of an employee’s Digital Covid Certificate as a means of managing COVID-19 in the workplace? 
No, requesting the Digital Covid Certificate (DCC) from employees would not be compliant with data protection law as all three categories of information contained in the DCC are special category data (vaccination status, a negative COVID-19 test result or confirmation of having recovered from COVID-19 in the last 6 months). This would therefore fall foul of the guidance from the DPC on this.  


Q After vaccination, are control measures still required?

Yes, control measures will still be required. Vaccination should only be seen as a useful supplement to the correct use of engineering controls, safe working procedures, personal protective equipment, instruction, information and training and should not replace them. Employers should be mindful that some employees might not respond to vaccination (non-responders).


Employers should therefore be mindful that, unless they fall within the limited set of circumstances where vaccination in healthcare settings is considered a necessary safety measure, the general processing of vaccine data is likely to constitute data processing for which is there no legal basis, and therefore incompatible with the GDPR and data protection law.


The advice from the DPC can be found here

Small Business Assistance Scheme for COVID (SBASC)

The expanded Small Business Assistance Scheme for COVID is open for applications, the closing date is 29 July...

The expanded Small Business Assistance Scheme for COVID is open for applications through your Local Authority. The closing date is 29 July 2021.


Phase 2 of this scheme has been expanded to include those that had previously been ineligible. Businesses working from non-rateable premises are now eligible to apply and if they meet the other eligibility criteria will receive a grant of €4,000. Businesses with a turnover between €20,000 and €49,999 are also now eligible to apply if they meet the other eligibility criteria and will receive a grant of €1,000.


SBASC gives grants to businesses who are not eligible for the Government’s COVID Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS), the Fáilte Ireland Business Continuity grant or other direct sectoral grant schemes. This scheme aims to help businesses with their fixed costs, for example, rent, utility bills, security.


If you have received Phase 1 of SBASC you can apply for Phase 2 if you continue to meet the eligibility requirements. 

Details of Phase 2 of SBASC

  • the scheme is available for businesses that do not qualify for CRSS, MEBAS, Fáilte Ireland Schemes or other sector schemes designed to assist with fixed costs
  • the scheme is available to companies, self-employed, sole traders or partnerships
  • the business is not owned and operated by a public body
  • the business is not eligible or availed of CRSS, Fáilte Ireland Business Continuity Scheme, MEBAS or other sectoral schemes. The details of these schemes are set out on the application form and FAQs
  • the business operates from a building, including working from home, or similar fixed physical structure such as a yard or a street trading pitch for which rates are payable or in a co-working hub or a rented fixed desk. This does not include businesses carried on from motor vehicles, such as PSVs or construction trades
  • the business must have a current eTax Clearance Certificate from the Revenue Commissioners

Business turnover criteria

  • the projected average weekly turnover of the business over the claim period 1 April to 30 June 2021 is estimated to be no more than 25% of the:
    • average weekly turnover of the business in 2019 or
    • the projected average weekly turnover of the business in 2020, for businesses that commenced after 1 November 2019, and the financial statements as of end of 2019 should be uploaded with the application
  • the business intends to resume trading in full once Government COVID-19 restrictions are eased

The SBASC will be administered through your local authority. 

Proposed term and level of payments

  • the scheme will aid eligible businesses that meet the scheme criteria for the trading period beginning 1 April to 30 June 2021
  • all eligible applications with a minimum turnover of €50,000 will receive a payment of €4,000
  • all eligible applications with a minimum turnover of €20,000 and less than €49,999 will receive a payment of €1,000
  • payments will be dispersed in the same format as rates refunds via bank transfer
  • the Scheme will close to new applicants on 29 July 2021

The scheme will be run on a first-come-first-served basis.  

For more COVID-19 business supports click here.

SCARP legislation passed by the Oireachtas

Read about SCARP (Small Company Administrative Rescue Process) passage and our upcoming webinar with PKF...

Recently the SCARP (Small Company Administrative Rescue Process) Bill passed all legislative stages in the Oireachtas and will now go the President for signature into law.


This is good news for small businesses who find themselves in distress. This law will bring in efficient and timely restructuring for those companies worst hit by the devastation of Covid-19 and is a huge step forward in improving the business environment for entrepreneurs and small business owners. SFA had called for reform of insolvency and restructuring laws in its ‘Moving the economy forward after COVID-19’ paper published last year.


The SFA has always stressed the need for urgency in the passage of this legislation, and we are delighted to see that the Minister has taken this onboard. The SFA wants to thank Minister Troy and his officials in particular for making this bill a priority for him and for understanding the needs of the small business community.


In partnership with our members in PKF we in the SFA are in planning to host a webinar to explain the intricacies of the legislation and how small businesses can avail of it. Keep an eye on your your inboxes for a save the date.


Read our response to the passing here.  

New SEAI scheme will support SMEs to take control of their energy use

Energy audits help businesses with tailored recommendations to reduce energy bills; SMEs can avail of a €2,000 voucher...

The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) is encouraging Irish SMEs to take control of their energy use with the launch of a new support scheme. The scheme will provide SMEs with a €2,000 voucher to cover the cost of an energy audit. An energy audit identifies tailored energy saving opportunities that can save businesses up to 30 percent on their energy bills and help to reduce their climate impact. The audit will also assess whether renewable energy technologies are a viable option for their business.


Speaking about the new support scheme Eamon Ryan, Minister for Environment, Climate Action and Communities said:


“This is a really exciting opportunity for all SMEs who really want to save energy, but don’t know where to start. This scheme from SEAI will support high-quality, practical energy audits that will clearly lay out what they should do, and how they should do it. Armed with this information, our SMEs will be able to take action on energy, which will save them money and make a vital contribution to our climate change goals.”


The new scheme also provides an opportunity for energy auditors, William Walsh, CEO of SEAI said:


“Energy audits really empower businesses, providing them with the information they need to make the best decisions for their organisation. This is also a great opportunity for energy auditors to provide their expertise to the SME sector on where energy is being used and what actions are going to be most effective at improving energy efficiency.”


To be eligible, SME applicants must; be must be registered in Ireland with the facility to be audited  located in Ireland also, spend at least €10,000 per year on energy, have fewer than 250 employees and have an annual turnover of less than €50 million or balance sheet of less than €43 million.


Vouchers will be awarded to SMEs who will use it to pay the SEAI registered auditor, once the audit is complete. Only auditors registered with the SEAI can claim the cost of the voucher from SEAI.


SMEs from all sectors and public bodies are encouraged to apply. SEAI recommends that SMEs contact their nominated auditor in advance, to ensure that the voucher will cover the cost of their audit. Further information on the Support Scheme for Energy Audits can be found here.


Indoor Dining to boost Local Economic Recovery, SME Survey shows

New research on the importance of ‘supporting local’ sees small business confidence Improving and restoring turnover levels as biggest challenge and Return to Office key to business success...

With indoor dining set to reopen, new Champion Green research conducted by iReach Insights has shown that high-street businesses rely on local eateries and the hospitality sector to drive footfall and trade.


More than half of those questioned in the Champion Green survey of SMEs believe that having bars, restaurants, and cafés fully open is important for the restoration of the local economy.  56% believe the quality of local food and hospitality provision affects local shopping habits, with the anticipation that next Monday’s opening up of indoor dining will encourage consumers to stay closer to home for their shopping needs.


56% of small business owners say they lost money due to turnover falling during COVID-19 lockdowns. The average overall loss was put at 43% for the year ending March 2021.


Confidence in the SME community is still apparently high, however.  80% are confident or very confident about their own employment situation in the next three months, while 66% are confident on the security of their business.  Similarly, six-in-ten business owners (61%) are confident of maintaining their personal income in the next three months.


Longer-term, 88% are confident or hopeful they can restore or improve turnover levels in the next 12 months, although only 34% are confident about the longer-term security of all of their local business community.


Restoring turnover levels (42%) is put as the biggest personal challenge for SME owners in the next 6 months.  Covid and further lockdowns (69%) and the influence of Brexit (39%) are seen as the biggest external challenges.


One-in-five (19%) say they feel like they have to raise staff wages to convince them to return to the workplace and to stay.


For small business owners, 55% say increased financial support of local business is key for driving renewal.  Consumer advertising and information on the importance of supporting local business is key to growing local support, almost two-thirds (64%) say.


For office-based SMEs, 66% say a return to the office is important, or very important, for the future of their business.  A similar 64% believe the mental health of their employees is enhanced by a return to office-based working.


The recent survey also confirmed the significance of ecommerce for SME survival.  66% of small businesses put their business online, or enhanced their online presence, as a result of COVID-19 lockdowns.


38% say an easy-to-use website will be most important in promoting their business going forward, while 42% say advertising to highlight the importance of supporting local businesses will feature in business development plans.


Access the full survey results together with a 30 minute webinar that discusses the key findings here




Go-2-Tender with InterTradeIreland

Check out the Go-2-Tender Award winning programme from InterTradeIreland...

Go-2-Tender, the InterTradeIreland award winning programme, aims to give your business the confidence, knowledge and practical skills to tender successfully for public sector contracts in their own jurisdiction and on a cross-border basis.


The all-island public procurement market is worth approximately £10.4bn/€12.1bn and represents an untapped market for many SMEs to increase their sales.


Delivered on-line over 2 half days, the Go-2-tender workshops will provide you with the necessary skills to bid successfully for public sector contracts in either jurisdiction. The training is delivered by experienced bid specialists. After attending a workshop you can avail of mentoring support by applying to InterTradeIreland which is delivered through a team of experienced tender professionals.


Once you have successfully completed a Go-2-Tender workshop, you may avail of mentoring support. Choose from a list of approved Mentors to undertake your approved Go-2-Tender Mentoring. You shortlist a number of suitable candidates and choose the one you think most suitable to complete your mentoring assignment.


For more information, visit the InterTradeIreland website.

Turning tendering into a revenue channel to fuel growth
  • 1 September

  • 1 September, 11.00am - 12.00pm

This is the final webinar of the series


The biggest B2B channel in Ireland is the public sector channel. Therefore, taking part in public tenders should be a key consideration for any business that is serious about sustainable growth - public contracts in Ireland were worth €17 Billion in 2020 and were won by thousands of businesses across the country.

This is the final webinar in the 3-part webinar series on 'Bidding strategies for sustainable growth' brought to us by the experts at Orbidal.

The webinar series is an enlightening journey into what makes a great tender proposal and how to consistently deliver high scoring proposals that generate sustainable revenues. A winning proposal is a combination of preparation, competitive positioning, data-driven decision making and articulating a value proposition that resonates with the buyer. It must also be cost-effective and deliver a measurable return on investment to be sustainable. In this webinar, 'Turning tendering into a revenue channel to fuel growth', we will cover:

  • Decision Making – When to compete
  • Understanding of Need, Win Themes, Proof Points & Value Propositions
  • Building reusable content to accelerate proposal development
  • Driving continuous improvement through feedback and analysis

At the end of this webinar you will know exactly how you can sustainably grow your business through tendering.


Click here to register.

SFA Skillnet Ireland Masterclasses

Learn how to reduce waste and improve profits and cash flow in your business with our Award-winning business support programme...

Last week, MentorsWork won the Best Coaching/Mentoring Initiative at the Irish Institute of Training and Development Awards. Don't miss your opportunity to get the support you need for your small business - for free!


Register interest for one of the following Masterclasses below, available through Skillnet Ireland which are available on a first come, first served basis to get a sneak peak 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.


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

  • Tue 10 Aug 12:00pm - 1.00pm

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 | Cybersecurity and your SME: Why and How to Protect your Business from today's Cyber Threats

  • Wed 11 Aug 1:00pm - 2.00pm

Hackers are increasingly turning to smaller, softer targets, and as smaller businesses increasingly fall prey to cyber attacks, the consequences can be devastating. This practical masterclass will provide business owners with the critical knowledge, insights and recommended methods by which to protect their business from email-phishing scams, social-media hijackings, ransomware, viruses and malware attacks.. a must for all businesses today.


Masterclass | Maximise Your Profits – Optimise Your Processes

  • Thur 12 Aug 1:00pm - 2.00pm

Every company is losing profits today because there is waste in their processes. Here is how to RECLAIM them! This dedicated Masterclass will show you how to use simple process mapping techniques to identify, quantify, eliminate, or reduce these wastes resulting in incremental profits and improved cash flow to your business. Turn everyday process waste into Euros.


Masterclass | Organic, Free Ways to Generate Leads for Your Business

  • Wed 18 Aug 12:00pm - 1.00pm

Getting that first meeting with target clients is often the hardest step with cold calling, networking events, and paid ad campaigns leading to inconsistent or fruitless results. This practical masterclass is designed to take the mystery out of lead and client generation, using key techniques to enable you to grow your business successfully and economically.


Masterclass | Change is Hard, but Embracing it brings Progress

  • Thur 26 Aug 1:00pm - 2.00pm

Change is constant, driven by a diverse range of disrupters from technology to financial and customer market fluctuations. How will you embrace change? Our Change Masterclass will focus on: Preparing for Change, your objectives, dealing with resistance & unplanned change. Manage Change, exploring tactics and bringing the team with you and Reinforce Change, creating sustainable initiatives.


If you would like to attend this session which is part of our MentorsWork Programme, please register here with your details and we will be in touch.