SFA E-zine - The Tuesday Edition

Dear Member, 


Welcome to this edition of the SFA e-zine.


We are delighted to inform you that our SFA Skillnet autumn/winter programme is now live with an interesting mix of training courses and events. Managing People, Managing the Business and Future Skills are the main focus of our programme and we are very much looking forward to welcoming you at some of our competitively priced courses.


In this week's newsletter we highlight the importance of a meaningful grievance process given that a recent WRC ruling has cost a business more than €30,000. If you would like to feature your business in our Better Business magazine please let us know before close of business on Thursday, 26 September. In relation to the thorny issue of commercial rates we fill you in on a recent meeting with Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, John Paul Phelan, TD. 


If you would like to protect your business from fraud the FraudSmart breakfast briefing on 1 October is a must book event for you. Our Employment Law seminars in Limerick and Dublin are in high demand so don't miss out and register your place here. And finally, bookings are now open for the SFA Annual Lunch on 15 November 2020. 


Just a reminder that the 2019/2020 SFA Awards are open for applications and you can apply either yourself or you can nominate a small business that you believe will be a worthy winner of Ireland's next ‘Best Small Business Awards’. The SFA Awards are open to all small businesses whether you are a member or non-member. Check out what category suits your business best.


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

Lack of meaningful grievance process costs company over €30K in a WRC case

The lack of a meaningful grievance policy and failure to provide a contract became a costly issue for one business when the former employee took a constructive dismissal case against them…

In the case of A Financial Controller vs a Property Development Company (ADJ-00015393), the former employee made three claims with the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) which proved to be a costly error for the company.

The complainant began their employment as a Financial Controller from 4 July 2017 until 28 May 2018. They were paid €1,270 gross per week and worked nearly 50 hours a week. They lodged three claims under the following Acts:


  1. Payment of Wages Act – The former employee was owed wages from April 2018 and from the 1 to the 19 May 2018 which came to €9,350.56. They were also due 7.92 days of annual leave which came to €2,178.31. The company did not dispute this and the amount was paid back to the former employee.
  2. Terms of Employment (Information) Act – The former employee never received a statement in writing of their terms of employment which is in breach of the Act. The company did not dispute this, and they were ordered to pay the former employee €2,500 in compensation for this breach.
  3. Unfair Dismissals Act – The former employee took a constructive dismissal claim against their employer.

The Financial Controller stated they had no option but to terminate their employment based on the following factors:

  • They were hired as a Financial Controller but soon after they started, they were given additional duties from the Contracts Manager who had left. They advised the Managing Director that this was outside of their expertise, but their complaint was dismissed.
  • Two other staff members left the company and the Financial Controller was given their duties as well. When they complained about this, this issue too was ignored.
  • The employee was out sick for two days in early April and 3 days a week later. When they returned to work their access to the banking facilities was removed. This made it impossible for them to complete tasks in their role.
  • Around 10 April 2018, the managing director attempted to “misconstrue” the employee’s grievances as a resignation. They responded saying it was not a resignation but that he wanted a copy of his employment contract.
  • It came to light during the adjudication hearing that the former employee had sent an email on 17 April outlining their work issues which demonstrated that they had not resigned from their role which the company argued they had.
  • The former employee went out on sick leave due to work related stress from 30 April 2018 until they requested their P45 on 28 May. The company did not follow up on this.
  • No grievance policy was in place.
  • The company did not engage with the original letter from the former employee’s solicitor on 3 May 2018 which outlined all their grievances.  The only correspondence sent to the solicitor was a request to return back the company files, documents and keys.

The adjudicator stated in this case that the “Complainant had some serious concerns in relation to his employment” and that their employer “did not take any meaningful action to address these concerns.” The adjudication officer determined that the behaviour of the employer was unreasonable, and they awarded the former employee €30K for their losses.

Lessons for employers

This case highlights the importance of issuing either a written statement of terms of employment or contract. More importantly, employers must manage grievances that arise as ignoring these issues can become very costly and time consuming. To avoid these issues, the SFA recommends that businesses:

  • Have a grievance policy in place and ensure they act on it when they receive a complaint.
  • To be aware that a grievance can come in the form of a verbal or written complaint either by letter or email.
  • Deal with issues as they arise. Dismissing, ignoring or minimising employee issues means that the grievance will mostly likely escalate, and the working relationship will deteriorate further.
  • If an employee requests a copy of their contract or written statement of terms of employment, businesses are bound by law to issue them. It is worth bearing in mind that this case was heard before the Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act came into force in March of this year and the penalties for not providing an employee their core basic terms of employment within five days of them starting employment is significantly higher both in terms of cost but also the risk of imprisonment up to twelve months.

If you would like to receive a more in-depth understanding of the recent changes to contracts or dealing with grievance issues, come to the SFA employment law seminar on the 3 October in Limerick or 17 October in Dublin where we will be exploring both issues in depth.

If you have a query or need further advice please contact Helen at helen.quinn@sfa.ie or on 01 605 1668 or visit the SFA website on www.sfa.ie/advice.


Feature your business in our Better Business Magazine

If there is something newsworthy happening in your business, we would like to invite you to feature it in the next edition of Better Business our quarterly magazine dedicated to the Irish small business community.

When reading the quarterly Better Business magazine, you will no doubt have noticed the fantastic exposure given to a wide range of SFA member companies. The magazine is posted to all SFA members and to the broader SFA network and is also available in some newsagents. Along with the printed publication, there is a digital edition and a Better Business website, which will enable you to profile your business directly to the SFA membership community and beyond.


If you would like your business to feature in the autumn 2019 edition of Better Business, follow these simple steps:


  • Share your company news with the SFA: let us know if you have launched a new product, been nominated for an award or undergone a rebrand. Add Elizabeth Bowen (elizabeth.bowen@sfa.ie) to your press release list or send her a short article (max 150 words) if there is something newsworthy happening in your business. The deadline for news content for the autumn 2019 edition is Thursday, 26th September 2019.
  •  Advertise in Better Business: to advertise or place editorial content in the magazine, contact Shane Kelly from the Ashville Media Group directly on 01 432 2234 or shane.kelly@ashvillemediagroup.com. Special rates are available for SFA members.


To read the latest edition see www.sfa.ie.


SFA Skillnet

We are delighted to launch our autumn/winter training programme...


Following our successful launch earlier this year, we are delighted to announce new subsidised SFA Skillnet training programmes for Autumn/Winter. The cost of open programmes is heavily subsidised for SFA members with a one day programme costing €129 and a two day programme costing €258.  We have a range of courses on topics such as Sales, Management, Leadership, Digital Marketing, Pitching Skills and Wellness at Work. For a full list of courses and booking details see our new website.

We will be adding further courses soon on Finance, Risk Management, Project Management, Branding and HR Issues, so if you have any areas you would like to highlight, please contact our SFA Skillnet Network Manager, Geraldine Lavin on geraldine.lavin@sfa.ie or 087 7871642 to discuss your training needs.


The SFA Skillnet is co-funded by Skillnet Ireland and member companies. Skillnet Ireland is funded from the National Training Fund through the Department of Education and Skills.

Commercial Rates

A short summary of last week’s meeting with Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, John Paul Phelan T.D.

SFA Senior Executive, Elizabeth Bowen and Geraldine Magnier, Co-Founder and Director of Idiro Analytics and SFA National Council member, met with Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, John Paul Phelan T.D., on Tuesday, 10 September, to discuss the Local Government Rates and Other Matters Act 2019. They also discussed SFA concerns regarding REVAL 2019, the national revaluation programme and the need for increased resources for both the Valuation Tribunal and Valuation’s Office. The SFA delegation received a very strong response to these issues.


In preparation for this meeting members kindly supplied information about their own experience with the national revaluation process and we would like to take this opportunity to thank members for their contributions.


In 2019, business contributions will directly account for €1.55 billion or 34% of the total local government budget. This represents a 14% increase in the total value of commercial rates collected since 2010. Commercial rates are a form of local taxation, mostly to fund services that businesses do not consume. Local authorities use business to balance their books. In other words, business picks up the tab for any expenditure gaps or funding shortfalls that arise in their annual budgets. Reductions in central government contributions and other revenue sources have resulted in local authorities becoming ever more reliant on local business for their revenue.  


The SFA welcomes the reforms introduced in the Local Government Rates and Other Matters Act 2019, however, we believe more can be done to achieve a more fair and balanced approach to local government funding. The SFA will continue to work on behalf of members on this issue.  

Recent press coverage

Various media clippings

The SFA featured in the following publications.

  • Independent - 4 September - New company ownership register
  • The Irish Sun - 11 September - Workers like SMEs
  • TipperaryLive.ie - 20 September - SMEs, the workplace of choice
SFA Employment Law Conference
  • Limerick - 3 October
  • Dublin - 17 October

Navigating the maze of employment law


The rise and complexity in the Irish employment law landscape is increasing year on year. This is particularly challenging for small business owners who are time poor and wear multiple hats within their company. So how can small businesses navigate the maze of employment law and be confident that they are complying with their obligations to their staff? The SFA employment law seminar is the solution.


In 2018 and 2019 there has been a raft of employment law from changes to contracts, the introduction of banded hours and increases in parental leave. The SFA employment law seminar will take you through the recent changes within contracts, how to determine the status of a genuine self-employed person and the proposed changes in parental leave.


We will also cover bullying and harassment, work related stress case, as well as the dos and don’ts of disciplinaries and dismissals.


The one day seminar is taking place in Limerick on 3 October and in Dublin on 17 October. Tickets costs €210 +VAT for SFA members and €295 +VAT for non-members. 





  • Practical examples in action
  • Self-employment

Bullying and Harassment 

  • Table top exercise in a bullying case
  • One or two case law

Work related stress


OHS/Long working hours panel

  • Key learnings
  • Top things recognised

Family Leave

  • Parental Leave- Increased parental leave
  • Benefit Act

Discipline and Dismissal (Do/Donts)

  • Case studies- Practical
  • Role play

Book your place at the Limerick event or the Dublin event today. 

FraudSmart Awareness Briefing
  • 1 October, 9.00am

The FraudSMART Programme together with the Small Firms Association (SFA) will host a breakfast briefing on Fraud Awareness, Tuesday 1st October 9.00am.

Most businesses think they are protected against fraud however fraud against Irish businesses is on the rise.

Fraudsters are increasingly sophisticated and use what is known as social engineering to manipulate their targets. Essentially this is using publicly available information to trick you into taking an action that may not be in your company’s best interest. Many SMEs do not have teams of IT staff to support them, and many believe either they are not at risk or that it is too difficult to do anything about it.

This event, led by the Banking and Payments Federation of Ireland's (BPFI) FraudSMART Programme and the SFA, is taking place on Tuesday 1st October at 9.00am (registration from 8.30am) and is designed to make you aware of current scams and how you can prevent your company falling victim with practical advice.

It will be led by BPFI’s Head of Fraud Prevention Niamh Davenport, with a panel discussion including An Garda Siochana, Deloitte and Merchant Risk Council.

To register for this free event please click here.

SFA Annual Lunch 2019
  • 15 November

The SFA Annual Lunch will take place this year on Friday, 15 November 2019 in The Round Room at The Mansion House, Dublin.

We are delighted to announce that we will be joined by motivational speaker and mentalist, David Meade. David is a world-class international corporate speaker, performer and TV personality with a renowned reputation for helping organisations work more effectively. His mindreading, and mentalist skills impress and baffle worldwide audiences making his entertainment and keynotes hard to forget. 

The SFA Annual Lunch is the primary social event for small business in Ireland and an excellent opportunity for you, your colleagues, clients and guests to come together and network in a relaxed environment. Sponsored by Bank of Ireland, it promises to be a great afternoon.

Individual places for members are €85 plus VAT, and €150 for non-members plus VAT.
Book here for an individual place or a table of ten.

For any further questions, please contact Blánaid, blanaid.moore-leonard@ibec.ie