SFA Fortnightly Update

Dear Member, 


Welcome to this edition of the SFA e-zine.


If you haven’t already done so, we would like to invite you to participate in a short online survey (5 mins max) we are conducting to help shape the Champion Green initiative, a project to encourage consumers to support and shop local. Please click here to start the survey. Completed entries will be entered into a Prize Draw to WIN one out of five €100 Kilkenny Design vouchers (or donate equivalent value to a charity of your choice).


We have two upcoming webinars that are not to be missed: register to learn about ISO 9001 and how it can benefit your company, taking place tomorrow, and ensure you are equipped to handle workplace bullying on Thursday.


Learn about the changes to the employment permits system which will address the skill and labour shortages in the healthcare and nursing home sectors. You can also read the SFA's response to Government’s National Recovery and Resilience Plan 2021.


Read about the legal right of employees to demand redundancy, and be sure to check out the article on the small business sentiment which has risen 20 points since summer 2020.


Qualifying businesses can now apply for the next phase of the Small Business Assistance Scheme through their Local Authorities. 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
  • Small Business Sentiment Survey
  • Recovery Package
  • Champion Green
  • Statutory Sick Pay
  • National Small Business Awards

Small Business Sentiment Survey

The Summer Small Business Sentiment was discussed on RTE, the Irish Examiner, and numerous regional outlets such as Connacht Tribune, Limerick Post and Galway City Tribune, shining an optimistic light as restrictions ease. Be sure to read the full report here. SFA Director Sven Spollen-Behrens as also interviewed on Newstalk Breakfast Business News Bulletin, RTE Morning Ireland Business News, Radio Clare FM on 4 June and on Limerick Live on 10 June. 


Recovery Package

The SFA were mentioned alongside the welcomed  €3.6million recovery package for small businesses in the Irish Times, Leinster Express and Mayo Advertiser. Read the SFA's response here.


Champion Green

The SFA and Champion Green were featured in news outlets across the country, promoting the resilience of Irish people and how "Supporting local business is the green thing to do". Articles were featured in Irish Times, Leinster Leader, Donegal Post, Dundalk Democrat, Tipperary Star, Clonmel Nationalist, Longford Leader.


Statutory Sick Pay

On 9 June, SFA Director Sven was interviewed on RTE six one news and RTE 9 O’clock news, in relation to the introduction of statutory sick pay. The SFA was also quoted in the Sunday Times on 13 June on the same matter.


National Small Business Awards

SFA National Small Business Awards 2021 Sustainability Winners Atlantic Treasures were featured in the Business Post, as well as 2019 Winners Peachy Lean in the Irish Times who have secured a Dragons Den investment.

Government announced comprehensive Recovery Package

Read our response to the National Recovery and Resilience Plan 2021...

Recently the Government launched their National Recovery and Resilience Plan 2021, with the aim of laying out their longer-term plan for rebooting of the economy as we come out of severe restrictions.


The SFA broadly welcomed the Government’s announcement, particularly the commitment to a tapering off of financial support schemes such as the CRSS and the EWSS rather than a cliff edge termination. Small Business owners are happy that the government recognized how vital these supports continue to be in allowing business the space to reopen without the anxiety of not knowing when these supports would be withdrawn.


We raised with Government the need for the Pandemic Unemployment Payment to be phased out to allow people to return to work, and to allow small business to fill roles effectively. The PUP will be gradually phased out over the coming months.


New supports such as Business Resumption Scheme for businesses who have reduced turnover as a result of Covid restrictions was a welcome and much needed scheme that will help small business continue trading. What is needed now is a clear return to the office roadmap in line with public health guidance. That will allow small business, particularly in our town centres and business parks some certainty in the coming months.


The full breakdown of the National Recovery and Resilience Plan 2021 can be found here and the SFA’ response can be found  here .   

Redundancy Trigger

The legal right of employees to demand redundancy after a certain period of lay-off has been suspended for a seventh time until 30 September 2021... 

In circumstances of four weeks or more of lay off and 6 weeks of short time in a 13-week period, employees had previously been entitled to claim a redundancy payment. Since 13 March 2020 in line with the Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (Covid-19) Bill, the right of an employee to trigger a redundancy claim following these periods was temporarily changed due to Covid-19 and to mitigate the serious risks to businesses and jobs. This ‘emergency period’ removed the right of an employee to make such claim until such date expired.


After initially extending the date to May 2020, it has been extended a number of times, including the most recently extension to 30 June 2021. It is due to see a further and final extension until the 30 September 2021 to allow employers the opportunity to assess their business including their staffing needs, as the economy re-opens and they begin trading again.


When this emergency measure is lifted eligible employees will be able to avail of their entitlement to make a claim for redundancy to their employer. Businesses with verified financial difficulties caused by Covid-19 will be supported as they deal with these potential additional statutory redundancy costs through the provision of a Covid-19 Deferred Payment arrangement.


Further details will be worked out in conjunction with employers and unions. We will continue to update you on this issue. If you have any questions in relation to the emergency period or redundancy, you can contact Emma on emma.crowley@sfa.ie or 01 6051668 


Employment permits system update

Learn about the changes to the employment permits system which will address the skill and labour shortages in the healthcare and nursing home sectors...

This week has seen changes to the employment permits system for workers from outside the European Economic Area (EEA). A non-EEA national requires an employment permit to take up employment in Ireland. To manage this, Ireland operates an employment permit system through occupation lists, namely the critical skills and ineligible occupation lists, which are reviewed twice a year.


Evidence within the healthcare sector suggest increasing competition for skilled candidates in several healthcare roles and that despite increased efforts to recruit from the Irish and European labour markets, including through engagement with the Department of Social Protection, supply has not sufficiently met demand. As a result of this, healthcare Assistants will be eligible for Employment Permits on the condition that they should have attained a relevant QQI Level 5 qualification after two years employment. This will include a minimum annual remuneration threshold of €27,000 for this occupation. 


Due to significant shortages over a range of health care, Dieticians will now qualify for a Critical Skills Employment Permit, while occupations, Social Workers, Occupational Therapists, Physiotherapists, and Speech and Language Therapists will now qualify for a Critical Skills Employment Permit. These inclusions will address recruitment difficulties, which have been exacerbated by Covid-19 as well as the significant planned expansion in HSE recruitment.


For further information see: Critical Skills Permit or General Employment Permit. If you have any specific concerns or questions, please contact Emma on 01 605 1668 or at emma.crowley@sfa.ie or visit the advice section on our website www.sfa.ie/advice   

Next Phase of Small Business Assistance Scheme launched

Qualifying businesses can now apply through their Local Authorities...

Last Thursday, the Department of Enterprise opened the next phase of the so-called Small Business Assistance Scheme for COVID (SBASC) for applications from both SMEs and microenterprises. Businesses that received the grant in the first round can receive a second grant provided they are still eligible.


Small businesses with turnover above €50,000 can apply for a grant of €4,000 and microenterprises with a turnover of between €20,000 and €49,999 can apply for €1,000 via a new streamlined application process through their Local Authority or Local Enterprise Office.


Following on from a recent Government decision, businesses operating from non-rateable premises, such as a home office or hot desk are also eligible to apply. Closing date for Phase 2 applications is the 21 of July.


The eligibility criteria are as follows: 

  • 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. 
  • eTax 

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. 

To apply, go to the website of the local authority in your area. 

SFA Business Sentiment Survey Summer 2021

 Small business sentiment rises 20 points since summer 2020...

Confidence among small business owners has notably improved, according to the latest ‘Small Business Sentiment Survey’ report from the SFA. Over half (55%) of SFA members feel that the business environment is improving, compared with 35% in summer 2020.  


Key findings 

  • Despite the challenges faced by our small business community in early 2021, business owners and entrepreneurs are confident for summer 2021 and the second half of the year.  
  • Domestic economic growth continues to be identified as the primary driver of business opportunities in 2021. 
  •  70% of respondents plan to invest in their business this year with business growth, IT and brand development identified as areas of priority.  
  • COVID-19 restrictions in the first half of the year led to decreased working hours, the pausing or cancelling of planned recruitment and a temporary reduction in staff numbers. Despite these challenges, survey respondents indicated that performance of the business and the individual permitting, they expect wage rates to increase over the coming months. 
  • Small business owners identified slow economic growth, ongoing COVID-19 restrictions, and a rising regulatory burden, as a risk to themselves and all businesses over the next six months. 
  • Brexit: Small business owners reported being negatively impacted by the end of the transition period. Over half of participants experienced delays with moving goods to or from the UK since 1 January 2021. 
  • Intention to apply for credit: The number of small firms intending to apply for credit decreased from 64% in summer 2020 to 57% in summer 2021. Participants ranked improvements in access to finance, as the most important thing that Government could change to boost their business. With both Ulster Bank and KBC announcing their planned withdrawal from the Irish market, Government must act fast to improve competition in our banking market. 

You can access the full report here

ISO 9001- What it is & What are the Benefits for My Company?
  • 16 June

ISO 9001 is a quality management system, suitable for all types of companies, product or service, that provides a framework for companies to ensure that they have consistently satisfied customers. All companies strive to have a business that is easy to manage, works efficiently, and where actions add value, staff are engaged at all levels and there are strong foundations for growth and success. ISO 9001 Quality Management System can provide an effective framework for any size or type of company and give very positive benefits.

This short webinar in partnership with the Green Institute and Bambus Solutions is designed for anyone or any company considering implementing ISO 9001 to understand:

  • What the standard is about
  • What it aims to do for your company
  • The potential financial & operational benefits for your company
  • If ISO 9001 is the right way forward for your company

About our partners:
The Green Institute specialises in education for professionals in the green arena and management systems across all industry sectors. Its founder, Percy Foster, has been involved in professional education and development in the green arena for over 20 years in Ireland and abroad.

Ruth Robertson is the Green Institute lead ISO trainer and is the Managing Director of Bambus Solutions Ltd. She has more than 25 years’ active experience implementing and operating quality, environmental and health and safety management systems in the waste industry, pharma-chemical sector and manufacturing and in providing consultancy and training to a range of service and manufacturing companies.


Click here to register.

How to deal with Workplace Bullying
  • 17 June

  • Thurs 17 June, 10am-10.30am

Employers have a Duty of Care to all employees, to ensure they are both mentally and physically safe at work and that their health is not adversely affected by work. Carol Ann Casey of CA Compliance and Emma Crowley, SFA HR Executive will present a webinar on how to deal with workplace bullying. You will receive practical and timely advice to mitigate the risk of bullying and resolve complaints of bullying in the workplace. It will focus on relevant case law and lessons learned which will help you prevent, and control workplace bullying and meet the standards for adequate policy and procedures under the recently published Code of Practice and health and safety law.


Register here.

The Roadmap to 90%
  • 7 July

  • 7 July, 11.00am - 12.00pm

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.


We are delighted to launch a 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. In this webinar - the second of a 3-part webinar series - Orbidal Founder & CEO Tony Corrigan outlines key tips and actionable advice to super power your tender proposals up to and beyond the 90% mark - the typical benchmark for landing a public sector contract. You will see what a successful tendering strategy looks like and how it contributes to consistently high scores across all areas of a tender submission. You will recognise what stops businesses just like yours from realising their potential and how to avoid common mistakes when compiling tender submissions.

Register here.


The last webinar of our series will take place on 1 September at 11am.

SFA Skillnet Ireland Masterclasses

Learn how to reduce waste and improve profits and cash flow in your business....

The following Masterclasses are available through Skillnet Ireland. There are a number of places available on a first come, first served basis.

These Workshops 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.


Masterclass | Change is Hard, but Embracing it Brings Progress

  • Wed 16 June 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.


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

  • Thur 1 July 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 8 July 1.00pm - 2.00pm

We live in a noisy digital world, so how can you stand out from the crowd to attract and win new customers?

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.


Masterclass | SME Talent Leadership in a Covid World

  • Tue 20 July 1.00pm - 2.00pm

This Masterclass will focus on managing and leading talent in challenging times. Creating and maintaining a motivational environment, inspiring a shared vision and celebrating different types of success. Using the new ‘Covid World’ as an opportunity to create/facilitate innovation in your team, identifying new or bolt-on services, dealing with your customers differently and keeping your team engaged.


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.