SFA Fortnightly Update

Dear Member, 


Welcome to this edition of the SFA e-zine.


In this edition SFA member MacLachlan & Donaldson writes about what is Intellectual Property and why small firms need IP; we encouage members to also book on to our webinar on 29 April to discuss how IP benefits SMEs and helps them take their ideas to market.


Do you know the VAT changes that will come into play from 1 July 2021? Make sure you register for our webinar tomorrow, 21 April with PKF O'Connor Leddy & Holmes to be fully prepared.


Check out our workplace wellbeing tips and how you can get your business involved in National Workplace Wellbeing day on 30 April 2021. 


Read the Vodafone report on the opportunities and challenges SMEs are currently facing, digitalisation and the role of technology for future growth as well as the policies that will underpin and support SME recovery post COVID-19.


Find out what your business should be doing before the new Whistleblower protection directive adopted by the Eurooean Union is transposed into Irish legislation, which obliges the member states to implement Whistleblower rules before the end of 2021. Make sure you also apply to our free 12-week business support programme with Skillnet Ireland, MentorsWork.


Finally, be sure to see our most recent press coverage and I look forward to seeing many of you at our Employment Law Seminar this Thursday.


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
  • KBC Exit
  • Living Wage
  • MentorsWork
  • Vaccinations
  • Veterinary Ireland Journal

KBC Exit

The SFA was mentioned in articles on RTE  regarding KBC's exit from the Irish market, stating that this would add to the anxiety of small business owners in their efforts to access finance to re-open post-pandemic. Sven was also on the Claire Byrne show.


Minimum Wage

SFA Director Sven Spollen-Behrens was featured in the Irish Examiner, RTE and Irish Independent discussing how small businesses will not survive further financial strains such as increased wages, particularly in the sectors that have been the most affected by the pandemic. Sven was also interviewed on Morning Ireland and KFM.



Our free 12-week business support programme with Skillnet Ireland was featured in the Irish Examiner, The Avondhu, 



In an Irish Examiner article following the decision to vaccinate based on age rather than occupation, the SFA suggested that employers with less than 50 employees should receive support from government if comprehensive sick pay schemes were to become mandatory.


Veterinary Ireland Journal

The SFA was mentioned in various articles throughout the Veterinary Ireland Journal regarding keeping your business safe from fraud as well as building resilience in the workplace. 

IP and SME’s: Taking your ideas to market

Learn about how Intellectual Property can benefit your business...

26 April 2021 is World Intellectual Property (IP) Day and the theme this year is ‘IP & SMEs: Taking your ideas to market’. Therefore we, at MacLachlan & Donaldson, IP Attorneys, thought it would be beneficial to share some information about IP to help you protect the ideas you take to market.


What is IP? 

IP are the intangible property rights which can be obtained to protect creations of the mind, such as new inventions and modifications, literary and artistic works, the outward appearance of a product, and symbols, names and images used in commerce.  The different forms of IP protect different things and provide different rights and obligations.


Like other types of property, IP is protected by law which allows the proprietors of such property to earn money or recognition from their inventions or creations, while enabling action to be taken to prevent others from obtaining a benefit from these important pieces of property.


Why protect IP? 

IP is an integral component of any successful business. For SMEs it’s very important to protect any unique products or services to prevent market share loss to copy cats.  


The link between IP and economic growth has been demonstrated in a joint study carried out by the EUIPO and the EPO in February 2021, showing companies that own IP rights to have 20% higher revenue per employee than companies that do not. This rises to 55% and even higher for SMEs. 


Protecting your IP protects not just your current marketplace but your future marketplace as it safeguards your ability to expand geographically.  Additionally, IP rights can be bought, sold, used as a lien or as security and can generate income through licensing.  Identifying and protecting your IP may increase the worth of a business in the eyes of investors. 


Create a strategy for your IP 

Having an IP Strategy provides a competitive edge in the market.  

  1. Develop and identify innovation, new designs, new trade marks or new trade secrets (formulas/recipes); 

  2. Apply to protect the innovation, modification, design, trade mark or to document the trade secret, ideally before it goes to market or is promoted; 

  3. Renew any existing patents, designs or trademarks; 

  4. Value your IP, if applicable; 

  5. Licence or enter in other agreements taking advantage of your IP or collaborate in the knowledge that your IP is safeguarded; and 

  6. Police and enforce your rights against infringers, if necessary. 

MacLachlan & Donaldson has substantial experience working with companies and investors and we understand the time, effort, and resources that go into creating new IP. By working closely with our clients, we can recognise new and emerging IP, and the potential value it can create for a business if properly safeguarded.


Register now for our World Intellectual Property Day webinar ‘SME’s and IP – Taking your ideas to Market’ on Thursday, 29 April at 11am with MacLachlan & Donaldson.  


National Workplace Wellbeing Day 2021

Find out how your business can get involved in National Workplace Wellbeing Day 2021...

As part of National Workplace Wellbeing day which takes place on Friday 30 April, we are encouraging businesses to focus on social, physical, mental and financial wellbeing of their employee/s to send a message to their staff that their wellbeing is paramount. We encourage you to sign up with National Workplace Wellbeing Day 2021 and visit our resources to get ready for the day.


Ahead of this day, there will be a webinar on mental health with Doctor John Crowley, Occupational Physician, and founder of YourDoctor.ie. Dr Crowley will explore some of the mental health challenges facing employers. He will provide guidance on simple, effective measures to help alleviate these problems while supporting your staff’s overall wellbeing. Business owners and HR managers will leave the session inspired with a solution-based approach. This will include recognising and addressing employee mental health needs and providing services such as employee assistance programmes to employees. There will be no need to register for this webinar, you will receive a link to watch the recording on the 26 of April. You can circulate these recordings to colleagues and staff in your small business to support your wellness initiatives.


Workplace wellness initiatives have proven to reduce absenteeism, enhance employee engagement and increase productivity. Get ready for the day by learning how to train managers on how to support employees and their wellbeing. Listed below and on the National Workplace Wellbeing Day page on the SFA website you will find different wellness options that small business owner-managers can use to engage with their workforce this National Workplace Wellbeing Day.  



  • Lunchtime 2K – encourage employees, their families and housemates to get out for a walk this Friday lunchtime. Ask your staff to share a photo of their safe social distancing walk at lunch, and share a collage with us on twitter, LinkedIn or Instagram (@sfa_irl) by using the hash tags #WorkWell21 #SFA 
  • Why not do some guided virtual exercise together!  
  • Share articles on breathing exercises with your employees to educate them on simple techniques that can help one sustain greater wellbeing and reduce stress levels. 


  • Hold a bake off, share a healthy recipe with your staff and encourage bakers young and old to get involved or ask the company’s best baker to hold a virtual baking lesson.  
  • Learn more about nutrition and healthy eating at home and in the office by visiting Healthy Ireland.   
  • Offer nutrition ‘lunch and learn’ sessions by bringing in qualified nutrition experts to talk about key hot topics such as gut health, diabetes, high blood pressure, weight loss, nutrition for stress or nutrition for mental health.  
  • Share articles on nutrient such as this one from the SFA’s Better Business Magazine.  

Mental health  

Creating workplace environments where people can be open and positive about their own and others’ mental health has never been more important.  

  • Share the link to the HSE resource Minding your mental health during Covid-19 with all your staff.    
  • Read our SFA guideline on Mental Health in the workplace and advice on Mental Health and Stigma in the workplace and There is no health without mental health. Click here for additional workplace wellbeing initiatives to get involved in.   
  • Visit YourMentalHealth.ie to learn about mental health, and how to support yourself and the people you love. You can find support services near you and learn about the little things that can make a big difference to how we all feel. This resource also provides simple tools and guidance to develop and maintain a positive outlook by looking after our mental health and wellbeing.  
  • Email or communicate an inspirational quote everyday – this will set everyone up with a positive outlook on their working day. 


  • Financial wellbeing is your ability to confidently manage your money and engage in future planning, regardless of how much money you have. To learn more about financial wellbeing visit SFA partner Bank of Ireland for more information.   

These activity ideas will get you started, but you can also keep an eye on our social media for further tips. Whatever activity you choose to do, remember to post your activity on Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn and share it by tagging the SFA and using the hashtag #WorkWell21. We look forward to hearing all about your activities and efforts on and in the run up to Workplace Wellbeing Day on 30 April. #WorkWell21 


Covid-19 and the Irish SME Sector: Supporting Recovery and Growth

Check out the report from Vodafone on the opportunities and challenges SMEs are currently facing...

Vodafone’s new small business report is based on a nationwide survey of 500 SMEs operating in rural and urban areas in Ireland and across a wide range of sectors. In addition, a European economic benchmark analysis was carried out by economist Stephen Kinsella to assess the opportunities and challenges for SMEs in Ireland vis-à-vis other European markets.


Key Findings from Irish SMEs: 


Business Impact of Covid-19 & Future Outlook 

  • 70% suffered full or partial closures during lockdowns  
  • 75% experienced some reduction in financial performance – (an average of 34%)  
  • 67% are confident in the future of their own business  
  • 50% anticipate growth in their business in the next 2 years 

The Role of Technology 

  • 43% claim they could not have functioned productively without investment in technology  
  • 50% of SMEs invested in technology such as communications or digital channels  
  • Only 19% of smaller Irish firms are ‘highly digitalised’ 

Remote Working 

  • 75% of SMEs have been unable to facilitate remote working  
  • 50% said scaling IT and phone systems was the biggest issue when trying to facilitate remote working  

Investment in technology 

  • 25% aren’t confident their staff have the necessary digital skills  
  • 50% plan to invest specifically in digital skills training  
  • 60% plan to invest in people training in the next two years 

The findings in this report point clearly to a need for greater structural supports to help Irish SMEs recover from a period of significant uncertainty and instability, increase productivity levels, access new markets and generate new entrepreneurs and start-up enterprises. At the heart of the findings, digitalisation is identified as a key driver for recovery, with significant growth potential for Irish SMEs who engage in digital transformation. 


The full report can be downloaded here

Upcoming Whistleblowing legislation

Learn about the Whistleblower protection directive and what companies should be doing before it is transposed to Irish legislation...

The European Union approved new EU wide rules on whistleblowing after adopting a Directive on the protection of persons who report breaches of Union law. EU states were given until December 2021 to bring their national Whistleblowing legislation in line with this EU Directive.


Irish employers have been regulated by the Protected Disclosures Act since 2014. They will, therefore, be familiar with many of the key principles set out in the Directive. Like the Protected Disclosures Act, the Directive provides legal protection against retaliation to Whistleblowers who speak up regarding potential wrongdoings in the workplace and sets out a hierarchy of reporting channels.


However, the Directive also includes additional provisions, some of which may be new to Irish employers. 

  1. The Directive expands the scope of those covered by its rules, extending to self-employed persons, shareholders, non-executive directors, volunteers and unpaid interns. 
  2. The Directive’s rules will cover areas such as public procurement, financial services, prevention of money laundering and public health. 
  3. The Directive extends the obligation to put in place whistleblowing procedures to companies employing 50 employees or more. 
  4. The Directive contains more prescriptive rules regarding reporting channels and requires that reports are followed up within 3 months with final outcomes communicated within a reasonable timeframe not exceeding 3 months, or 6 months where justified. 
  5. The Directive provides for a robust duty of confidentiality requiring the protection of the identity of the reporting person. 

Even though companies with less than 50 employees are exempt from the rules in the directive, such companies should consider implementing whistleblower schemes. This would be a good idea in case the company grows to more than 49 employees, but also because implementation of a whistleblower scheme will send a signal to all employees, that the company wants to deal with any criminal and unethical behaviour. Subsequently, employees should not should not be worried about reporting any such suspicious behaviour.


Whistleblowing is a cost effective first line of defense for your business. All businesses should have a policy on Whistleblowing as it is a support mechanism, which describes how employees are expected to behave should they find irregular activity happening in the company. A whistleblowing policy ultimately serves to protect the individual and the company. Where an individual discovers information which they believe shows serious malpractice or wrongdoing within the company, employees are encouraged to disclose this information internally in the first instance without fear of reprisal, and there should be arrangements to enable this to be done independently of line management (although in relatively minor instances the line manager would be the appropriate person to be told).


The SFA advises companies to devise a suitable internal reporting strategy and communicate to all members of the company to ensure employees feel comfortable reporting any wrongdoing. The channels should, offer anonymity, be available in the relevant languages, have comprehensible explanatory texts and be accompanied by an effective internal communication strategy. By doing so, companies have an opportunity to identify and manage risk at an early stage, helping to avoid or limit financial and reputational damage.


SFA will keep members updated with developments as they arise. You can view more information on whistleblowing here or contact Emma Crowley on 01 605 1668 or at emma.crowley@sfa.ie if you have any further questions 



VAT Alert – eCommerce VAT change & Refresher on Brexit VAT
  • 21 April

On Wednesday, 21 April at 11am, Catherine McGovern, Tax Partner with PKF O'Connor, Leddy & Holmes Limited will be updating SFA members on significant VAT changes for eCommerce Business to Consumers (B2C) sale of goods from 1st July 2021. She will also discuss the key VAT changes as a result of Brexit.


The main VAT changes that will come into play from 1 July 2021 are as follows:

  • Extension of the VAT Mini One Stop Shop (MOSS) to a One Stop Shop (OSS).
  • The treatment of Online Marketplaces and Platforms as deemed suppliers for certain transactions.
  • Introduction of a new Import One Stop Shop (IOSS).
  • Introduction of Special Arrangements for certain imports of goods.

Register now for this not to be missed VAT event on Wednesday, 21 April at 11am.

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.

Intellectual Property Webinar
  • 29 April

We are delighted to announce our World IP Day Webinar celebrating the Theme of “ SME’s and IP – Taking your ideas to Market”. This webinar is a collaboration with MacLachlan & Donaldson, one of Ireland’s longest standing IP firms, and experienced Trade Mark Attorney, Carla MacLachlan, and Patent Attorney, Denis McCarthy, will discuss what IP is and how it benefits SMEs and helps them take their ideas to market.

Join us on the 29 April and learn more about:

What IP is and the different elements in it:

  • Trade marks
  • Patents
  • Designs
  • Copyright; and
  • Trade Secrets

Find out how you identify, protect and enforce your IP in each of these areas - Discover how IP can help you in the creation and protection of your brand - Learn what benefits protecting your IP can bring to your business IP.

Register here for this important small business webinar on Thursday, 29 April at 11am.

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.


Masterclass | Using Best Practice Standards can Add Value to your Business

  • Thur 29 Apr 1.00pm - 2.00pm                              

Adding value to your business means improving your business processes and productivity to meet your customer expectations. Availing of best practice principles and methods from national and international standards supports you in striving for excellence in delivering your products and services. This masterclass will focus on customer centric best practice methodologies that can improve your productivity and competitiveness.