SFA E-Zine – The Tuesday Edition

Dear Member,   

In this week's ezine we bring you a roundup of last week's SFA Annual Lunch. We bring you details of a case of an employee's right to privacy in the workplace and the implications of this for employers.


Each week in the SFA e-zine, we profile a different government support available to small businesses. In this edition, we focus on ManagementWorks, who provide heavily government-subsidised training and mentoring for SMEs.


We link to the latest Retail Ireland Quarterly Monitor which shows retail sales are up in Q3. Take advantage of some free profiling of your business before Christmas by sending us your latest company news to be include in our magazine, Better Business


Tune into our webinar on Thursday (16 November) on planning for the Christmas period. We invite members to attend the SFA AGM on 29 November or to run for election. Register to attend the SFA Members Christmas event on 14 December for an evening of festive networking. Book a place on one of our training courses during December on project management and performance management. We also provide 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

Recent press coverage

  • SFA Annual Lunch
  • Planning for the Christmas period
  • Veterinary Ireland

SFA Annual Lunch


The SFA issued a press release on the SFA Annual Lunch that took place in the Mansion House on 10 November. This was covered on RTE News and Biz Plus on 10 November and in the Irish Independent on 11 November.


Planning for the Christmas period


The SFA were mentioned in an article in the Irish Times on 13 November on our upcoming webinar on 16 November on planning for the Christmas period.


Veterinary Ireland


The SFA were referred to in an article in the Veterinary Ireland Journal on 10 November indicating that Veterinary Ireland are an affiliate member of the SFA.

SFA Annual Lunch roundup – a celebration of small business

Last Friday, SFA members brought together their staff, clients and business contacts in the Round Room of the Mansion House for the SFA Annual Lunch. This article provides an overview of the event, with links to the press release, the SFA Chair’s speech and the event photography...

Last Friday, SFA members brought together their staff, clients and business contacts in the Round Room of the Mansion House for the SFA Annual Lunch. They were joined by Ministers, TDs, Senators, senior civil servants, leaders from across corporate Ireland and media representatives for the biggest business lunch of the year.


The event was a social occasion and a celebration of Irish entrepreneurship. This was the main theme of the speech made by Sue O’Neill, SFA Chair. She commended members on their hard work, resilience and success over the last year. She also called on government to act in a more coherent fashion to support small businesses around Ireland.


Attendees also heard from Michael Lauhoff, Director of Business Banking in Bank of Ireland. Michael provided insights into Ireland’s current economic performance and urged small businesses to step up their preparations for Brexit.


Brent Pope was the guest speaker for the event and his speech proved to be the highlight of the day. He drew a number of lessons from his life in rugby, broadcasting and business, focusing on passion and stepping out of your comfort zone.


The press release issued on the day, along with the SFA Chair’s full speech, is available here. Some photos from the day can be found here. A highlights video will be available shortly also.


Thanks to all of you who made it along to the event. If you missed it – we hope to see you next year!

Employee privacy in the workplace

In September 2017, the European Court of Human Rights (the ECtHR) overturned a January 2016 decision of its lower court regarding employee privacy in the workplace which was viewed as the authority in this area. Find out more about this case and its impact for employers...

In September 2017, the European Court of Human Rights (the ECtHR) overturned a January 2016 decision of its lower court regarding employee privacy in the workplace which was viewed as the authority in this area. The impact of this reversal could prove significant in the context of an employer's rights to monitor and manage employee communications without impeding on an employee’s right to privacy in the workplace.




Mr Barbulescu was asked by his employer to set up an instant messenger account for work purposes. The employer subsequently monitored Barbulescu’s messenger usage and observed that Barbulescu was using the account for personal reasons. Barbulescu was subsequently dismissed as this was a breach of the clear company policy on the matter. Barbulescu alleged that this was a breach of his right to privacy, as protected under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The matter was subsequently referred to the ECtHR which held that an appropriate balance had been maintained between the privacy rights provided for under Article 8 of the Convention and the interests of the employer. Its reasoning was that Barbulescu had assured his employer that the use of the messenger service was solely for professional purposes and the employer, when accessing the messages, would have anticipated the messages to only contain work-related information. However, on appeal, in September 2017, this decision was overturned by the Grand Chamber of the ECtHR.


The Grand Chamber held that the earlier courts had failed to include a number of key considerations in determining if an employee’s right to privacy prevails over an employer’s legitimate interests in managing and monitoring communications:

  • Whether an employee received prior notice about any monitoring activity. The notice must be clear regarding the nature of the monitoring and must be given in advance.
  • Consideration must be given to the breadth and depth of the monitoring. In determining a breach of privacy, a distinction should be drawn between an employer monitoring the flow of communications against actually reading the content of personal communications.
  • Whether an employer has provided legitimate reasons justifying monitoring the employee’s communications and their content. 
  • Whether a less intrusive method achieving the same result could be used. This is inline with general data protection rules that processing should be adequate, relevant and not excessive.
  • The consequences and impact that monitoring will have on the employee and the use to which the result may be put. For example, where an employee could be dismissed as a result of the findings of monitoring, then a higher standard of privacy may be needed to be afforded to the employee or the consequences need to be very clearly explained to an employee.
  • Whether an employee has been provided with adequate safeguards, particularly where the monitoring activity is deemed to be intrusive. On this point, the Grand Chamber noted that the employer cannot access the actual content of the communications concerned unless the employee has been notified in advance of the employer’s intent to do so.

What is the impact of this decision for employers?


Employers should examine their policies on monitoring employees’ communications. The policy should set out the level of monitoring engaged in, the justification for the monitoring and the possible consequences for employees e.g. disciplinary procedure up to dismissal. It is clear from this judgment that employers will need to be able to demonstrate that employees are aware of the extent of any monitoring and that it is necessary and proportionate in the context of the business.


For further information or advice, you can contact Ciara McGuone, SFA Executive on 01 605 1668 or ciara.mcguone@sfa.ie.

Increase productivity and growth through subsidised training

Spotlight on ManagementWorks, heavily government-subsidised training and mentoring for SMEs. This article provides information on the programmes available and advice on how to apply...

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.






Subsidised management development training and mentoring for owners, managers and management teams of small and medium sized enterprises. 


The programmes available around the country include:

  • Finance4Growth – free video/online programme
  • Business Growth
  • Business Leadership
  • Strategic Business Planning
  • Managing People & Teams
  • Lean Business
  • Management Team Alignment
  • Postgraduate IMI Diploma in Management
  • Postgraduate IMI Diploma in Strategy and Innovation
  • Postgraduate IMI Diploma in Leadership
  • BSc (Hons) in Management Practice

The programmes range from free to €5,000.




Research shows that there is a strong relationship between management practice and business performance. Improved management practices are associated with large increases in productivity, sales growth and return on capital employed.


The Management Development Council report 2010 identified the need to enhance the level of management capability of small and medium-sized firms. As a result, ManagementWorks was established in 2012 under the Government’s Action Plan for Jobs with a remit to support SMEs in sustaining and creating jobs.


The ManagementWorks approach:

  • Focused on business success
  • Affordable and accessible
  • Action oriented
  • Delivered by the best



The scheme is run by Skillnets and is funded from the National Training Fund through the Department of Education and Skills. Free workshops nationwide give a taster to interested companies.


For more information and to sign up for the programmes, go to www.managementworks.ie or contact programme development manager Brian Colleran at b.colleran@skillnets.com 




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

  • The subsidised rates are available to small and medium sized companies only, i.e. those employing less than 250 employees.
  • Management development should form a key element of a company’s strategy for business development and growth.
  • The IMI Diploma courses can be the first step towards achieving a Masters of Business. This qualification is achieved by completing three IMI Diplomas and an additional assignment or two IMI Diplomas and a business research project.
Free profiling of your business before Christmas

Interested in promoting your business to the SFA community for free? Send us your company news this week to feature in the winter edition of the SFA award-winning magazine, Better Business...

Interested in promoting your business to the SFA community for free? Send us your company news this week to feature in the winter edition of the SFA award-winning magazine, Better Business. Types of company news we can feature include, but not limited to: 

  • a new product or service
  • a new contract won
  • a rebrand
  • a new website
  • a new appointment
  • an award win or nomination.

Better Business is posted to all 8,500 members and to the broader SFA network and is also available through Easons and all good newsagents. Along with the printed publication, there is a digital editionwebsite and Twitter page which will enable you to market directly to the SFA membership community and beyond.


Don't miss this great opportunity to get your brand out there for free - submit your relevant news item (max 250 words) for consideration to linda.barry@sfa.ie by 17 November.

Retail Ireland Quarterly Monitor: Retail sales are up in Q3

In its latest Retail Monitor, Retail Ireland reported that sales values have grown by 4.1% in the third quarter of the year, compared to the same period in 2016, helping to partially offset growing fears regarding increasing input costs... 

In its latest Retail Monitor, published on 9 November, Retail Ireland, the Ibec group that represents the sector, reported that sales values have grown by 4.1% in the third quarter of the year, compared to the same period in 2016, helping to partially offset growing fears regarding increasing input costs. The report also shows that most retail categories experienced an increase in performance during the quarter.

Retail Ireland Director Thomas Burke stated: "2017 has so far proven to be a relatively strong year for the Irish retail sector. Sales values grew across almost all retail categories in the third quarter of this year, with full year increases also recorded. However, the benefit of these growing sales is largely being eroded by an increase to rent in many prime retail locations, rising labour costs and increasing utility costs. Increases in the National Minimum Wage of over 7% since January 2015, and the recent Public Service Obligation (PSO) levy increase show Government is significantly driving these input costs upwards. For some in the sector there is a palpable sense of running to stand still. 

“However, retailers are now looking forward to a busy Christmas period and have a legitimate expectation of an improved performance on last year, as pay increases and tax cuts help boost the consumer mood and increase spending power. The coming 8-week period will make or break the year for many retailers, with some doing over 30% of their annual trade in this period. Retailers are hopeful that this positive momentum can be carried into the crucial end of year trading period.”

Key trends set out in the Retail Ireland Q3 2017 Monitor include: 

  • Supermarkets and convenience stores: With the Consumer Price Index continuing to show food and take-home alcohol deflation, growth in this quarter suggests that shoppers are now trading up rather than taking the savings. 
  • Department stores: Total sales values grew by 2.6% and total sales volumes increased by 7.4% compared to the same quarter in 2016. The beauty business remains flat, with declines in traditional beauty brands being balanced by strong reactions to new emerging brands.
  • Fuel: Total fuel consumption in quarter three was down marginally when compared to the same quarter in 2016, as electric vehicles and hybrids now account for 4% of vehicle sales in Ireland.
  • Pharmacies: The deflationary environment continued to affect pharmacies this quarter, particularly impacting core toiletries and some beauty products. 
  • Fashion and footwear: Women’s luxury accessories continue to be a key sales driver, along with athleisure, training shoes, and menswear. As we enter the last quarter of the year, competition in this category from online UK and US shopping platforms will heighten due to the strong euro.
  • Books, newspapers, stationery stores: Newspaper and magazine volumes continue to decline, as consumers continue to migrate their media consumption to online sources.

 Download a copy of the Monitor

SFA Webinar - Planning for the Christmas period
  • 16 November

SFA Executive, Ciara McGuone will deliver a SFA webinar on Thursday, 16 November from 2:15pm – 2:45pm focusing on public holiday entitlements falling over the Christmas period which can stress out even the most seasoned managers.


The webinar discusses how to handle staff attendance during bad weather and also how to avoid the common pitfalls during the Christmas party season.


Register online now for the webinar.


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. 

SFA Annual General Meeting
  • 29 November

The SFA AGM will take place on 29 November 2017 at 4:30pm in the SFA offices, 84-86 Lower Baggot Street, Dublin 2.


The Director and Chair/National Council will present their reports and three members will be elected to serve on the SFA National Council. Attending the AGM is an opportunity to keep up to date with the activities of the SFA and to elect fellow members to represent you on the Council.


Nominations to the SFA National Council will be accepted until 12 noon on Wednesday, 15 November. More information about the role of the Council is available in the SFA Constitution. Any member wishing to stand for election to the National Council should contact SFA Director, Sven Spollen-Behrens via sven@sfa.ie or on 01 605 1602 for more information and for a nomination form.   


Each member company has one vote at the AGM. Register online now to confirm your attendance.

SFA Members Christmas Evening 2017
  • 14 December

The SFA Members Christmas evening will take place on Thursday, 14 December 2017 from 6.00pm-8.30pm at the SFA offices, 84-86 Lower Baggot Street, Dublin 2.

The purpose of the evening is to give members an opportunity to network and develop business contacts in an informal setting. 

Festive food and refreshments will be served. The evening is free of charge and feel free to bring along a friend or colleague but please pre-register online.  

December training courses with SFA: Project Management and Performance Management

Book now for our one-day training courses in December – Project Management on 7 December or Performance Management and Appraisal Skills on 14 December. These short programmes are tailored to small businesses and offered at special rates to make them affordable for SFA members...

Unlock Your Potential is a suite of training programmes tailored to the needs of small business, offered by the Small Firms Association. The programmes are offered at special rates that make it realistic for small companies to participate.

There are two courses coming up in December 2017:

  • Project Management: 7 December (see here)
  • Performance Management and Appraisal Skills: 14 December (see here)

The price for SFA members is €190 per person for these one-day courses.


Now is the time to invest in yourself and your employees. We encourage you to avail of the programmes being offered through the SFA to unlock your potential and that of your business.


For all queries on the event, please call the organiser Quelba Lima, on 01 605 1619.