SFA Fortnightly Update

Dear Member, 


Welcome to the latest edition of the SFA Newsletter.


This week, the Department of Enterprise publishes a draft bill on statutory sick pay, and Government approves the drafting of a law that will protect employees' tips


Read about the recent Labour Court case regarding unfair dismissal on disability grounds. We also share important advice from the Credit Review Office. 


Take a look at Budget 2022 and the impact it will have on small businesses, and read up on online shopping fraud with Europol.


See our article on state-backed low interest rate loans for working capital and investment purposes available for eligible SMEs.


Finally, make sure you apply to MentorsWork, our free business-support programme with Skillnet Ireland before 30 November, and 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
  • Climate Action
  • MentorsWork

Climate Action

Following the SFA press release on Small Firms focusing on meeting Climate Action targets, the SFA was featured on RTE, Leinster Express and Leitrim Observer.



Our free business support programme with Skillnet Ireland, MentorsWork, was in the Gov.ie Covid-19 Skills and training supports for businesses, as well as the Dublin Gazette, Limerick Post and IrishTechNews.ie.


Champion Green

Champion Green, supported by the SFA, Kilkenny Design and Visa, was featured in ThinkBusiness along with other platforms promoting shopping local for Christmas 2021. Small business owners can register to avail of PR and marketing supports, as well as business advice, as part of the national Champion Green campaign.

State-backed low interest rate loans

State-backed low interest rate loans for working capital and investment purposes are available for eligible SMEs...

The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and the Department of Agriculture Food and the Marine have recently launched a new loan scheme, the “Brexit Impact Loan Scheme” targeted to SMEs (including farmers and fishers) and small mid-caps that have been impacted by Brexit.


Brexit Impact Loan Scheme

The Brexit Impact Loan Scheme (BILS) is available to eligible businesses impacted by Brexit.

  • Loans from €25,000 to €1.5m
  • Loan terms of one to six years
  • Reduced interest rates
  • Loans up to €500,000 unsecured
  • Loans can be used for 100% refinancing of existing Brexit Loan Scheme loans or refinancing of existing short-term credit, up to a maximum of 30% of the new loan.

For eligibility criteria and the application process, view the full brochure here or visit sbci.gov.ie


Government publishes Sick Pay Bill

Department of Enterprise publishes draft bill on statutory sick pay...

A number of days ago the Department of Enterprise published the heads of bill that will introduce statutory sick leave, this has long been an aim of the Tánaiste and his Department. This bill’s aim is to introduce 3 paid sick leave days a year for employees who have reached the eligibility criteria as set out in the heads. The draft heads of this bill set out that an employee will be eligible for statutory sick pay once they have completed 13 weeks continuous service with his or her employer.


As well as the above service criteria an employee will need to be certified as unfit for work by a registered medical practitioner in order to avail of the sick pay scheme. The terms of the Minimum Notice and Terms of Employment Act will apply in this area to ensure that the definition of what constitutes continuous service.


This policy development has long been flagged by the Small Firms Association as another example of the rising cost of doing business for small businesses. We will continue to flag the concerns of the small business community as this bill is introduced in the Oireachtas and particularly will engage with the Joint Committee on Enterprise when this bill is under discussion for pre legislative scrutiny.


You can read the text of the draft bill here. 

Government approves the drafting of a law that will protect employees' tips

There has been Government approval to draft a law that will prohibit the use of tips and gratuities to ‘make up’ contractual rates of pay...

The Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise Trade and Employment, Leo Varadkar TD, announced on Wednesday 27 October that he had received Government approval to draft a law that will give new rights to employees, prohibiting the use of tips and gratuities to ‘make up’ contractual rates of pay.


When the proposed new legislation comes into force, there will be new requirements on employers to clearly display their policy on how both card and cash tips, gratuities and service charges are distributed. Employers will be required to keep a record of how tips and gratuities (including electronic tips) are distributed in the event of there being a complaint. The records will be available for inspection by the Workplace Relations Commission.


The aim of the Payment of Wages (Amendment) (Tips and Gratuities) Bill is to:  

  • Provide clarity on the meaning of tips, gratuities and service charges 
  • Place tips and gratuities, but not service charges, outside the scope of a person’s contractual wages 
  • Oblige employers to display prominently their policy on the distribution of both cash and card tips 
  • Oblige employers to distribute fairly, equitably and in a transparent manner, tips that are received in electronic form, that is, through debit or credit cards or smart phones   

The Tánaiste reported that “This new law will, for the first time, give workers legal protections over tips. It will mean that any tips received cannot be counted towards an employee's basic pay, they must be counted as additional and separate”. Making the announcement, he observed that most establishments already treat their employees fairly with regard to tips, so for many it will mean no change other than having to display their policy clearly.


For more information see Gov.ie  


A (small) Step in the Right Direction | Better Business

BDO take a look at the impact Budget 2022 will have on small business in the latest edition of Better Business magazine...

Have you read the latest edition of Better Business magazine? In this issue, Ciara Dillon and Grace McCann at BDO look at Budget 2022 and discuss the impact it will have on small businesses.


Budget 2022 provides some positive news for Ireland's business community. The retention of the 12.5% rate for most Irish resident companies is an important development. However, BDO believes that much more needs to be done, particularly in the area of high personal tax rates on both income and capital gains. Competitive tax rates are a key element for growth and jobs in the economy.


In its Budget submission, the Small Firms Association (SFA) requested substantial cuts to capital gains taxes (CGT) for business owners and much more generous relief for entrepreneurs who sell their businesses...

Read the full article here

Unfair Dismissal on disability grounds

Learn about the recent Labour Court case where UPS were ordered to pay their former manager €75,000 over unfair dismissal on disability grounds...

The complainant, who had a 33-year career with the company had provided a fit to return certificate after a lengthy period of sick leave, subject to him not being required to engage in travel and adjustments in responsibilities. In line with the GP’s recommendations, the employer decided the complainant was unable to continue in his role as he was unable to travel to the extent required for his job. The employer advised the complainant that there were no other suitable roles available and as a result the employer dismissed him due to incapability. The complainant appealed the decision however it was upheld. He then lodged a complaint with Workplace Relations Commission WRC as his rights under employment equality were breached as the employer did not provide him with reasonable accommodation.


The case was before the Labour Court after the complainant appealed a WRC ruling where he was awarded €20,000.


UPS Ireland told the Labour Court the reason for dismissal was medical incapability. They also stated that at the time of dismissal, the complainant was incapable of carrying out his role due to his inability to travel internationally. They argued that they went to great lengths to accommodate the complainant including offering him a lesser role with a lower salary. They contended that paying him his existing salary while he carried out a lesser role would have been a disproportionate burden on the company.


The company stated Mr Roberts was not discriminated against on grounds of disability nor was he unfairly dismissed.


The Court found that the employer did not meet the requirements for a reasonable accommodation of the employee. Therefore, the employees’ rights were breached, resulting in a discriminatory dismissal. They awarded the complainant €75,000.


This shows that employers should not just arbitrarily dismiss employees without looking at the circumstances leading up to the alleged misconduct. 

Europol | Online Shopping Fraud

Europol is promoting safe online shopping by customers and providing fraud prevention advice to online retailers and eCommerce businesses...

As part of Europol’s eCommerce Action 2021, An Garda Síochána will support Europol in a media campaign aimed at promoting safe online shopping by customers and providing fraud prevention advice to online retailers and eCommerce businesses. 

More and more businesses are using the internet as the primary channel to sell goods and services. Whilst convenient for both the consumer and retailer it also presents opportunities for fraudsters who can use the anonymous nature of the internet to rip off consumers or target retailers who do not have the necessary defences in place to protect themselves.

In the lead up to Christmas and in particular the Black Friday sales promotion period, consumers and eCommerce merchants will be particularly active online and with this in mind, An Garda Síochána and Europol advise consumers and online retailers to adhere to online shopping fraud prevention tips.


For the Online Shopper


The Golden Rules of Online Shopping

  • Understand risks involved - do some research – use brands and shops that are familiar to you
  • Check to ensure the website is genuine  - type the address yourself and check the spelling
  • Check the seller’s reviews and ratings
  • Be careful how you pay – always use the websites recommended payment site – if none, use credit cards when purchasing as most cards have strong customer protection policy
  • Save all documents related to online purchases
  • If you don’t make a purchase, don’t leave identity or card details behind
  • Never send card details by email, text or other messaging methods
  • Don’t send money to someone you don’t know – check first


For the Online Retailer / eCommerce Merchant

  • Know your product - Some products are risker than others ie. easily resaleable small items may present a higher fraud risk
  • Know your customer – If you accept card payments for high value goods you would really want to know who you are selling to – wouldn’t you?   
  • Establish a safe means of payment – Your card processor can advise when choosing a safe means of payment
  • Use a reliable delivery service  – Use a delivery service which you can be assured will offer professional handling of your merchandise


Speaking today, Detective Chief Superintendent Lordan of the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau said "I certainly welcome this Europol initiative and would urge consumers and businesses to be extra careful when conducting online transactions and pay heed to the valuable advices offered on the Europol website to help avoid the many pitfalls involved”.


Further advice and details can be found here

Successful Credit Applications can depend on a Good Credit History

Important advice from the Credit Review Office...

The Credit Review Office was set up by the Minister for Finance to provide an independent review process for SME’s who have credit facilities refused, reduced or withdrawn by their bank (AIB, BOI, PTSB and Ulster). Through its work with businesses and banks, the Credit Review Office sees at first hand the reasons why business owners are refused credit by banks.


When applying for credit, most businesses are aware that they will need show the bank they have the ability to repay the credit they are seeking– but did you know that one of the most important considerations for a bank can be your credit history?


Your credit history is a record of your borrowings and repayment practices. For most banks a poor track record can lead to a swift refusal. And it’s not just the credit history of the business: for sole traders, the banks will review the borrowers personal credit history, and for limited companies, the banks may also look at the personal accounts of the owners and directors. From the bank’s perspective, your personal handling of credit can be a good indicator of your likeliness to repay a business loan.  


In Ireland, banks are obliged to check the Central Credit Register, a national database of information on consumer and business loans for loan applications over €2000. Banks will use the borrowers’ credit report to help them when making decisions about loans and loan applications (it is important to note that the bank makes the lending decision, not the credit register or credit agency).


If you are applying for a loan, it is a good idea to check your credit history before you apply. It can help you spot any missed payments or mistakes in your credit report. You can check out your credit history (personal and business) on the Central Credit Register which can be done free of charge any time. The CCR website provides guidance on how to do so, and what to do if there are errors on your report.


In addition to the external CCR record, your bank will take into consideration its internal records – or how you operate your business current account. Late payments, unpaid direct debits or bounced cheques can be signs of business distress, so make sure you pay your bills on time and have sufficient funds available to meet your commitments and direct debits. If you have an overdraft, you will also need to ensure it stays within its limit and is in credit for at least 30 days a year, which is normally part of the terms and conditions attaching to overdraft facilities.


A good track record of debt repayment, and a well operated current account provide comfort to banks and can help ensure your business gets the credit it needs to grow and develop  – now is not the time for borrowers to ignore debt obligations, even if the level of the debt appears small or insignificant.  


And remember, if you are refused business credit by your bank, Credit Review can help. For more information on our independent appeals process, visit creditreview.ie  or call 087-1217244  

SFA AGM 2021
  • 24 November

Register now for the SFA AGM on 24 November at 5pm - open only to SFA Members.

Economic Outlook with AIB
  • 25 November

  • Thursday, 25 November 11.00am - 11.45am

The Small Firms Association, in partnership with AIB, is bringing SFA members an Economic Outlook to highlight key macroeconomic developments. The webinar will be delivered by AIB’s Economic Research Unit and will examine what has been happening in the Irish and major global economies as well as financial markets and the outlook for 2022 and beyond.


Register now.

Blueprint for a Greener Business
  • 30 November

Green Zebra helps organisations to be greener by providing information, tools and expertise so they can navigate sustainability by making informed decisions.


One of the ways they are helping businesses to start on their journey is to hold a series of webinars, the first of which is Blueprint for a Greener Business.

Here is what you’ll get:

  • An interactive session packed with best practice, case studies and advice
  • Actionable ideas you can immediately apply to your own business
  • Deepen your understanding of sustainability for business

The next webinar is on Tuesday, 30 November at 12.30pm. More information and sign up on this link and SFA members can avail of a 20% discount with the code SFA20.

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 | Recruit, Sustain and Grow your Employees

  • Thurs 18 Nov 1:00pm - 2.00pm

This Masterclass focuses on how leaders rethink their approach to recruiting and retaining staff. A greater understanding of what potential and current employees want from organisations. We also share a number of initiatives on how you can invest and engage with staff differently. The importance of learning as a key motivator and how to devise a succession plan that enables a smooth handover when someone leaves.

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

  • Fri 19 Nov 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.

Masterclass | Working from Anywhere: Effective Virtual Leadership

  • Wed 24 Nov 10:30am - 11:30am

This Masterclass will focus on how technology helps us bridge the gap between the physical and virtual work environments, however to be an effective virtual leader you need to make a strong human connection with your team. Virtual leadership is challenging as companies need to find new ways to collaborate, engage, retain and lead remote teams and identify the optimal technologies to support these practices. This workshop will address these most commonly encountered issues providing a set of best practices and skills to support you in this new world of virtual work.


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

  • Tue 30 Nov 3pm - 4pm

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 | Sustainability: Why Business as Usual Is No Longer an Option

  • Fri 3 Dec 11am - 12pm

Sustainability is the key topic informing international best practice for business in the 21st Century. But what is it? And what does it mean for SMEs? Businesses must adapt to include People, Planet and Prosperity as part of their business ecosystem through new sustainability strategies and design thinking business models.
This masterclass will raise awareness of the Sustainability Agenda for SME businesses

Masterclass | Innovation: The art of the possible for Business

  • Fri 3 Dec 3pm - 4pm

This masterclass explores innovation and creativity. It shines a light on the barriers to creativity and how to overcome them, creating a culture where bright ideas flourish. You'll learn how to promote innovation and innovative processes throughout your company, how to develop and gather ideas to make strategic long-term plans that foster growth using creative and innovative thinking skills.



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.