SFA Fortnightly Update

Dear Member, 


Welcome to this edition of the SFA e-zine.


This is your last chance to book on to our flagship event Business Connect, taking place this Thursday 11 February. Don't miss the opportunity to network for free with 350+ small and large organisations, or our fantastic lineup of speakers on four essential small business topics; Re-setting the Dial for 2021, Adapting for Business in a Virtual World, Winning Big Business, and Looking for Money? Register now to get your profile set up and ready to network. (*Please note, your registration link will come from events@shellcove.ie)


This week we remind members to prepare for the ending of the reduced VAT rate on 28 February.


You can read the SFA submission to the WRC regarding the public consultation on Code of Practice on the Right to DisconnectMake sure you also check out the new National Remote Work Strategy, ‘Making Remote Work which outlines the government’s ambitions and plans around remote work.  


Learn how businesses can support their employee’s wellbeing by promoting breathing exercises that will help reduce stress. 


There are a series of workshops and masterclasses offered by Skillnet Ireland that you can register for now, such as Accelerate Your Growth – Develop Your Export Potential.You can also check out our most 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 our website.


Kind regards, 

Sven Spollen-Behrens

SFA Director


SFA in the media
  • National Remote Work Strategy

National Remote Work Strategy

SFA Senior Executive Elizabeth Bowen was featured in the Sage article discussing the National Remote Work Strategy and what it means for Irish employers, which the SFA has welcomed but more detailed guidance is needed.

Remote Working Strategy

Read about the new National Remote Work Strategy, ‘Making Remote Work’ which outlines the government’s ambitions and plans around remote work... 

The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, recently, published its report “Making Remote Work: National Remote Work Strategy” which can be accessed here.


The main objective of this three-pillar strategy is to ensure that remote working is a permanent feature in the Irish workplace in a way that maximises economic, social, and environmental benefits.  

  • Pillar One: Creating an environment conducive to remote working. It will involve introducing new and revising current legislation to provide for the right to request to work remotely. The strategy envisages the introduction of a code of practice on the right to disconnect and even create financial / taxation incentives to encourage the uptake of remote work.
  • Pillar Two: Deliver remote work infrastructure through the development of hubs and the roll-out of the National Broadband plan; and
  • Pillar Three: Building a remote work policy and guidance framework. 

The strategy outlines the Government’s intention to legislate to allow employees the right to request to remote work. Currently in Ireland, all employees can request to remote work but there is no legal framework around such a request. This is clearly a separate issue from the ongoing public health advice that all those that can work remotely should do so and should be supported in this by their employer. The anticipated legislation, which is expected in Q3 of 2021, will provide a legal framework around which requests from employees to work remotely can be addressed, providing clarity for employers and employees alike.


Additionally, the strategy document refers to the EU Work-Life Balance Directive which came into force in August 2019. This directive is aimed at providing better work-life balance for working parents and carers, including a right to request flexible working arrangements to accommodate childcare and carer obligations. All EU member states have until 2022 to comply with this Directive; when in place, however, the employer will “be able to decide whether to accept or refuse a worker’s request”.


The SFA welcomes the Government’s commitments to invest in necessary infrastructure such as the National Broadband Plan, remote working hubs and alignment with childcare facilities, as well as reviewing tax arrangements to incentivise remote working.


However, to further understand and adapt remote working practices amongst small firms, we believe more detailed guidance including templates and checklists are needed for employers and employees to clear up any misunderstanding about remote working arrangements.


Regarding proposals to introduce legislation to provide employees the right to request remote working, SFA would insist that an SME Test is applied to any such legislation to assess the potential financial and administration impact on Ireland’s small business community. In addition, when drafting this legislation, it must be considered that for some small firms the benefits of remote working isn’t always an option.”


The SFA will continue to make representations on these issues. In the meantime, as we prepare to transition back to the office following the roll out of the vaccination programme, members are advised to introduce a remote working policy, if they have not already done so, or to review their existing policy. See the SFA website for information on remote working policies.  

Public consultation on Code of Practice on the Right to Disconnect

Read the SFA submission to the WRC...

In January, the SFA made a submission to the Workplace Relations Commission’s public consultation on the introduction of Code of Practice on the Right to Disconnect.


The Association is of the view that any legislative intervention on working time as part of the policy response to make remote working a permanent option for life after the pandemic is likely to bring unhelpful rigidity to an increasingly flexible world of work. This flexibility is also highly prized by employees and often strongly supported by other government initiatives.


Where concerns arise about excessive working hours or disproportionate reliance on digital devices, SFA recommends, in the first instance, a raising of awareness of existing legal remedies and the promotion of workplace culture that embraces a balanced and flexible approach to working time.


Therefore, a Code of Practice that reflects the existing protections which are in place, encourages a partnership approach between employers and employees, raises awareness and provides guidance on working time or disproportionate reliance on digital devices is a welcome mechanism to address these issues rather than legislation.


The full submission can be read here.  

Breathing Exercises to Reduce Stress at Work

Learn how businesses can support their employee’s wellbeing by promoting breathing exercises that will help reduce stress..

The pandemic has caused a re-imagining of our work environment. Employers have developed plans to bring employees back to work safely, giving careful thought to schedules, seating configurations, visitor policies, elevator usage etc. However, it is not just physical well-being that employers must consider. Equally important is how businesses will respond to employees’ emotional and psychological health. As an employer, not only do you have a duty of care to protect the mental and physical well-being of employees, but you will also benefit from having happy and healthy people work for your business.


Employee Assistance Programmes (EAP) is a confidential counselling programme, which operates primarily within the workplace to assist and identify employee concerns. 

  • Turn to Me provides professional support in a safe community, delivered by fully qualified and accredited mental health professional. This support is delivered in a confidential and anonymous medium. This programme is increasingly sought by employers, as Mental Health and Wellbeing is an intrinsic part of our social, emotional, and physical functioning. 

  • WorkPositive Tool is a confidential free online tool developed by the HSA that allows businesses to explore ways to improve employee wellbeing. It helps identify and measure psychosocial risks and workplace stressors.  

While EAP’s are not always feasible for small firms due to fewer resources, support can be provided to employees by informing them of stress-management techniques and cognitive strategies such as breathing exercises. Employers should encourage their employees to set aside 15 minutes every day for breathing exercises to wind down.


Deep Breathing:

  • Get comfortable
  • Breathe in through your nose until your belly fills with air
  • Breathe out slowly through your nose
  • Put one hand on your chest and the other on your belly and breathe in
  • The hand on your stomach should rise more than the one on your chest
  • Breathe out and feel your belly lower
  • Repeat three more times

There are studies which show that breathing exercises were most effective for both immediate and long-term stress reduction. One study at Yale presented four programmes, all of which had participation from students.  

  • SKY Breath Meditation: a comprehensive series of breathing and meditation exercises over several days which is designed to induce calm and resilience. 
  • Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction: a meditation technique in which you train yourself to be aware of each moment in a non-judgmental way. 
  • Foundations of Emotional Intelligence: teaches techniques to improve emotional awareness and regulation. 
  • Control group (no intervention) 

The participants who practiced SKY Breath Meditation experienced the greatest mental health, positive emotions, and stress reduction. It was beneficial in terms of immediate impact on stress, mood, and conscientiousness, and these effects were even stronger when measured three months later. Simple techniques such as these can help one sustain greater wellbeing and reduce stress levels.


It is important to recognise stress-related issues and help your employees find ways to mitigate stress at work. Visit the HSE’s website for breathing techniques, or our SFA website for information and advice on managing employee’s mental health and if you have any queries in relation to employee’s wellbeing you can contact Emma Crowley on 01 6051668 or emma.crowley@sfa.ie 

Reduced VAT rate to end

Prepare your systems for the VAT rate change on 28 February...

Despite representations by the Small Firms Association, the Government has indicated that it has no plans to extend the reduction in the standard rate of VAT (23% to 21%) beyond 28 February 2021, when it is due to expire. The reduction was introduced in September 2020.


Members are reminded to consider how the change will impact your business and any actions you need to take between now and 28 February to ensure that you are ready for the change.


Areas to consider include systems, pricing, product files, contracts, timing, credit notes, direct debits, advance payments, import guarantees, non-Irish business.  

Skillnet Ireland Masterclasses & Workshops

Book on to these 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.


Don't forget to apply to the free 8-week business support programme, MentorsWork. The focus of this phase of the programme is to help small businesses get through the third lockdown, and it is completely free to apply, so make sure to fill out the short application form here if you are a private sector businesses that employ between 3-250 people.


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

  • Wed 10 Feb 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 | Innovation: The art of the possible for Business

  • Thurs 11 Feb 1.00pm- 2.00pm

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.


Workshop | Accelerate Your Growth – Develop Your Export Potential

  • Fri 12 Feb 10.30am - 12.30pm

Grow your business in 2021 and beyond by finding out how to develop the export potential of your business. We will help you explore the option of growing your business through exporting whether you are currently exporting or not. Learn where to begin and how to strategically develop an export plan and find out what supports are available.


Masterclass | Cybersecurity and your SME: Why and how to protect your business from today's cyber threats

  • Fri 12 Feb 1.00pm - 2.00pm

Hackers are increasingly turning to smaller, softer targets, and as smaller businesses increasingly fall prey to cyber attacks, the consequences can be devastating. This practical masterclass will provide business owners with the critical knowledge, insights and recommended methods by which to protect their business from email-phishing scams, social-media hijackings, ransomware, viruses and malware attacks - a must for all businesses today.


Business Connect 2021
  • 11 February


For the last few years, the SFA has brought together small and large businesses at this special marketplace event in the Aviva Stadium. This year, we are looking forward to offer Business Connect virtually so everyone can attend the event, and it will also be completely free of charge for the first time.
We are delighted to announce that our keynote speaker will be Child & Adolescent Psychotherapist Dr Colman Noctor.  His specialist area of research interest is ‘the impact of technology on our mental lives’, and he is a regular speaker at the Mental Health & Wellbeing Summit.
Not only will there be plenty of networking sessions giving you the opportunity to connect with other businesses, building your network and business opportunities, but you will also get the chance to see the SFA National Small Business Awards exhibition with all of our Finalists and Sponsors. This event will be of particular interest to managers working in procurement; with a mix of 400 small and large organisations in attendance, there will be plenty of networking sessions throughout the days giving you the opportunity to gain new clients, members and future business partners.


Here is the agenda:

08.00    Networking Session – Exhibition open
09.15    Welcome – Graham Byrne, SFA Chairman and CEO, Flender Ireland
09.20    Opening Remarks – Sharon Higgins, Director, Member Services, Ibec
09.30    Re-setting the Dial for 2021 – Dr Colman Noctor, Child & Adolescent Psychotherapist

  • Dr Colman Noctor will present on reboarding post Covid-19 and developing digital resilience in an era of technology and anxiety, followed by a Q&A with Richard Curran.

10.00   Networking Session & Exhibition open

10.15   Adapting for Business in a virtual world

  • Alan Wyley, Chief Commercial Officer, Luzern
  • Cathy McGovern, Founder & Director, Inspiration
  • Joanne Charles, Head of Commercial & Small Business, Cisco

11.15   Networking Session & Exhibition open

11.40   Winning with Big Business

  • Noel Keely, CEO, Musgrave
  • Dom McGroddy, Lily's Tea
  • Chris Mitchell, Co-founder, Green Angel
  • Brian Fitzpatrick, Founder & Director, Oriel Sea Salt
  • Michael Ferncombe, Borrisoleigh Bottling

12.20   Looking for Money? What are the Do's and Don'ts when applying for finance?

  • Eoin McGee, Broadcaster, How to be Good with Money
  • John Madigan, Head of Marketing and Research, SBCI
  • Eoghan Hanrahan, Regional Director Dublin, Enterprise Ireland
  • Garrett Stokes, CEO, Microfiance Ireland
  • Mags Brennan, Head of Business Banking, PermanentTSB

We will conclude at 1pm with more networking sessions and the Exhibition.

Register today You can also check out the round-ups of our past Business Connect events from 2020 and 2019.


FHM Business Coaching Workshop: 4 Ways to Improve Your Business
  • 16 March

  • Tues, 16 March 11:00am - 12:00pm

A top business coach from FHM Business Coaching will help you to achieve business success, just like a top personal trainer will help you to adopt a healthy lifestyle.

In this fantastic 60 Minute seminar you will how to:

  • Analyse your business and identify how a small 5% improvement in 3 key areas can double your profits quicker than you ever thought possible;
  • Review every point of interaction between your business and your existing and potential customers to maximise conversion and repeat business;
  • Identify an area of your business for improvement that is unique to your business and you will leave the seminar with an action plan and a commitment to make that improvement in the next 7 days;
  • Better manage your time by reviewing the 4 areas in which you currently spend your time and how only 2 of these are productive - the other 2 are holding you back.

This is a stand-alone seminar designed to deliver real value to every participant.

FHM Business Coaching’s unique approach to helping business owners is like a business education, coaching, networking, mentoring & consulting hybrid that follows a proven philosophy and process that has been tested and refined over many years.

Register for this free event today.

Ireland's 24 Hour Economy
  • 11 March

On Thursday, 11 March at 11am, via MS Teams, SFA in partnership with Ibec will hold a seminar on the night-time economy.

The recently launched Programme for Government seeks to develop innovative approaches to create a vibrant, diverse, and sustainable night-time economy in Ireland. The recognition by the coalition Government that the night-time economy in our towns and cities is an opportunity for economic and social development should spur all businesses to explore and exploit avenues within this sector of the economy.

As we rebuild from the damaging economic effects of rolling Covid restrictions and closures now is the time for businesses operating or servicing the night-time economy to define the supports, regulatory changes and infrastructure investment needed to ensure the economic wellbeing of businesses open between 6pm and 6am.

Delegates will hear about international initiatives fostering the night-time economy, gain insights on the economic contribution of this sector and hear from businesses operating and servicing the night-time economy. Delegates will also be able to share their views and opinions on the future of Ireland’s night-time economy.

If you are in the experience economy, cultural and leisure activities, cleaning, transport, or health and personal services this event is not tome missed.

Register here.

For further information please contact elizabeth.bowen@sfa.ie.

Read SFA Better Business magazine’s latest article “Rewrite the Night” examining the importance of the night-time economy.