SFA Fortnightly Update

Dear Member, 


Welcome to this edition of the SFA e-zine.


On Monday 14 September, we launched the 2021 SFA National Small Business Awards with Awards Patron, An Taoiseach Micheál Martin. Now entering its 17th year, we are delighted to invite all small businesses around Ireland to apply here before 22 October for the chance to be crowned the Best Small Business in Ireland. Make sure you register for the first event of the programme, Business to Business: A virtual networking event for small business, taking place on 23 September. 


If you haven’t already done so, I kindly ask you to take part in our Business Sentiment Survey. The results of which will provide the SFA with useful information on how members perceive the economy, COVID-19 supports and Brexit. 


This week we look at how the Workplace Relations Commission has changed its mediation and adjudication service from face to face hearings to a written procedure and remote virtual hearings due to Covid-19 restrictionsYou will also find updated information and advice on how to prepare for Brexit, and our most recent press coverage


SFA and Skillnet have launched the next phase of MentorsWork, a programme designed to provide you with the skills and supports to help your business thrive, and there are 50 applications reserved exclusively for SFA members. Finally, Idiro Analytics, SFA Members and award-winning Irish analytics consultancy, have a special offer for SFA Members to level the playing pitch for SMEs.

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
  • SFA Awards 2021
  • MentorsWork
  • RTE Boost My Business
  • Brexit
  • Budget 2021

SFA Awards 2021

The SFA National Small Business Awards 2021 were launched by Awards Patron, An Taoiseach Micheál Martin on Monday, 14 September and was mentioned in various news outlets such as Irish Independent, Business World and BizPlus. Apply for the Awards here



SFA initiative MentorsWork, which is supported by Skillnet Ireland, aims to guide SMEs through the challenges caused by Covid-19 and was featured in the Business Post


RTE Boost My Business

The SFA Employment Law Seminar, taking place on 16 September, was mentioned in RTE's Boost My Business .



SFA Director, Sven Spollen-Behrens discussed Brexit and SME's on RTE six 1 news on 9 September and on The Wider View on 10 September. 


Budget 2021
Irish Independent and the Law Society Gazette featured the SFA regarding next month's budget calling for certainty on costs and debt forgiveness for small businesses. 

SFA Sentiment Survey - last chance to enter

Please take part in our Business Sentiment Survey which will provide the information on how members perceive the economy, COVID-19 supports and Brexit...

The Sentiment Survey allows members to share their feedback on key trends in the small business sector. The results of this survey will provide the SFA with useful information on how small firms in Ireland perceive the economy, COVID-19 supports and Brexit.   


Click here to participate in the survey. 


Your survey responses will help us in our efforts voicing small business concerns with central government and allow us to track key trends in the small business sector, which we look forward to publishing later this month with an accompanying media release.   


Please contact elizabeth.bowen@sfa.ie if you have any questions about this survey.   


MentorsWork: Early Access for SFA Members

Early access is limited to the first 50 approved company applications...



This year has posed many threats and depending on the nature of your business or industry, you may have a wide range of challenges to face. Many business owners-managers and leaders are in need of structured support to help sustain and improve their business.


The Small Firms Association in partnership with Skillnet Ireland, the national agency responsible for advancing the competitiveness, productivity, and innovation of Irish businesses through enterprise-led workforce development, are delighted to announce the launch of the MentorsWork initiative, designed to provide SMEs, like yours, with a pathway to better business and to help you on the road to business recovery.


MentorsWork officially launches on 16th Sept but SFA members are being offered exclusive early access to apply for the programme now using the link below. Early access is limited to the first 50 approved company applications.


About MentorsWork

The MentorsWork 8-week business-support programme is FREE to SMEs nationwide and offers a range of integrated, flexible learning supports to help your business to adapt and thrive, by improving skills and competencies across our four learning pillars; People, Finance and Growth, Digitalisation and Automation, and Business Processes.


You choose the priority areas for your business and we tailor the programme to suit your needs.


The MentorsWork programme includes;

  • One-to-one mentoring sessions
  • Peer-focused expert-led workshops
  • Thought-leader masterclasses
  • Access to a curated online learning platform


We hope that you will find the MentorsWork programme to be hugely beneficial, and we look forward to helping you to build your pathway to better business.


Apply now at www.mentorswork.ie




Brexit – Preparation is key to survive in a post-Brexit economy

You will find updated information and advice on how to prepare for Brexit. 

Last week marked a notable deterioration in Brexit negotiations, despite this setback, SFA continues to hope for a swift conclusion to the trade talks, as a ‘no-trade deal’ Brexit would spell further difficulties for small companies.


Whatever the shape of the future trading relationship with the UK post transition, trading conditions with the UK will change and businesses need to prepare for that change. Use the below steps to get started today.


Assess whether your business trades with the United Kingdom or moves goods through the United Kingdom.


If it does: 

  • TALK to your business partners. The end of the transition period might also impact your supply chain, so you need to be aware of what it means for your suppliers, intermediaries or transporters. 
  • CONTACT your Local Enterprise Office and review the Brexit Preparedness Checklist to get full details and explanations on what you need to be ready for at the end of the transition period.  
  • CONSULT the Brexit Readiness Action Plan, where you will find information on the steps to take now. 
  • VISIT the Getting Business Brexit Ready website to learn how Brexit will affect your business. 
  • SIGN up for Clear Customs Online 2020. Skillnet Ireland’s free online customs training, for businesses that moves goods frequently to, from, or through Great Britain. 
  • APPY for Ready for Customs. A grant of up to €9,000, through Enterprise Ireland, for businesses per eligible employee hired, or redeployed within the business, to a dedicated customs role.  
  • ACT now! Do not wait until the end of the transition period to think about how you need to adapt. Some of the processes and procedures you need to follow take time, so you should start as soon as possible to avoid unnecessary difficulties for your business. 

Yesterday, the UK government launched a new campaign, “Keep Business Moving, which will provide information on the actions EU businesses will need to take to continue trading smoothly with the UK at the end of the year. The UK will be hosting a webinar on 25th September at 10am for Irish businesses to help you understand the UK border requirements. More information on the webinar and preparing for the end of the transition period can be found here.  


Our colleagues in Ibec have developed a Tracker on the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland and a Tracker on the EU-UK Future Relationship to assist business-owners follow developments on the negotiations and the implementation of the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland. This resource will be updated on an ongoing basis.  

Visit www.sfa.ie/brexit to login and access the tracker and more information.


If you have a sector specific query relating to Brexit please contact Elizabeth Bowen, Senior Executive at elizabeth.bowen@sfa.ie or 087 188 2951 

An Taoiseach launches the SFA National Small Business Awards 2021

On Monday 14 September, SFA National Small Business Awards Patron An Taoiseach Micheál Martin launched the 2021 programme...



The SFA National Small Business Awards 2021 have been officially launched by Awards Patron, An Taoiseach, Micheál Martin TD. The aim of the awards is to celebrate the achievements of small business in Ireland and to recognise the vital contribution of the small business community to the Irish economy.

Small firms (employing less than 50 people) have from 14 September until 22 October 2020 to enter free of charge here.

Speaking at the launch, An Taoiseach Micheál Martin said: “The SFA National Small Business Awards are very important, particularly as we live with Covid-19. These awards acknowledge innovation, resilience, strength and the importance of the small business sector to the Irish economy and, in particular, to the future of the Irish economy. We need agility, flexibility and adaptability in the midst of the global pandemic and there is no better entity than a small business to demonstrate these characteristics.”


The Awards are free to enter and the prize package for ALL finalists is valued at €50,000. It includes a strategic management masterclass weekend, participation in the virtual SFA Business Connect event, a feature in a special awards supplement inserted in the Irish Independent, as well as broad-ranging national and local media coverage. Finalists also receive five complementary tickets to the gala prize giving ceremony which is scheduled to take place in the RDS in March 2021 when the category winners and overall winner will be announced. The category winners will be presented with a trophy and free membership of the Small Firms Association. The overall winner will also receive a bursary of €5,000 to present to a charity of their choice (funded by the 2013 Overall Winner, Megazyme International Ireland).

The competition is open to all companies in Ireland with up to 50 employees and the categories are:

· Manufacturing - supported by NSAI
· Food and Drink – supported by Bord Bia
· Services – supported by Ibec Management Training
· Outstanding Small Business — up to five employees – supported by One4All
· Innovator of the Year –supported by Permanent tsb
· Sustainability – supported by SBCI
· Workplace Wellbeing – supported by De Care
· Small Business Exporter of the Year – supported by Enterprise Ireland

In addition, the five best “Emerging New Businesses” - supported by IE Domain Registry - (companies who are less than two years in existence) will be selected that have the potential to grow and have the ability to be an SFA National Small Business Award winner in the future.

SFA Director, Sven Spollen-Behrens commented, “The SFA National Small Business Awards continue to celebrate the grit and fortitude of business-owners across all sectors and parts of the country. By taking part in the awards you are confirming your belief in your business, employees, and your entrepreneurial spirit. Previous overall winners have come from each of the four provinces and from sectors such as food, manufacturing, biotechnology, and many others. The search is now on to find the best small business in Ireland for 2021.”

How is the Workplace Relations Commission managing during Covid-19

How is The Workplace Relations Commission managing to amend its mediation and adjudication service from face to face hearings to a written procedure and remote virtual hearings due to Covid...

Ordinarily, complaints and disputes referred to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) are mainly dealt by face-to-face mediation and adjudication. Due to Covid-19 restrictions the WRC has issued a Revised Matrix for Dealing with Complaints. They now consist of a mixture of written procedures, telephone mediation, remote virtual hearings and in line with health guidelines are providing a limited number of face-to-face hearings in their premises.


Adjudication Hearings 

The WRC conducted remote hearings initially on a pilot basis and have since been asking parties and representatives to be positively prepared to deal with their complaint via remote hearings. The WRC are targeting cases such as the Organisation of Working Time breaches, disputes around pay and other Industrial Relations issues.   

In recent weeks, Adjudication Hearings have been conducted in the WRC offices at a reduced capacity. Priority has been afforded to cases that required a reconvening of a previously adjourned hearing. The have made the following adjustments to their practice to eliminate risk of contracting the virus during an attendance.  

  • Starting times are staggered to reduce the possibility of congestion.  
  • There is an allocated time slot of 2.5 hours in hearing rooms which are all sanitised, cleaned and ventilated after each hearing.  
  • The WRC has drafted a protocol for parties/representatives when attending the hearing.  

Conciliation Meetings 
The service of the WRC conciliation is a voluntary process to resolve workplace disputes between employers and employees.  It can usually involve a series of meetings in an office or conference space whereby both parties are required to be engaged with the conciliator and with each other in an attempt to resolve their differences. Conciliation referrals continued to be submitted online via email at conciliation@workplacerelations.ie . Some virtual and remote conciliation engagements have taken place during this period of Covid-19 if both parties agree to it.


To avail of the mediation service, an employer must complete the online complaint form. The WRC will contact the respondent to confirm their attendance and to see if they are willing to engage in mediation. If both parties agree to mediation, they will be contacted by the WRC to discuss a mutually convenient date and approach to be taken (I.e. Telephone or Face-to-face, subject to public health guidelines).


The Mediation Service is offering mediation in suitable cases, including: 

  • Complaints that were received over the past 2 months 
  • Parties whose hearings were postponed because of Covid-19 or other reasons and are awaiting an alternative hearing date 
  • Parties that previously declined the offer of mediation will be offered the option again 

Since 10th August, the Mediation Service returned to limited face-to-face mediation in the WRC premises (subject to public health guidelines).


On-site Inspections 
While on-site inspections and site visits were ceased according to the Government’s guidance, limited on-site inspections and visits have recommenced. They are currently working through complaints, inspections and matters arising remotely where possible. In addition to implementing compliance with employment rights, the WRC is supporting the Health and Safety Authority in ensuring conformity to the Return to Work Safely Protocol.


If you have concerns about compliance with employment rights legislation, or WRC inspections and would like further advice, please contact Emma at SFA on 01 605 1668 or at emma.crowley@sfa.ie or visit the SFA website to access our resources



Business to Business: A virtual networking event for small business
  • 23 September

Are you looking to improve performance?


Are you interested to hear from business experts?


Are you keen to meet fellow small business owners?


Our B2B event this year will be an immersive virtual experience, taking place on 23 September at 4pm. Broadcasting from a live studio, the event will be streamed via a digital platform allowing you to watch the presentations in real-time and interact with the speakers and panel via live chat.


Following the presentations, we will host a speed networking session where you can meet other attendees in small groups, for a series of 5 minute sessions. You will be able to build your profile in advance and view other participants that you would like to meet with.


This will be a great opportunity for networking and as the SFA National Small Business Awards will be underway you will also hear how SFA award winning businesses have grown their business on the back of the awards.


We will be joined by our awards sponsors and partners. NSAI, Permanent TSB, Enterprise Ireland, One4All, Bord Bia, IEDR, DeCare and Skillnet Ireland.


Email briana.mctiernan@sfa.ie now to register your interest for this free event and you will receive login details in advance of the date.

Thinking Ahead: Grievance and Disputes Procedure
  • 1 October

All grievances should be considered as potential disputes and handled in accordance with an agreed procedure. Correct procedures show an employer to be acting fairly and reduce the scope for inconsistency. If grievances are not dealt with, they are likely to fester and result in bad employee relations. Poor grievance handling can also affect staff morale while an effective process can be an important means to release pressures and tension that build up in the workplace.


This 30 minute webinar will focus on:

  • The common causes of grievances
  • Company grievance policy
  • 4 stages of grievance procedures
  • Guidelines for management on the operation of dispute procedures
  • Best practice in handling a grievance
  • Arbitration 
  • Constructive dismissal

The webinar will be delivered by Emma Crowley, SFA HR Executive. Click here to book.


Thinking Ahead is a monthly webinar series brought to you by the SFA and supported by Flogas. If offers small businesses access to expert information and advice from their office or home.