SFA Fortnightly Update

Dear Member, 


Welcome to this edition of the SFA e-zine.


There is just over one week left to apply for the 2021 SFA National Small Business Awards - don't miss this opportunity to recognise your staffs achievements by applying for this fantastic programme celebrating the vital contributions of the small business community to the Irish economy.


With Budget 2021 taking centre stage this week with implications for employers and small businesses we take you through some of the key changes, new measures and supports coming your way.


Read the new Code of Conduct which aims to encourage the resolution of landlord-tenant disputes that have arisen due to Covid restrictions. 


Today we look at the Labour Party’s Sick Leave and Parental Leave (Covid-19) Bill 2020. This is a newly proposed bill, that if passed would ensure employees be paid up to six weeks for sick leave. Moreover, it will extend the right to paid Force Majeure leave for circumstances related to Covid-19 absences. 


Read our latest cyber security month article on safe remote working from Tara Doyle of supportIT. 


Sign up to receive Wellness Roundup - an ezine designed to help keep corporate wellness at the forefront of your organisation's culture. New to Wellness Roundup? Take a look back at the previous issues here.


Finally, there is still time apply for the free programme aimed at guiding small businesses through the current challenges, MentorsWork. Be sure to book on to one of our upcoming webinars, including Securing your small firm 24x7x365, and we also go over 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
  • Budget 2021
  • Small Business Sentiment Survey
  • MentorsWork & Restart Grant
  • RTE Boost My Business

Budget 2021

The SFA were featured in The Irish Times, Irish Examiner, The Irish Sun, and Fleet Transport following the Budget 2021 Statement.


Small Business Sentiment Survey

SFA Director Sven Spollen-Behrens was interviewed on Kildare FM on 12 October, Kildare Focus with Claire Plunkett, speaking about the recent SFA Business Sentiment Survey, also featured in RTE, The Irish Times, Irish Examiner, Law Society of Ireland Gazette, The Echo Cork, and The Herald Ireland.


MentorsWork & Restart Grant

Sven was on South East Radio on 10 October discussing the free SFA and Skillnet Ireland 8-week business relief programme MentorsWork, and was also featured in Wicklow People and Bray People. Sven was also interviewed on Dublin City FM 103.2 Good Morning Dublin speaking about MentorsWork and the Restart Grant Plus.


Boost My Business

The SFA was mentioned in RTE's Boost My Business, the platform aimed at boosting supports for small businesses.



Free Business Support Programme - get a personal business Mentor

SFA and Skillnet Ireland launch new initiative aimed at guiding small businesses through the current challenges...

The SFA in partnership with Skillnet Ireland, has launched a new phase of the MentorsWork initiative aimed at guiding Irish SMEs through their current business challenges towards stabilisation and recovery, six months on from the outbreak of Covid-19.  MentorsWork is also supported by the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI) and Microfinance Ireland.


The MentorsWork eight-week business support programme is free to SMEs nationwide and is designed to provide the skills and supports to help business owner-managers sustain and improve their business. The programme offers integrated learning supports across four key pillars; People, Finance and Growth, Digitalisation and Automation and Business Processes, all which help businesses to adapt and thrive by improving skills and competencies.


MentorsWork will connect business owners and managers across Ireland with experienced and skilled business mentors to address specific business issues on a one-to-one basis. The programme also offers specialist masterclasses and access to a bespoke online learning platform specially designed for SMEs.


With up to 300 places available in this new phase of the scheme, the MentorsWork initiative is open to SME business owners and leaders operating across Ireland and in all sectors of the economy. The programme is free of charge and open to private sector businesses that employ between 5-250 people.


Business owners and managers can apply to participate in MentorsWork here.



Budget 2021

With Budget 2021 taking centre stage this week with implications for employers and small businesses we take you through some of the key changes, new measures and supports coming your way...

Budget 2021 has several implications for employers and in this article, we take you through the key measures for introduction in 2020/2021.



  • Covid Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS) - A new scheme for businesses which closed because of Covid-19 will provide a maximum of €5,000 per week. The Government will make a payment based on 2019 average weekly turnover. The scheme is effective from 13 October until the end of March next year, with the first payments in mid-November.
  • EWSS - Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme will continue after 31st March 2021, in some form.  
  • Commercial rate waiver extended until the end of the year.  
  • Extension of the Tax warehousing scheme to include repayments of Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme funds owed by employers and preliminary tax obligations for the adversely affected self-employed. The debt warehousing provisions will be extended for a period of a year with no interest. 
  • Self-employed recipients of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment will be allowed to take up intermittent work without losing their benefit. 


  • €3.4 billion Recovery Fund  
  • €350 million will be spent on Brexit preparations amongst Departments and State Agencies. – including funding for Local Enterprise Offices and customs and tariff training. 

Climate change 

  • Carbon tax will be increased by €7.50 from €26 to €33.50 per tonne of CO2. Legislation will be provided to increase the tax each year by €7.50 up to 2029 and by €6.50 in 2030 to achieve €100 per tonne. 

Busines owners 

  • Earned Income Credit equalised with the PAYE credit by raising it by €150 to €1,650. 
  • 13.5% VAT rate reduced to 9%. 
  • Capital Gains Tax Entrepreneur Relief, The Finance Bill will amend the ordinary share holding requirement so that an individual who has owned at least 5% of the shares for a continuous period of any three years qualifies for this relief. Previously, a person had to own at least 5% for a continuous period of 3 years in the 5 years immediately prior to the disposal. 
  • Plans to leverage European capital and establish an equity fund with a mandate to invest in domestic, high innovation enterprises announced.  

Business Environment 

  • A Cabinet sub-committee, chaired by the Tanáiste, has been established to deliver the insurance reforms outlined in the Programme for Government. 
  • Planned assessment of how the Employment and Investment Incentive Scheme (EISS) can be enhanced considering the impact of the current crisis announced. 
  • National Economic Plan is to be published next month. This will be underpinned by a social progress indicator which considers a broader range of indicators than just economic output.  
  • An independent Commission on Taxation and Social Welfare to plan out the medium and long-term tax and spending planning announced. SFA believes the future of statutory sick leave, auto-enrolment pension and Capital Gains Tax will be discussed at these commissions.  

View here to see the SFA's response to Budget 2021. Additional information can be found at Budget 2021

If you have any questions on Budget 2021 please contact Elizabeth Bowen, SFA Senior Executive. 

Safe Remote Working – Cyber Security Advice to help protect your Business

Read our latest cyber security month article on safe remote working from Tara Doyle of supportIT...

Hackers have become increasingly sophisticated in recent years and even more so during the pandemic - We are seeing an increase in the number of attempted attacks designed to target people who are isolated at home. Breaches, regardless of the severity, can be disruptive, costly and damaging to a business’ reputation.


Create a more security-aware organisational culture

Security awareness is a large part of the human side of prevention. Often, people are the weakest link and the best way to mitigate against this risk is to ensure staff are aware of the latest threats; Highlight attempted email scams so staff can know what to look out for and communicate to users the processes for reporting SPAM.


‘Many of our clients request an alert when a potential SPAM issue is logged so that they can monitor the types of threats that are coming into the business and use that information for educational purposes.’ Joe McGivern, CEO, supportIT.


Agree Policies that relate to devices that are used in the Home

We are advising companies to put policies in place for work devices that are in use in the home. These should exclusively be used by the employee, not friends or family. We are also advising clients to have a ‘Bring your own device’ policy; devices that staff are intending to use should have strong Anti-Virus software installed and be updated to ensure the latest security patching is in place.


Strong Group Policy & Password Settings

As a managed service provider, we put particular emphasis on strong group policy settings; forced password changes, minimum password length, screen locks & software installation restrictions can all be activated centrally and pushed out to every machine for enhanced security.


Strong password policies should also apply to 3rd party applications being used in the business like CRM applications and Finance applications – discourage sharing passwords and create logins for each individual user for audit trail purposes.


Use Virtual Private Networks (VPN)

A VPN is needed if you are planning for home workers to connect into the company network, particularly if you want to make sensitive information available. Ensure your business has enough licenses in-place to allow all your remote workers to access the network and reinforce with the SSL security protocol and multi-factor authentication.


Ensure you have adequate Anti-Virus solutions in place

The best products are those that are paid solutions with proven detection rates. Make sure that you include phones, tablets, and especially, laptops. Our recommendation is Webroot, it is an award winning solution with high detection rates that isn’t too heavy on the machine.


Two Factor/Multi-factor Enablement

Most business applications now have two factor/multi-factor enablement. This can usually be activated within the application itself and is best practice to ensure your application is secure, particularly if you store personal identifiable or finance data.


Data Loss Protection (DLP)

For those organisations that have more stringent compliance regulations, we have been recommending an added layer of protection, called Data Loss Protection (DLP). DLP is a built-in feature of Office365 and can be activated through the management console.


If it happens, deal with it correctly

The reputational damage resulting from a data breach can be devastating for a business. Research has shown that customers will stop doing business with organisations that have been breached, which is why it is so important to take the steps above to mitigate against this possibility. However, in our experience if it does happen confidence can be restored if customers knows that you have taken the proper steps by notifying them and the data protection commissioner of the breach, and then put policies and procedures in place to ensure it doesn’t happen again.


For more information visit - supportIT or contact Tara directly at tdoyle@supportIT.ie 


About supportIT

Set-up in 2004, supportIT provide fully managed support, infrastructure and business continuity services to over 180 businesses and 3000 users nationwide.


Dedication, knowledge and trust are the main reasons why businesses choose supportIT as their IT solutions and support partner. We are a relationship driven organisation and work closely with every one of our clients to support and protect their infrastructure while providing solutions that are aligned with business and security requirements. www.supportIT.ie


About Tara Doyle 

With over 20 years marketing experience in the technology sector, Tara Doyle is Sales and Marketing Director and co-owner of supportIT.


‘Running an SME means that I have had to get involved in all areas of the business over the last 16 years, but I really enjoy my work the most when I am working on the business development side of things. Marketing and Business development are the areas I am trained in and I genuinely enjoy developing relationships with potential SME clients that can grow into real partnerships - A large proportion of our clients have been with us from the start and we have become an integral part of their business.’  

Sick Leave and Parental Leave (Covid-19) Bill 2020

The newly proposed Sick Leave and Parental Leave (Covid-19) Bill 2020 that if passed would ensure employees be paid up to six weeks for sick leave...

There is currently no legal obligation on employers to provide sick pay to employees, except where their contract of employment allows it as part of their terms of employment. Some employers may exercise their discretion to pay employees during sick leave for a specific duration and or reason. Employees are entitled to apply for illness benefit from the Social Welfare which is currently paid at a rate €203 per week before tax for full-time PAYE workers. This benefit is only paid from the seventh day of illness and employees must have at least two years of PRSI contributions to be entitled to the payment.


Introducing provisions for sick leave
The Sick Leave and Parental Leave (Covid-19) Bill 2020 is a Private Members Bill proposed by the Labour Party. That seeks to require employers to pay 6 weeks of sick leave, and to lengthen the provisions of force majeure leave.

The Bill provides that after four weeks’ service, an employee will be entitled to sick pay for a continuous period of six weeks, or 30 days in total in any period of 12 months, for any day(s) that he or she is incapable of working as a result of illness or injury. Although its intentions were for Covid-19 related illnesses; if introduced, it would cover sick leave of any nature, and be paid at the same rate as annual leave.

The implications of this proposal are not only that the employers would be obliged to pay an employee on sick leave for an extensive period of leave, but also the cost of replacement, with little or no notice. Employers are already faced with managing a reduced workforce due to Covid-19 restrictions to indoor capacity and social distancing, and this bill will only exacerbate an already difficult situation for employers.


Extending the provisions of Force Majeure leave 
The Bill proposes to extend the right to receive paid force majeure leave for circumstances relating to Covid-19 such as the closure of a school or pre-school or where the child is unable to attend. Force Majeure is paid leave when the immediate presence of an employee is indispensable, at the place where the ill/injured person is limited. Currently, force majeure entitles an employee to avail of a maximum of three days in 12 consecutive months or five days in 36 consecutive months. This paid leave is proposed to be available for an employee whose child is impacted for as long as the child is unable to attend the school or pre-school service and the employee is required at his or her home in order to care for that child. While Force Majeure has always been an entitlement, this extension will result in a potentially significant increase to employee costs from their absence and their replacement.


Furthermore, legislative measures such as Parental leave has already been extended to 26 weeks as of 1 September 2020, which would allow parents take care of their children should they be sent home from school.


In response to the Bill’s proposals, the Government has deferred the Bill for 6 months. During his time the Government will engage with Unions and employers to consider reforms and improvements to Ireland’s statutory sick pay law and any related change to illness benefit which is funded through PRSI contributions.  


This Bill is of grave concern to the SFA as we are aware of the financial burden such changes would place on small business owners. Over the coming months, we will engage with Government, the opposition and members on these proposals and continue to update you on the Bill’s progress. 

Code of Conduct between Landlords and Tenants for Commercial Rents

Read the new Code of Conduct which aims to encourage the resolution of landlord-tenant disputes that have arisen due to Covid restrictions...

Earlier this month the Government launched a new Code of Conduct between Landlords and Tenants on Commercial Rents that is envisaged to run until 31 July 2021.


It states that landlords and tenants should act reasonably, swiftly, transparently and in good faith, to resolve disputes. While the code states that tenants who are in a position to pay in full should do so, it also states that landlords should seek to share any benefits they have received due to deferral of loan payments with the tenant in a proportionate manner. It also lists some of the issues to consider when determining the impact on a business and the tenant’s need for a concession, and it outlines suggested options for new arrangements. The code also looks at how disputes over service and insurance charges could be resolved. Over recent weeks we have been actively working with government officials to ensure the needs of small business is reflected in the voluntary code.


Access the Code here.


Please get in touch with Elizabeth Bowen, Senior Executive, SFA at elizabeth.bowen@sfa.ie or 353 87 188 2951with any feedback you may have.

Securing your small firm 24x7x365
  • 22 October

Ibec Seminar - How will Irish marine freight adapt to the impact of Brexit
  • 19 October

Ibec will be hosting a free online seminar for members at 11.30am on Monday 19th October.


This 90-minute event is an opportunity to engage with policymakers and experts on the future adequacy of Roll-On Roll-Off and Container freight capacity in various post-Brexit scenarios.


Recent UK media reports have raised concerns about the preparedness of new border control infrastructure at Dover, and of possible teething problems with online customs declarations. In a worst case, this might impact adversely on the proposed system of Green Lanes  for Irish hauliers travelling to Europe via Britain. Some companies who avail of their services have expressed interest in the development of a faster, year-round daily ferry service direct to the continent for accompanied and unaccompanied trailers.


Ibec understands that there is no shortage of suitable vessels in the market, or of Irish port capacity. However, there would presumably need to be a lead-in period of several weeks for any enhanced service, and it remains unclear how commercially viable it would prove to be in the absence of serious sustained disruption to the landbridge route.


Confirmed speakers include Deirdre O’Keeffe (Assistant Secretary, DTTAS), Liam Lacey (CEO, IMDO) and Pat Ivory (Ibec Director of EU and International Affairs).


To register for this event, please contact aoife.odonovan@ibec.ie

Places are limited, so early booking is recommended.

GDPR two years on – A webinar with the Data Protection Commission

Compliance with the data protection rules and their transparent application creates trust between businesses and consumers when it comes to the use of their personal data. This webinar will recap on the application of the General Data Protection Regulation 24 months since it was introduced and update members on how to remain GDPR compliant.

In November, Deputy Commissioner Graham Doyle and Elaine Edwards, Special Investigations Unit of the Data Protection Commission will join us on a webinar to recap on the General Data Protection Regulation 24 months on. This webinar will focus on:

  • Complaints
  • Data Breaches
  • Accountability – the controller and processor relationship
  • Transparency requirements
  • Third country data transfers
  • Consent
  • New guidance – cookies and other tracking technologies
  • Steps small firms can take to remain compliant

For small business owners and Data Protection Officers, this event is not to be missed.
Register your interest in this upcoming event by emailing info@sfa.ie.