SFA Fortnightly Update

Dear Member, 


Welcome to this edition of the SFA e-zine.


On 22 April we will be hosting our SFA Employment Law Seminar 'Changing HR Landscape' this virtual half-day event is designed specifically for business owners and HR professionals that are guiding their small business through this challenging and evolving period. Register today to stay ahead of the curve!


Read our articles on the new the new Right to Disconnect Code and how employers can recognise if their employee/s are struggling with mental health issues.


With World Intellectual Property Day falling this month readers can learn more about IP by watching back our recently recorded ‘Brexit and IP’ webinar and registering for ‘SME’s and IP – Taking your ideas to Market’ webinar on 26 April. Be sure to also take the trial version of the competency assessment that you will receive when you apply to the free business support programme MentorsWork.


Check out the .IE Tipping Point report which assessed the attitudes and responses to the Covid-19 pandemic of 1,000 Irish consumers and 500 retail and consumer-facing professional services SMEs. Make sure you also see the exciting new initiative for Irish start-up companies and new brands to pitch for an opportunity to retail in Arnotts.


Read about the changes to VAT eCommerce rules from 1 July 2021 and be sure to see 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
  • MentorsWork
  • Boost My Business
  • Champion Green


Our free 12-week business support programme with Skillnet Ireland was featured in Sunday Times, Leinster Leader, Business Post, Meath Chronicle, and BusinessandFinance.com,


Boost My Business

the RTE initiative Boost my Business featured upcoming SFA Events for the month of April.


Champion Green

Champion Green and the SFA were featured in The Echo, encouraging the public to shop local to boost recovery for the Irish economy. 

Changes to VAT eCommerce rules - 1 July 2021

Read about the changes to VAT eCommerce rules from 1 July 2021...

A number of important amendments have been made to the Value-Added Tax (VAT) Directive to simplify VAT obligations as regards eCommerce activities. These changes will enter into force from 1 July 2021.


The VAT e-commerce package will facilitate cross-border trade, combat VAT fraud and ensure fair competition for EU businesses.


The new rules include: 

  • Improvements of the current MOSS. 
  • Special provisions applicable to supplies of goods facilitated by electronic interfaces. 
  • Extension of the scope of the MOSS, turning it into a One Stop Shop (OSS).
  • B2C supplies of services other than TBE services. 
  • Intra-EU distance sales of goods. 
  • Certain domestic supplies of goods facilitated by electronic interfaces. 
  • Distance sales of goods imported from third territories and third countries in consignments of an intrinsic value of maximum EUR 150. 

Who will be affected: 

Who will benefit from this proposal? 

  • Businesses will benefit from a substantial reduction in cross-border VAT compliance costs. This will facilitate greater cross-border trade. 
  • EU businesses will be able to compete on equal footing with non-EU businesses that are not charging VAT. 
  • Member States will gain through an increase in VAT revenues of EUR 7 billion annually. 

For more information read Modernising VAT for cross-border e-commerce or join us on 21 April for a webinar with SFA member Catherine McGovern, Tax Partner with PKF O'Connor, Leddy & Holmes ‘VAT Alert – eCommerce VAT changes 1 July 2021  and Refresher on  Brexit VAT’.


In this webinar Catherine will be updating SFA members on significant VAT changes for eCommerce Business to Consumers (B2C) sale of goods from 1 July 2021. She will also discuss the key VAT changes as a result of Brexit.


Register now for this important webinar.

Mental Health

How can you support your employee's mental health...

When considering your employee’s mental health and wellbeing, you are not expected to bring solutions, but to be able to provide support and encouragement. The signs and symptoms of mental health can vary greatly between individuals; therefore, it is vital not to assume that we know what is occurring for an individual, or even try to diagnose them ourselves. It is important that employers create an open, inclusive, and safe environment to encourage employees to reach out for help if their mental health is suffering.


Employers should have conversations with their employees about their wellbeing. The recommended approach would be to have a non-invasive and open interaction which will make them feel seen and respected without offence. Experiencing mental health difficulties can be isolating, especially with stigma still being prevalent in work and society. Not asking someone can make them feel even more alone. Making someone feel safe enough to explore their feelings with you is one of the best things you can offer someone. If you are uncomfortable or hesitant, check if there is another colleague who would be more suited to start the conversation. And most importantly, ensure the timing of these engagements are right - before a big meeting is not the right time. This approach will reduce mental health stigma while increasing the likelihood that your employees feel happier, more confident, and more productive.


You can create an environment where your employees feel heard, respected, and cared for by considering the following points.   

  • Give the employee your full attention. This process should not be a box-ticking exercise, you will only see the benefit if its given full commitment.  
  • As a manager, it is important to understand your team members individually and what work-life balance means to them. Some employees enjoy flexible start and finishing times, while others prefer working from home one day a week so they can get to their exercise class on time or pick their children up from school. Work-life balance is important for creating a full, enjoyable life and many of us can be guilty of spending too much time in work, or still reflecting on work when we've gone home. 
  • If someone shares that they are struggling, try saying: “What would be most helpful to you right now?” “What could we take off your plate?” “Is there anything I can do for you?” “Let’s chat about the resources we have available here and see if you would be interested in availing of any”. 

Your willingness to open an honest conversation about mental health with your employees is exactly the kind of gift that so many people want and need right now.


Visit YourMentalHealth.ie or the SFA’s content on Workplace wellness to learn more about mental health, and how to support yourself and others. National Workplace Wellbeing Day takes place on Friday, 30 April. Keep an eye on our social media over the next few weeks for ideas and information on how to get involved.


Right to Disconnect

As of 1 April, all employees officially have the Right to Disconnect from work and have a better work-life balance...

A new code of practice on the “right to disconnect” has been signed into effect from the beginning of this month. Following public consultation which concluded this January 2021, the new Code of Practice comes into effect immediately. It applies to all types of employment, including remote working.


The code will set out guidance for employees and employers regarding best practice and approaches to employee disengagement outside normal working hours. This code focuses on best practice instead of applying further legislation as the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997 already provides a very effective and defined entitlement to disconnect.


While failure to follow a code prepared under the Workplace Relations Act 2015 is not an offence, the law provides that in any proceedings before a court, the Labour Court or the WRC, a code of practice shall be admissible in evidence.


The Right to Disconnect gives employees the right to switch off from work outside of normal working hours, including the right to not respond immediately to emails, telephone calls or other messages. There are three rights enshrined in the Code: 

  • the right of an employee to not have to routinely perform work outside their normal working hours 
  • the right not to be penalised for refusing to attend to work matters outside of normal working hours 
  • the duty to respect another person’s right to disconnect (for example: by not routinely emailing or calling outside normal working hours) 

Join us on 22 April for our Employment Law Seminar, where we will examine HR and Health and Safety topics including what this Code means for your business. Visit here for full programme details and booking.  


Intellectual Property webinars

Protect your small firm with IP...

This month SFA has teamed up with MacLachlan & Donaldson, one of Ireland’s longest standing IP firms, to update and inform entrepreneurs on how to use IP to protect their brands.


Members looking to learn more about IP and its benefits should register for our World IP Day webinar ‘SME’s and IP – Taking your ideas to Market’.


Join us on 29 of April and learn more about: 

  • What IP is and the different elements in it: 
    • Trade marks 
    • Patents 
    • Designs 
    • Copyright; and 
    • Trade Secrets 
  • Find out how you identify, protect and enforce your IP in each of these areas. 
  • Discover how IP can help you in the creation and protection of your brand. 
  • Learn what benefits protecting your IP can bring to your business. 

Members familiar with IP and trading or considering trading with the UK should watch back our recorded webinar ‘Brexit and IP’ with MacLachlan & Donaldsons’ Peter MacLachlan, Trade Mark Attorney and Cherrie Stewart, Chartered Trade Mark Attorney.


This webinar focuses on what has and has not changed for Trade secrets, Patents and Copyright post Brexit. It examines Design Rights and sets out steps to consider to ensure your IP is Brexit ready.

Opportunity for entrepreneurs & start-ups - Pitch’21 at Arnotts

Read on to learn more about pitching for the opportunity to retail in Ireland’s iconic department store and online with the chance of winning a €10,000 business development fund...


Today, Brown Thomas Arnotts launched Pitch’21 at Arnotts, an exciting new initiative calling on budding Irish start-up companies and promising new brands, to pitch for an opportunity to retail in Ireland’s iconic department store and online with the chance of winning a €10,000 business development fund.


The aim of the initiative is to support Irish designers, makers and entrepreneurs across a host of sectors - fashion, beauty, lifestyle, home and technology - who already have a product or range developed, to grow their brand further and to offer vital specialised mentoring and expertise in the world of retail.


Applications will be reviewed and shortlisted to five finalists by an expert judging panel including Brown Thomas Arnotts Director of Innovation, Experience and Enterprise Audrey Owens, Brown Thomas Arnotts Buying Director for Home & Living Rachel Morgans and Brown Thomas Arnotts Creative Director John Redmond. They will be joined by co-founder of the much-loved Irish jewellery brand JUVI Designs Vincent Tynan and creators of the new hugely successful wellness brand ‘The Head Plan’, Denise Kenny Byrne and Ciaran Byrne.


The five finalists will be taken through a series of mentoring and development workshops by the judging panel and will have the invaluable opportunity to retail both in store and online in the weeks leading up to Christmas; Arnotts busiest time of year. The overall winner will be awarded the amazing opportunity to secure retail space at Arnotts and win a €10,000 business development fund to grow their business.


Speaking about Pitch’21 Audrey Owens comments, “At Brown Thomas Arnotts, we have always been committed to supporting local and Irish businesses and brands. We’re thrilled to take this even further with the launch of Pitch’21 at Arnotts. Despite this past year being a challenging one for businesses, it has also afforded new opportunities for innovative ideas and start-up companies to flourish.”


For further information on how to apply for Pitch’21 and eligibility criteria, click here.

New ‘.IE Tipping Point Report’ published

Number of small businesses that have invested in their online presence has increased substantially...

The 2021 .IE Tipping Point report survey, carried out in January, assessed the attitudes and responses to the Covid-19 pandemic of 1,000 Irish consumers and 500 retail and consumer-facing professional services SMEs. For some questions, respondents were asked to compare their current situation or opinion to 2019, pre-Covid, and to anticipate their future behaviour post-Covid. To record shifts in behaviours and attitudes in the last six months, 2021 data is compared, where relevant, with data from the 2020 report survey, which was carried out in June and July 2020.


The key findings listed below provide an overview of some of the most important Covid ‘vaccine era’ trends in Irish SME e-commerce, digitalisation and consumer behaviour. 


Consumer Findings:

  • 55% of consumers believe that life in 2021 will be more or less the same as life in 2020, or even more restricted. Few think that life will return to normal this year.  
  • Despite a surge of patriotism in the initial six months of the pandemic, the majority of online shoppers have swung back from Irish SMEs to international retailers. In 2021, 49% said they have mostly purchased from Irish SMEs since the Covid crisis compared to 53% in 2020.  
  • Consumers view international retailers as more competitive on price, range and online experience, but they view Irish SMEs as more reliable and trustworthy. Irish SMEs should focus their digital investment in these areas of competitive advantage. 

SME Findings:  

  • The number of SMEs that have invested in their online presence has increased massively, from 21% in 2020 to 55% in 2021. The majority recognise that the future of their business depends on adding some kind of digital offering.  
  • 30% of SMEs sell a physical product via an online store, up from 25% in 2020. Of these, the vast majority—almost 9 in 10—have noticed an increase in their sales numbers since the Covid crisis began.  
  • 78% of SMEs that have invested in their online services say they are busier than or as busy as before the Covid crisis, up from 46% in 2020. SMEs opinions on consumer purchasing habits are changing; more believe that consumers will do the majority of their shopping online.  
  • 61% of SMEs said online services will be more important to their business in 2021 than they were in 2020. A greater number of SMEs now accept that their business model is likely to be permanently changed by the pandemic. 

To read the full report click here

Simple Focus on your business with Bitsing
  • 14 April

Join the SFA and Bitsing for a webinar on how to stop managing your time, and start managing your focus.


What is it about: Delivering real value to you and your business in 1 hour, understanding uncertainty, focus, and growth.


Uncertainty | Face it calmly by understanding the facts of your business.

Focus | Pay attention to these facts.

Growth | Simplify by using these facts to plan and execute measurable actions.


Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Do you have a clear agreed continuity (survival) goal for the next 12 months?
  2. Do you decide what percentage of your resources will be focused on each of your priorities?
  3. Do you understand what your unique message is to your target audience?
  4. Do you have clear knowledge on who your target audience is?
  5. How have you ranked your company's priorities for the next 12 months?
  6. Do you have a clear prediction on what your company will achieve over the next 12 months?
  7. Do you measure the results of each action your company takes to get these results?

What learnings/ takeaways expected: Have a pen and paper with you! 7 simple practical steps to take, to move forward.


Bitsing has been using a unique methodology for over 20 years to work with clients through coaching and training to allow them to achive their goals. In this 50-minute webinar, Noel Quinn will present the Bitsing methodology, walk through case studies, and take questions from the audience.


Register today and you will receive a Microsoft Teams link on Tuesday, 13 April.

SFA Employment Law Seminar
  • 22 April

SFA Employment Law Online Seminar | Changing HR landscape

  • Thursday 22 April, 2021 9am - 1pm

The Covid-19 pandemic has drastically changed the way we live and work – and it has never been more vital to explore the changes and developments that employers are facing. The Small Firms Association’s Annual Employment Law Seminar Changing HR landscape takes place on Thursday 22 April 2021. This virtual seminar focuses on the issues that are affecting Business and HR professionals, with discussions led by employment law experts. On the day, you will hear about HR and Occupational Health and Safety considerations for Covid-19, Employment Permits, Probation and a HR update on upcoming trends and legislation. This seminar is designed to benefit business owners and human resource professionals tasked with guiding their small business through this challenging and evolving period.


Employment Permits and Visa
In order to work in Ireland a non-EEA National, unless they are exempted, must hold a valid Employment Permit. Ananta Kaur, an ibec’s employment Law expert will present key changes to the current employment permits and immigration permissions affected by Covid-19 and Brexit. She will take you through frequently asked questions and give a practical approach to managing them.


Covid 19 – HR and Health and Safety considerations
Last year sparked the realisation that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way of work and the way we live. Lorraine Parkes, Knowledge Centre Senior Executive, and Elaine Bowers, Occupational Health & Safety Executive, they will provide practitioners with an update on recent changes to areas of employment law and health and safety. This session will include a review of employer’s obligations in mitigating the risk to the virus and best practice and procedures when dealing with employee issues.


How to manage probation

It is common for employers to experience performance/conduct/attendance related issues with their employees. Employers may face uncertainty on how to manage these issues during an employee's probationary period. Fiona Mulligan, Childhood Services Ireland’s (CSI) executive will talk you through common misconceptions surrounding the probationary period, review recent case law, IR Issues to consider and go through a step-by-step guide on managing the probationary period.


Preparing your small business for new employment legislation
Covid-19 has not stifled the strengthening of employment law in Ireland. Emma Crowley, SFA’s HR Executive will look at a HR and employment law legislation from a small lens, exploring recent changes such as the statutory sick pay, the right to disconnect, remote working legislation, family leave and many more. There will be a review of challenges for employers, frequently asked questions and will provide a means of overcoming those challenges.


View the brochure here, full agenda coming soon - register today.

Intellectual Property Webinar
  • 29 April

We are delighted to announce our World IP Day Webinar celebrating the Theme of “ SME’s and IP – Taking your ideas to Market”. This webinar is a collaboration with MacLachlan & Donaldson, one of Ireland’s longest standing IP firms, and experienced Trade Mark Attorney, Carla MacLachlan, and Patent Attorney, Denis McCarthy, will discuss what IP is and how it benefits SMEs and helps them take their ideas to market.

Join us on the 29th April and learn more about:

What IP is and the different elements in it:

  • Trade marks
  • Patents
  • Designs
  • Copyright; and
  • Trade Secrets

Find out how you identify, protect and enforce your IP in each of these areas.
Discover how IP can help you in the creation and protection of your brand.
Learn what benefits protecting your IP can bring to your business IP.

Register here for this important small business webinar on Thursday, 29 April at 11am.

SFA Skillnet Ireland Masterclasses & Workshops

Book on to these SFA 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.


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

  • Tue 13 Apr 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.