SFA E-zine – The Tuesday Edition

Dear Member, 


Welcome to this week's edition of our SFA e-zine.  


We have another great week of interesting articles for you with many new and exciting events for you to attend, May will be busy!  We have our final Business Bytes session of the series on PAYE modernisation taking place 09 May, followed by a full-day GDPR session for small businesses  Then we have our Annual Conference taking place on 24 May.  Our half day conference will focus on, GDPR, competitiveness and digital transformation.  I encourage you to book on to all these events as places are already starting to fill up.


We have a great article on constructive dismissal that you should read and ensure you are informed.  We also have some helpful information on a new EU-funded digital training initiative.


I’d also like to ask you part take in an upcoming survey with the Innovation Value Institute on digitisation and small business, we hope to have the results of the survey in the next two months and will be sharing the details with our members.


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: www.sfa.ie.

Kind regards, 

Sven Spollen-Behrens

SFA Director

GDPR and training your staff

This week we look at GDPR and training. Read on to learn what all your staff should know in relation to GDPR and check out our one-day GDPR course on 11 May for those who have responsibility for GDPR….

Last Monday (9 April), the SFA's Helen Quinn spoke at the DataSec Conference in the session for small businesses. Data Protection Commissioner, Helen Dixon gave a keynote speech whereby she specifically mentioned SFA’s contribution to GDPR awareness within the small business community. With only weeks to go before GDPR comes into force, data breaches and GDPR training for staff was the recurring focus of the conference. With this in mind this week we focus on how businesses should ensure that all staff are trained for GDPR.

At the DataSec conference Helen Dixon emphasised that GDPR is a “front room to board room” process and that all “frontline staff” must be made aware of and trained in GDPR. So what should this training look like.

We share six key areas that this training should include:

1.What is GDPR?

All staff should receive basic training on the key principles of GDPR and how these will inform the day to day business operations in processing personal data. They will need to know what is personal data and what is sensitive data and how these two data types should be treated. They should also understand the difference between a data controller, a data processor and a data subject.

2.Data subject rights

All staff should have a basic understanding of the rights of individual under GDPR including access to their data, the right to be forgotten, the right to have their data rectified and other rights that they are entitled to under GDPR. This section could also include record keeping and keeping personal data only for as long as necessary.

3.How to recognise and act upon a data access request

One of the key challenges to GDPR is the shortened timeline to respond to a data access request. Businesses must respond to a data access request within one month and in general there is no fee. It is essential that all staff and especially frontline staff are trained in and aware of what a data access request looks like as well as the different channels that a data access request could come through. This could include e-mail, a webform, by letter or even via your social media account.


All staff should have a basic understanding of the conditions for consent under GDPR in relation to personal and sensitive data. They should understand that consent must be freely given, transparent, easily understood by the customer, be as easy to withdraw and that there are no conditions attached to the consent. It should also factor in the need to document and record the consent that has been given and the specific purpose for its use.

5.Keeping data secure to prevent data breaches

Many businesses already have good guidelines on keeping data secure such as not sharing it with third parties and ensuring that personal data is kept secure. However, the risks are much higher under GDPR. This should be emphasised in the training and the need to keep all data secure. In addition, the training should explain what is a data breach and how all staff can help minimise the risk of a data breach by following correct IT procedures.

6.Following the correct procedure in relation to a data breach

All staff should be made aware of how to report a data breach and who to contact within the business should this occur. They also need to know that the business only has 72 hours to report a breach to the Data Protection Commissioner should it pose a privacy risk to individuals.

SFA and Ibec will be introducing an online GDPR training course that will be ideal for all staff to avail of so that they are GDPR aware and ready. We will announce details of it in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, if you have responsibility for GDPR in your business, why not avail of our one day GDPR course for small firms on 11 May in the Ballsbridge Hotel, Dublin 4. Book here to secure your place as there are only a number of spots available.

If you would like more information on GDPR or to discuss your requirements further, please contact Helen at SFA on 01 6051668 or at helen.quinn@sfa.ie or visit our GDPR section on www.sfa.ie/advice


SFA Annual Conference

The SFA is delighted to announce that our annual conference will be taking place on the 24th May in UCD, Science Gallery.  This event is a must attend for anyone running or working in a small business as we address three of the key topics...


With our MC for our half-day event, Colette Fitzpatrick, you will witness excellent speakers on the topics of:

  • GDPR 
  • Digital transformation
  • Competitiveness 

Session one -  GDPR, we are deligthed to have the Assistant Data Protection Commissioner attend our conference and speak about the changes being rolled out the very next day.  Only last week Data Protection Commissioner, Helen Dixon gave a keynote speech whereby she specifically mentioned SFA’s contribution to GDPR awareness within the small business community.  This session will look at GDPR, sample case studies showing incidence of data breaches and how to deal with a breach, marketing in times of GDPR and how your business will have to comply as well as the business opportunities that will result as the role out of GDPR commences. 


Session two -  Digital transformation, in this session we will look at the impact of technology on business and the future of work in Ireland and across the world, clever uses of new technology and system integration along with digital marketing and the impact of social media on business success and failures.   


Session three -  Competitiveness where we will look at small firm competitiveness, tax competitiveness in Ireland, the cost of doing business here, innovation and the ability to remain competitive and access to funding for small business.  Peter Clinch from the National Competitive Council will be addressing the room of delegates.


Our conference this year will be free for SFA members, but you must book your place here


We look forward to seeing you on 24 May.

Constructive Dismissal: A case study

Concerned about constructive dismissal? Want to know what to avoid? Read on and learn from a recent case study how to manage potential constructive dismissal issues…

Constructive dismissal arises when an employee feels forced to resign from their employment due to the conduct and behaviour of their employer. For an employee to be successful in a constructive dismissal claim they must be able to prove that the employer’s conduct was so serious that it breached the fundamental principles of the employment contract.


In the case of a Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) adjudication hearing that involved An Office Administrator v A Joinery (ADJ-00002171), this case provides some interesting insights for employers to learn from on the issue of constructive dismissal.


The employee, who was an office administrator, was subjected to repeated and prolonged personal attacks by one of the Directors and was awarded €26,500 for constructive dismissal under the Unfair Dismissals Act 1977-2015. In the decision, the adjudicator stated that: “where an employee breaks the contract, and then seeks to pursue the employer for constructive unfair dismissal, as in this case, the bar is set just as high. Likewise, the burden of proof, which now passes to the employee, is set at a high level". In other words, the employee would need to exhaust all internal grievance procedures first and give the business the opportunity to rectify the issue before referring it to the WRC.


In this case, the employee was the estranged wife of the Director and she claimed that for a period of 20 months prior to her resignation she endured humiliation, isolation, abuse and bullying which left her with no option but to leave employment with the company. Prior to her resignation, the employee went out on sick leave for stress and anxiety and subsequently submitted a letter of complaint outlining her concerns regarding her treatment in the workplace. The company failed to investigate her work-related stress and they ignored her letter of complaint. In addition, they did not have a grievance policy procedure in place.


In upholding the claim for unfair dismissal, the adjudication officer agreed that the claimant had exhausted all alternative options available to her and had no option but to resign from her position. The adjudicator noted that “to prove constructive dismissal, the claimant must clearly show that there was no other alternative option open to her, other than leave her employment. It must be demonstrated that all reasonable alternatives have been considered. Whilst there was no formal grievance procedure in the company the Complainant did however write to the Respondent in January 2015 and no action was taken by the Respondent on foot of the concerns raised to address these concerns which were submitted in detail”.


So how can employers avoid a constructive dismissal claim?


1. Ensure that the company has a grievance procedure in place


2. Managers should receive training on how to correctly handle employee issues


3. Investigate and follow up on any complaints received


4. Engage with the employee if they are out of work on stress-related sick leave and be proactive in offering support and addressing any concerns


5. Do not allow personal issues to interfere with the workplace


For further information and advice on managing employee grievances you can review the SFA guideline. If you require any further information on grievances, please contact Helen Quinn on 01 605 1668 or helen.quinn@sfa.ie

New EU-funded digital training initiative

The Digital Opportunity Traineeships – an EU-funded training initiative – aims to help companies fill internship opportunities with digitally competent candidates. The initiative will raise awareness on the importance of on-the-job training for digital skills and help to attract more students to careers in ICT-related professions.

Digital skills are not only required in the ICT sector, but increasingly across all sectors. For students and recent graduates, temporary work placements are a unique chance to develop digital skills and improve their job prospects. The Digital Opportunity Traineeships initiative is designed to bring sustainable benefits to both businesses and job seekers.

Why should companies be interested?

Many companies are struggling to find candidates with digital skills that match the demands of the modern workplace. This means that vacancies remain unfilled, despite high unemployment in some parts of Europe. Furthermore, many companies – from small businesses to large corporations – simply do not have the capacity to train students on the job or have the resources or time to organise internships programmes on their own. The Digital Opportunities Traineeship is designed to address these concerns.

Businesses already hosting trainees within Erasmus+ will find that the initiative does not impose any additional burdens or costs on the business – the European Commission will pay the interns a monthly compensation of €500. Traineeships are considered one of the more effective ways of bringing on board skilled employees.

How can companies get involved?

Companies can publish their internship/traineeship offers on the platforms Drop’pin@EURES or ErasmusIntern. Companies that publish their offers on Drop’pin@EURES or ErasmusIntern should choose the ‘Digital Opportunity’ category on both platforms. To publish their offers on the platforms companies need to register as employers on both websites.

Any questions?

Get in touch with the project co-ordinator in Ireland, Patricia Kearns, at patricia@mssgroup.ie or consult the Q&A section on the project website.

Digitisation and small business - Survey

Digital technologies will disrupt value chains, organisational structures, operational processes and revenue models. And they will change every industry and every company. Managing digital transformation will decide which businesses will survive and which won’t.


Digitisation through leveraging digital tools and technologies is having a profound effect on how business is currently being conducted. It has already had a significant disruptive influence on many industries and is threatening to disrupt many others.  This transformation is a real challenge that most organisations are struggling with. However, a lot of small firms see digitisation as an issue exclusively for larger firms. This view is echoed by Brune, (2017); “small businesses tend to see “digitise or die” as a problem only for large companies. We need to make them aware of the fact that digitisation is their business.”


The Innovation Value Institute (IVI) at Maynooth University, Ulster University, and Anglia Ruskin University, England are undertaking research on the extent of digitisation through IT within the small business community.  The SFA has partnered with these research bodies and would like to invite you to complete the following online survey to provide us with key insights in this area:  https://ivi.eu.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_6PZHvA41LGcAEyF


We will receive the results of the completed survey within the next two months and will share the key findings with you. 


For further information please email the project co-ordinator at Eileen.doherty@mu.ie

Record keeping and GDPR – Key considerations before you dump and delete
  • 25 April, Online webinar

One of the key principles for GDPR is the data minimisation principle. This means that businesses should only hold on to personal data for as long as necessary. The challenge for many businesses is determining the length of time to hold personal data so that they can comply with GDPR. What should they factor in before dumping and deleting electronic and physical data?


This webinar will look at the key reasons to hold on to data and how businesses can objectively justify keeping data under GDPR. These include:

  • Legal retention periods for HR records
  • Limitation periods  and what this means
  • Health and safety records
  • Regulatory considerations
  • Business considerations

Join us on this webinar on Wednesday 25 April from 3pm to 3.30pm.


You must register online in advance, please do so here

PAYE modernisation – what every employer needs to know
  • 09 May, Bord Gais Offices

The SFA Business Bytes events, which are entirely free of charge, offer small businesses access to expert information and advice and an opportunity to network with their peers. The series is supported by Bord Gáis Energy.

Revenue is currently implementing the most significant reform of the PAYE system since its introduction in 1960. All employers will have to update their business processes to allow real time reporting to Revenue.

There are a number of actions that employers need to take now and throughout 2018, whether you use payroll software or not.

Date:             9th May 2018

Time:             17:30 - 19:30

Duration:        2 hours

Venue:           Bord Gáis Energy

Address:        1 Warrington Place

                      Dublin 2

Sinead Sweeney, Change Manager for PAYE Modernisation in Revenue, will deliver this session. She will help you to understand the changes that are being made and outline the steps you should take to prepare your business for a smooth transition on 1 January 2019. She will also be available to answer any questions you have about PAYE modernisation.

The event is open to SFA members and non-members. It will last for approximately one hour with an opportunity to network before and after. Refreshments will be provided.

This event is entirely free of charge but you must pre-register.

For all queries on the event, please call the event organiser:
Briana McTiernan, Tel: +353 1 605 1622

GDPR for Small Firms
  • 11 May, Ballsbridge Hotel

This full day event is taking place in the Ballsbridge hotel and is designed to give small businesses and overview of GDPR and ensure they are on the right track towards being compliant.  This course will cost €190 for SFA members and must be booked in advance.  You can book your place today, here


The details of the day are as follows


 08.30 – Registration and coffee

 09.00 – Welcome address – Nichola Harkin, Ibec

 09.05 – Overview of the GDPR – Nichola Harkin,  Ibec

  • Key definitions and scope
  • Processing of personal data
  • Risk based implementation
  • Sanctions and compensation

 09.45 – GDPR and employee data – Paul Rochford,  Ibec

  • Employer’s increased obligations under GDPR
  • Enhanced rights for employees
  • Data retention
  • Data access

 10.30 – GDPR and customer data  - Helen Quinn, SFA

  • Enhanced rights for individuals
  • Consent
  • Direct marketing

 11.00 – Coffee break

 11.20 – Data Protection Officers – Michael Kinsley

  • Do we need a DPO?
  • Role of the DPO
  • Suitability of the DPO 

 11.50 – Questions and answers

 12.20 – Data Protection Impact Assessments  – Michael Kinsley

  • When do we need to carry out an impact assessment?
  • Carrying out an impact assessment
  • Consultation with the Data  Protection Commissioner

 1.00 – Lunch

2.00 – Applying the knowledge

  • Practical exercise
  • Lessons learned
  • Sharing solutions

 2.30 – Security of data -

  • Tom Brett’s presentation

 3.00 – Preparing for GDPR – Paul Rochford,  Ibec

  • What to do between now and May 2018
  • Conducting a data protection audit
  • Further guidance

 3.45 – Questions and answers

4.00 – Close

For all queries on the event, please call the event organiser:
Quelba Lima, Tel: +353 1 605 1619

SFA Annual Conference
  • 24 May, UCD Science Centre

The Small Firms Association is the trusted partner of over 8,500 small firms in Ireland. The SFA Annual Conference is our flagship event and helps small business owners and managers to keep up to date with the latest trends in HR, management and innovation provides an opportunity to come together to make connections and learn from each other’s experiences.

We  will see 300 entrepreneurs, owner-managers, policy makers and media gather together to explore how to create competitive advantage in the current economic and business environment. A mix of keynote addresses and panel discussions will focus on how small businesses can stay competitive, gain access to and retain talent and deal with new regulatory challenges such as GDPR.

To book your place please click here.

How to manage performance in your business

Performance management is the next course available in our ‘Training that counts’ suite. All programmes are delivered by expert trainers with many years of industry experience.

At SFA, we’re here to help you create time for things that can make a real difference to your business, like developing management capacity and other skills for you and your staff.


Performance management is the next course available in our ‘Training that counts’ suite. All programmes are delivered by expert trainers with many years of industry experience.


Performance Management


This programme will help managers to run the appraisal interview and process within their own organisations. The programme will give managers the confidence to deal with challenging behaviour and performance-related issues while getting the best from those who are performing well.

Programme Outcomes:


On completion of this programme, participants will be able to:

  • Understand the components of an effective appraisal system
  • Implement the core elements of practical appraisal documentation
  • Know how to conduct an appraisal interview and the effective management of each element
  • Develop the key skills needed to run an appraisal interview with a range of people performing at different levels 


Date: 27 April (one-day course)

Time: 8:30am-3:30pm 

Venue: SFA/Ibec offices, 84-86 Lower Baggot Street, Dublin 2

Cost: €220 (SFA member rate)


Book here


If you would like any more information, please contact Quelba Lima in the Ibec Training Unit on quelba.lima@ibec.ie or 01 605 1619.