SFA E-Zine – The Tuesday Edition

Dear Member,   

In this week's ezine we offer advice for employers when an employee is out of work on long-term sick leave.


Each week in the SFA e-zine, we profile a different government support available to small businesses. In this edition, we focus on the Business Expansion Grant, which offers up to €150,000 to manufacturing and services businesses for expansion. 


We provide an update on Brexit including latest SFA/Ibec activity, results from our November member survey and upcoming events on the topic. Find out how your business could benefit from the SFA / Trinity Business School Internship Program and more on #WomanUp, an action plan on female leadership.


If you missed last week's webinar on planning for the Christmas period, you can play it back and check out the highlights video from the SFA Annual Lunch 2017. We invite members to attend the SFA AGM on 29 November. Register to attend the SFA Members Christmas event on 14 December for an evening of festive networking. Book a place on one of our training courses during December on project management and performance management. Save 1 February 2018 in your diary for our new event, Business Connect. We also provide a summary of 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: www.sfa.ie.

Kind regards, 

Sven Spollen-Behrens

SFA Director

Recent press coverage

Recent press coverage

  • SFA Awards

SFA Awards


The SFA National Small Business Awards 2017 were referenced in an article in the Western People on 20 November noting that Kelly’s Butchers were shortlisted in three categories last year. The finalists of the 2018 programme will be announced in early December.

Dismissal while on long term sick leave

Many employers are unsure of what they can, or should do, when an employee is out of work on long term sick leave. The case of Carroll v H.J. Heinz Frozen & Chilled Foods Limited, Dec-E2011-114, provides useful guidance in this area and sets out clearly the actions that an employer should take when dealing with employees who are out sick on a long-term basis...

Many employers are unsure of what they can, or should do, when an employee is out of work on long term sick leave. The case of Carroll v H.J. Heinz Frozen & Chilled Foods Limited, Dec-E2011-114, provides useful guidance in this area and sets out clearly the actions that an employer should take when dealing with employees who are out sick on a long-term basis.


The claimant, Ms. Carroll, was employed by Heinz in the chilled food department which involved lifting up to 25kgs. She went out sick in March 2004 with repetitive strain injury. Coupled with this, the employee was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. The worker’s medical advice, which the company had been kept fully informed of, was that she could only work in temperatures of 18 to 20 degrees and could not lift weights or do shift work. On foot of this advice, the company was of the view that even if her skills were updated the company had no positions to offer her due to the fact that they had just lost 14 staff as a result of a company restructure. The worker was subsequently dismissed.


Ms. Carroll took a claim under the Employment Equality Acts outlining that her employer had failed to provide her with reasonable accommodation in that there was no investigation carried out to find out what appropriate measures could be put in place to allow her to fulfil her original role or carry out an alternative role. The respondent held that the decision to dismiss the employee was taken only after huge efforts were made to put measures in place to accommodate the employee’s needs. The company took an exhaustive number of steps in order to aid Ms Carroll’s return to work which they were able to outline at the hearing of the case. In the first instance, the employee was placed on reduced hours on the occupational health specialist’s advice. Her manager also drew her attention to a number of positions in the production line which were in temperatures of 8 to 10 degrees and that may be suitable if protective clothing was worn. However, the claimant’s GP advised that this temperature was unsuitable. Over the next three years, no suitable vacancies arose in the company which suited Ms. Carroll’s restrictions and the company terminated her employment following several meetings with the employee and her trade union representative. The employee appealed the decision to dismiss her but it was upheld by the company.


The Equality Officer outlined that the Employment Equality Act is clear in that an employer is not required to recruit or retain an individual in a role or to provide training to an individual in relation to a role if the individual is not fully competent or capable of undertaking the role. In this case, it was held that the employee had been lawfully dismissed as it was clear that the employee no longer had the capability of performing her role in the chilled area due to her specific medical condition and that there were no suitable alternative vacancies available in the company at the time of the dismissal.


For further information on employment equality, you can review the guideline on our website or contact Ciara McGuone, SFA Executive on 01 605 1668 or ciara.mcguone@sfa.ie.

Up to €150,000 available to help your business expand

Spotlight on the Business Expansion Grant, which offers up to €150,000 to manufacturing and services businesses with the potential to grow and export. This article provides information on the scheme and advice on how to apply...

There are over 80 different government supports available to small businesses but many of them are not well known or understood. Each week in the SFA e-zine, we will profile a different support that could improve your business, giving you information and advice.


Business Expansion Grant




A cash grant of up to €150,000 to assist growing businesses. The grants are primarily aimed at manufacturing and services businesses with the potential to trade internationally.  


The grant can be used to co-finance (maximum 50%) the following expenditures as part of a business expansion project:

  • Capital items
  • Salary costs
  • Consultancy/innovation/marketing costs
  • General overheads



The relatively small size of the domestic market means many companies seeking to expand their business must look to overseas markets for growth. Thousands of Irish companies are already selling successfully around the world. Export sales growth leads to an increase in demand for Irish goods and services and increases the flow of income into the Irish economy. This is fundamental to job creation and maintenance in Ireland.


Some of the benefits of exporting for your company could include: increasing sales and profits, faster growth, reducing risk and balancing growth, economies of scale, extending the product/service lifecycle, improved innovation, greater competitiveness and enhanced credibility.




Business Expansion Grants are available from the Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs). To find your nearest LEO, visit the LEO website.


To apply for the grant you must fill out an application form with details of your business, the list of items to be purchased, other grants which the company receives, current and potential employment and the source of the remaining finance for the project (at least 50%). You must also provide a business plan, three quotations for any expenditure items over €5,000, your CV and a tax clearance certificate.




If you are interested in applying for a Business Expansion Grant, don’t forget:

  • The grants are for established businesses which have been trading for at least 18 months.
  • The grant can be accessed by sole traders, partnerships or limited companies.
  • On application for the grant, the business must have less than 10 employees.
  • The grants are aimed at companies which, on growth, will have the capacity to progress to the Enterprise Ireland portfolio.
  • Grants above €80,000 are the exception and are available to companies with a clear potential to export internationally.
  • Companies considering exporting should consult the Enterprise Ireland Export Start Guide.
  • More information about the Business Expansion Grant is available on the Local Enterprise Offices website.
Brexit update

An update on Brexit activity from Ibec, SFA member survey results along with upcoming events on Brexit...

Last week, Ibec CEO Danny McCoy met British Prime Minister Theresa May, Brexit Secretary David Davis and Business Secretary Greg Clark in Downing St as part of a delegation of key EU business federations, where he stressed the need for urgent progress in Brexit talks.

Speaking after the meeting, Mr McCoy said: “The message to the UK government was clear, business is increasingly frustrated and concerned at the lack of progress in negotiations. To move past the first phase of talks, which covers Ireland, the financial settlement and citizens’ rights, we need practical solutions and firm commitments, not just rhetoric.”

At the meeting Mr McCoy set out a number of immediate and specific Irish business concerns, reflecting input from SFA and its members . “EU and UK businesses will need an extended transition period to plan and adapt to any new EU-UK trading relationship. This period should ensure continuity with existing trading terms. Short-term and short-sighted political pressures must not overtake the overriding and obvious economic rationale for such arrangements,” said Mr McCoy.

“The UK has yet to match its stated commitment to a soft border on the island of Ireland with practical proposals to achieve this. A new approach is needed. The creation of new customs and regulatory barriers on the island of Ireland must be avoided. Safeguarding the Good Friday Agreement and the future functioning of the all-island economy must not be just an Irish/EU priority, the UK must step up to the mark.

“The East-West aspect of the Good Friday Agreement, which covers the "totality of relationships" between Ireland and Britain, has received limited attention over the years. Our shared EU membership meant close business and economic cooperation was taken for granted. However, Brexit changes that. It is imperative that the legally enshrined commitment to promote greater cooperation between the UK and Ireland is not a casualty of Brexit. A concerted, structured focus is now needed to safeguard this intrinsic aspect of the Agreement.”

Brexit update from November SFA member survey


Preliminary results from a recent SFA member survey show that:

  • 30% of respondents say that Brexit has already had a negative impact on their business (4% very negative, 25% somewhat negative)
  • 50% expect Brexit to have a negative impact on their business in the next six months

Details of impact


Major impacts to date, in order of importance:

  1. Postponement of decision to do business
  2. Postponement of investment
  3. Increased sourcing of raw materials from the UK
  4. Loss of business in the UK market

What do SFA members want from Government?


The top asks from Government have remained constant since the Brexit vote in June 2016:

  1. Make the Irish tax regime as attractive as the UK (e.g. higher limit for CGT Entrepreneur Relief)
  2. Increase state agency supports to help businesses diversify their export markets
  3. Improve cost competitiveness of Irish small firms.

The November 2017 SFA Small Business Survey was conducted between 22 October and 5 November. The data is based on 732 responses from SFA member companies.


Upcoming Brexit events

  • Meath Chamber Breakfast Briefing 

SFA Director, Sven Spollen-Behrens will be speaking on Brexit at this event in Ardoyne Hotel, Navan on Friday, 24 November. To find out more and register contact Sandra Jameson on info@meathchambers.ie or visit www.meathchambers.ie.

  • All facts, no noise. Practical help to plan for Brexit

InterTradeIreland are running this event in Croke Park on Tuesday, 5 December. Find out more and register here

The SFA / Trinity Business School Internship Program

SFA and Trinity Business School have launched a new programme allowing you, a small business owner to gain access to the Trinity Business School student interns for Summer 2018...

SFA and Trinity Business School have launched a new programme allowing you, a small business owner to gain access to the Trinity Business School student interns for Summer 2018.


Trinity Business School recognises the significant real world work-experience that small businesses can offer to students. It can be difficult for small firms to compete with large organisations for top students – the SFA and Trinity Business School believe our partnership can remedy that problem, while also providing valuable experience to students.


Benefits for your business

  • Entrepreneurial spirit, fresh ideas and insights for business development

Trinity graduates have been ranked the most entrepreneurial in Europe (Pitchbook). Many of the students take entrepreneurship modules, participate in entrepreneurial student societies, pitch competitions and some have already taken the first steps to start their own enterprises.  With this experience comes an ability to work flexibly in multiple areas, to have new ways of looking at problems and the enthusiasm to find solutions.

  • An extra pair of hands to tackle a project

For example, overhaul your online and social media presence, research new business opportunities, or enable your full-time staff to work on the necessities while colleagues take their summer holidays.

  • Access specific skill sets

Students can choose from broad range of business modules, from accounting to marketing, finance to entrepreneurship. Additionally, students engaging with the internship programme undergo personal and professional development in preparation for work placements.

  • Diligent workers

All students will be graded on their work and attitude during their internship. Your feedback as an employer is taken into account which should incentivise the students to work hard during their placement.


Requirements for the employer:

  • Minimum six week commitment (200 hours of work), maximum three months
  • Employers can be based anywhere in the country
  • Trinity Business School strongly suggests that employers pay minimum wage to the student for the duration of their Internship

To participate in the programme or to find out more about how the Trinity Business School Internship could benefit your company, please contact Clodagh O’Brien and Seanagh Fitzpatrick at businesscareers@tcd.ie or Linda Barry at linda.barry@sfa.ie. You can view an employer's guide to Trinity Business School internships here and visit the Trinity internships website here

#WomanUp – an action plan on female leadership

#WomanUp is an action plan on female leadership published by WoW. It proposes a series of solutions to growing the female talent pipeline...  

What is #WomanUp?


#WomanUp is an action plan on female leadership published by WoW. It proposes a series of solutions to growing the female talent pipeline.  


#WomanUp aims to:

  • Help businesses increase the number of women who take up leadership roles
  • Assist women overcome barriers to career progression
  • Enable business leaders – men as well as women – to create “gender bilingual” workplaces

The aim of the #WomanUp action plan is to move the narrative on from identifying problems about gender balance within business to proposing practical solutions.


#WomanUp’s actions are based on:

  • An extensive research processes
  • The learnings from WoW's development programme, designed to build confidence and leadership skills of aspiring female leaders
  • Inputs from senior Irish business leaders and academic leaders.

​Small Firms Association member, Kenneth Carroll, founder and Managing Director of Carroll Food Services, inputted into the report from a small business perspective. For a summary of his interview, please click here


What is WoW?


WoW, is a voluntary leadership movement of Irish senior female executives established in 2015. A commitment has been made to empower the next generation of female leaders in business and using an evidence-based approach in all their activities. They came together because of women not progressing to senior roles at the expected rate. Confidence has been established as a key factor. During 2016, 27 high potential female leaders participated in the pilot programme. They measured the impact of what they were doing through surveys before, during and after the programme.


The main outcomes of the WoW Programme:

  • Confidence levels among mentees were significantly boosted
  • Culture was identified as a top barrier to career advancement
  • The possibilities of balancing a career and a family was identified as possible.

Download a copy of the #WomanUp report.

SFA Annual General Meeting
  • 29 November

The SFA AGM will take place on 29 November 2017 at 4:30pm in the SFA offices, 84-86 Lower Baggot Street, Dublin 2.


The Director and Chair/National Council will present their reports and three members will be elected to serve on the SFA National Council. Attending the AGM is an opportunity to keep up to date with the activities of the SFA and to elect fellow members to represent you on the Council. More information about the role of the Council is available in the SFA Constitution


Each member company has one vote at the AGM. Register online now to confirm your attendance.

SFA Members Christmas Evening 2017
  • 14 December

The SFA Members Christmas evening will take place on Thursday, 14 December 2017 from 6.00pm-8.30pm at the SFA offices, 84-86 Lower Baggot Street, Dublin 2.

The purpose of the evening is to give members an opportunity to network and develop business contacts in an informal setting. 

Festive food and refreshments will be served. The evening is free of charge and feel free to bring along a friend or colleague but please pre-register online.  

SFA Annual Lunch highlights video
  • Watch now

Watch a highlights video from the SFA Annual Lunch which took place in the Mansion House on 10 November. 

SFA Webinar - Planning for the Christmas period
  • Playback last week's webinar

If you missed last week's SFA webinar on planning for the Christmas period you can play it back and access a copy of the presentation here.

The webinar was delivered by SFA Executive, Ciara McGuone and focuses on public holiday entitlements falling over the Christmas period, which can stress out even the most seasoned managers. In addition, Ciara discusses how to handle staff attendance during bad weather and also how to avoid the common pitfalls during the Christmas party season.

Save the date - SFA Business Connect
  • 1 February 2018

Note 1 February 2018 in your diary for SFA's brand new event, Business Connect 2018. 


Get your new year off to a positive start. Use Business Connect to build your network with many of Ireland’s leading larger companies.


Hear from a range of large companies on how they do business and how they connect with smaller organisations. Hear also from smaller companies who are successfully providing innovative and agile solutions to larger organisations. 


At this marketplace event, indigenous and multinational companies of all sizes will share a platform to discuss how best we can do business together. The event will take place in Aviva Stadium, Landsdowne Road, Dublin 4. Stay tuned for further details and how to book. 

December training courses with SFA: Project Management and Performance Management

Book now for our one-day training courses in December – Project Management on 7 December or Performance Management and Appraisal Skills on 14 December. These short programmes are tailored to small businesses and offered at special rates to make them affordable for SFA members...

Now is the time to invest in yourself and your employees. We encourage you to avail of the programmes being offered through the SFA to unlock your potential and that of your business.


There are two courses coming up in December 2017:

  • Project Management: 7 December (see here)
  • Performance Management and Appraisal Skills: 14 December (see here)

Project Management


Do you or your managers need to develop your project management skills?


The SFA’s Project Management course has been described by a 2016 delegate as: “Excellently delivered course with real life scenarios that I can bring into my role.”


Topics covered include:

  • Identifying the life cycle and phases of a project
  • Key communication and interpersonal skills
  • Ensuring deadlines are agreed and met
  • Delivering results every time


  • When: 7 December
  • Where: Ibec, 84-86 Lower Baggot Street, Dublin 2
  • Cost: €190 per delegate
  • Book now by clicking here

Performance Management and Appraisal Skills


It is important that appraisals, as well as other aspects of performance management, are handled well in order to address poor performance and ensure that high performers remain engaged with their work.


Topics covered include:

  • The employee lifecycle
  • Managing the appraisal meeting: preparation, structure, style
  • Managing poor and high performers
  • Delivering feedback and dealing with challenging people


  • When: 14 December 2017
  • Where: Ibec, 84-86 Lower Baggot Street, Dublin 2
  • Cost: €190 per delegate 
  • Book now by clicking here

For all queries, please call the organiser Quelba Lima, on 01 605 1619.