Rules surrounding temporary immigration to Ireland for workers from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) are set to receive a shake-up following a recently published report from the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation. Irish Employment Permit reforms will affect those looking to work in Ireland on an Irish work permit, known in government and employer circles as an Employment Permit.
While Ireland prioritizes employment for Irish citizens and EEA workers, identifiable skills shortages may be plugged by non-EEA citizens under certain conditions via a range of Irish Employment Permit types. While there are currently nine different types of Irish Employment Permits to facilitate different employment scenarios, there are two core permit types: Critical Skills Employment Permit and General Employment Permit.
The number of Irish Employment Permit applications received in the first eight months of 2018 is around 30 percent higher than the same period last year, highlighting robust growth in the Irish economy that has seen unemployment fall below 6 percent.
Of the 8,043 Irish Employment Permits issued over the first eight months of 2018, nearly half (3,580) were Critical Skills Employment Permits, allowing non-EEA workers in a certain occupations experiencing labour shortages to work in Ireland. Holders of this Employment Permit are able to bring a spouse or common-law partner with them to Ireland, with the accompanying spouse or partner then able to work in Ireland. Dependent children of the foreign worker may also come to Ireland with holders of a Critical Skills Employment Permit. Across other Irish Employment Permit types, family members are generally not eligible to join the foreign worker in Ireland.
Irish Employment Permit reforms
The latest review of the Irish Employment Permit landscape aims to meet the demand for skills and workers without disrupting the labour market, and to respond quicker as sectoral skills shortages emerge.
Key recommendations deriving from the review include:
- Changes to the current twice-yearly review of the Highly Skilled and Ineligible Employment Lists — which deal with labour market access for non-EEA workers — to make the system more responsive in real-time. While the twice-yearly system will still operate, sectors experiencing severe labour shortages will be able to submit a business case for consideration via their line Department as they arise. A temporary scheme of this nature was piloted for the agri-food sector earlier this year.
- Introduction of a Seasonal Employment Permit to facilitate certain categories of short-term workers.
- A review of salary thresholds and other criteria for the various Employment Permit types to ensure a good fit with changing skills and labour market needs with minimal disruption to the labour market.
- Changes to the current legislation to balance robust regulation with flexibility.
- A modernisation and extension of the Labour Market Needs Test.
- Adjusted requirements for balanced hiring practices (the ’50:50 Rule’) to meet a broader range of enterprise needs (the “50:50 Rule” requires employers who wish to hire non-EEA nationals on an Employment Permit to show that at least 50 percent of their employees are EEA nationals).
- A new system of Cross-Departmental oversight. This will be achieved by re-convening the high-level Inter-Departmental Group under revised Terms of Reference, to oversee the implementation of the Report’s recommendations, to monitor the ongoing alignment of the employment permits regime with the needs of the labour market and to report to the Minister of Business, Enterprise and Innovation on a regular basis.
The Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys, stated: “First and foremost, it [the report] confirms that the current Employment Permits system is robust and has served the country well in recent years, allowing us to focus on attracting skills critical to business. It also tells us that now, in the context of strong employment growth, new pressures are emerging that need to be addressed and, in this regard, I am satisfied that some adjustments are needed.
“On the one hand, we will continue to ensure that Ireland can attract highly skilled foreign workers, while on the other hand, we will allow the system to respond to proven labour shortages that arise from time to time in lower skilled occupations.”
In its conclusions, the report acknowledges that while several recommendations in the report can be implemented in the short term, a number will take time, particularly those that will necessitate amending primary legislation. Others will require further evaluation and stakeholder engagement.
As such, non-EEA workers looking to work in Ireland should explore their options under the existing Irish Employment Permit types, while remaining mindful of reforms, some of which are likely to be imminent, and others that may take some more time before becoming a fixture in the Irish immigration landscape. International workers can sign up for regular Irish immigration and settlement updates from Moving2Ireland to keep abreast of the latest news.
To read the report in full, please click here.