The Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Mary Mitchell O’Connor T.D., has signed the Employment Permit Regulations 2017. Employment Permit Regulations are also now consolidated into a single set of regulations which makes them easier to understand and easier to use.
The Irish employment permits system is intended to act as a conduit for key skills which are required to develop enterprise in the State for the benefit of our economy, while simultaneously protecting the balance of the labour market. The system is by design, affected by the economy, expanding and contracting in tandem with its inherent fluctuations.
Lists of employments which identify critical skills in high demand in the economy, and skills for which there is ample capacity already in the resident labour market, are reviewed twice yearly using an evidence based process.
Following a review of the lists earlier this year, and which included a public consultation, the following changes have been approved by the Minister and have been given legal effect in the 2017 Regulations which will come into effect on 3 April:
· HGV drivers are removed from the ineligible list on a temporary basis and subject to a maximum quota of 120 General Employment Permits;
· Meat deboners remain off the ineligible list subject to a further maximum quota of 160 General Employment Permits bringing the total to 360, as 200 permits were made available under the 2015 Amendment Regulations.
· Level 10 (PhD) academics in designated Universities and Institutes of Technologies are added to the highly skilled list in order to help fulfil their obligations to hire the best staff available within the resources available to them. This change will provide for the recruitment of a very specific skill set while entry level academic appointments remain oriented to the Irish/EEA labour market.
The Minister stated “It is important that we monitor these regulations in order to keep up with the pace of our economy. Our willingness to connect to the global marketplace, and that includes the global exchange of skills, has facilitated Ireland’s ongoing recovery from recession. Our economic migration policy accommodates and reflects the increasingly global nature of enterprises. There are also broad horizons on offer in Ireland to highly skilled individuals from all over the world. Our migration policy allows that preference should be given, wherever possible, to Irish and European Economic Area nationals in the awarding of contracts of employment.”
The Minister continued “The arrival of non-EEA nationals to fill capacity gaps in the short to medium term is to be welcomed. I also recognise that there will always be a cohort of knowledge leaders, or those with novel or combination skill sets, which it would be advantageous to attract to work in Irish based enterprises.
However, in the longer term, I expect to see the demand for HGV drivers and meat deboners being met from a steady supply in the Irish labour market. An integrated approach is required to address these skills shortages and my Department has been working with the relevant Government Departments on developing such an approach. It has already produced tangible results in the meat processing sector.”
The Irish State’s general policy is to promote the sourcing of labour and skills needs from within the workforce of Ireland, the European Union and other EEA states. Policy in relation to applications for employment permits remains focused on facilitating the recruitment from outside the EEA of highly skilled personnel, where the requisite skills cannot be met by normal recruitment or by training. Employment permit policy is part of the response to addressing skills deficits which exist and are likely to continue into the medium term, but it is not intended over the longer term to act as a substitute for meeting the challenge of up-skilling the State’s resident workforce, with an emphasis on the process of lifelong learning, and on maximising the potential of EEA nationals to fill our skills deficits.
The employment permits system is ordered through a list structure: the Highly Skilled Eligible Occupations List, which lists occupations in high demand in the Irish labour market and the Ineligible Categories of Employment List, which lists occupations for which there is ample capacity already in the Irish/EEA labour market. An evidence-based review of these lists is conducted by the Department twice a year in order to keep the orientation of economic migration firmly in step with the precise needs of the labour market. The next review is due to commence in April with the public consultation process on www.djei.ie
Ireland operates a vacancy-driven employment permits system. Where specific skills prove difficult to source within the EEA, an employment permit may be sought in respect of a non-EEA national who possesses those skills. Non-EEA nationals who work in Ireland on the basis of employment permits are subject to the same protections under Irish employment law as any other worker in the State.
For occupations that are not on the ineligible list and are not on the highly skilled list, an employment permit may be sought subject to a labour market needs test being conducted. All applications are processed in accordance with the Employment Permits Act 2006, as amended and are dependent on a specific job offer.
The employment permits regime is underpinned by the Employment Permits Acts 2003 -2014. The Employment Permits (Amendment) Act 2014 reflects policy and economic developments since 2007, providing for more flexibility and targeted instruments in support of the economy’s evolving skills needs which often require rapid response and provides for a robust employment permits regime with greater clarity.
Regulations under the Employment Permits Acts prescribe specific criteria for the grant and renewal of employment permits including documentation requirements, remuneration levels, registration requirements, and lists of highly skilled and ineligible employments.
Since their commencement in October 2014, the Employment Permit Regulations (SI No. 432 of 2014) have been amended four times. In addition, the Trusted Partner Regulations (SI No. 172 of 2015), which commenced in May 2015, have also been since amended once. These regulations provide for the Trusted Partner Initiative which is designed to ease the administrative burden on employers in expansion mode and to remove the requirement that they replicate the same employer information in respect of each employment permit application made for grant or renewal.
The rate at which the principal regulations have been amended since 2014 demonstrates a dynamic employment permit regime that is responding to an ever-evolving labour market. However, the secondary legislation has become increasingly difficult to navigate. Thus, it was decided all employment permit regulations from 2014 to date be consolidated into a single set.
The 2017 Regulations provide not only for a consolidation of all employment permit regulations since 2014, but also for the revised highly skilled list and ineligible employments list. The revised lists are set out in Schedules 3 and 4 of the Regulations. Occupations on the highly skilled list include professional positions in medicine, ICT, sciences, finance and business. Occupations on the ineligible list are largely but not exclusively lower skilled occupations. Occupations not included on either list are considered eligible occupations for a General Employment Permit.
The principal changes to the lists are:
· Level 10 (PhD) academics in designated Universities and Institutes of Technologies are added to the highly skilled list. To fulfil national social and economic goals in terms of quality education and enterprise competitiveness, these third level institutions are obligated to hire the best staff available within the resources available to them. Mobility is a key part of the academic career structure and global academic labour market. Irish academics benefit from spending part of their careers abroad, as do international staff working in Ireland. In order to balance commitments to prioritising the resident and EEA labour market where this is appropriate while acknowledging the highly specialised nature of academic labour even within disciplines, the highly skilled list will provide for the recruitment of very specific skill set while entry level academic appointments remain oriented to the Irish/EEA labour market.
· HGV drivers with CE or C1E driving licences are removed from the ineligible list on a temporary basis and subject to a maximum quota of 120 permits. The Minister has written to the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport advising him of the decision to remove HGV drivers on a temporary basis. His Department will lead an integrated approach to meeting the long term demand for HGV drivers and which is being driven by growing levels of trade in exports and imports.
· Meat deboners remain off the ineligible list subject to a further maximum quota of 160 General Employment Permits, bringing the total to 360. In May 2015 the then Minister approved the temporary removal of meat deboners from the ineligible list subject to an initial quota of 200. The potential release of a second tranche of 160 permits was conditional on progress being reported by the sector on training/upskilling and the creation of additional employments.
The highly skilled and ineligible lists are reviewed on a bi-annual basis, using the research of the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs (EGFSN) as well as a consultation process which includes considerations of submissions made by any interested party. The next review of the lists will commence shortly, and submissions will be invited at www.djei.ie.
The demand for employment permits in 2016 was 13,371 which was an increase of 13% on 2015 (11,783). The total number of employment permits issued in 2016 (9,383) was up 29% compared to 2015 (7,265).
Full information on the employment permits system can be found on the Department’s website at https://www.djei.ie/en/What-We-Do/Jobs-Workplace-and-Skills/Employment-Permits/.