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What are the recent changes regarding the employment permits system in Ireland?

Minister of State for Business, Employment and Retail, Damien English TD, has announced changes to the employment permits system for workers from outside the European Economic Area (EEA), following a comprehensive review by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment. The main changes include:

  • Most construction sector jobs now eligible for a General Employment Permit
  • Quota to be removed for HGV driver work permits
  • 350 General Employment Permits for hospitality managers
  • Social Workers to be eligible for Critical Skills Employment Permit
  • Dispensing Opticians to be eligible for General Employment Permit
  • New General Employment Permit quotas for 1,000 Horticulture Operatives, 500 Meat Deboners, 1500 Meat Processing operatives and 100 Dairy Farm Assistants; with a strategic review of labour attraction and retention in the sector to follow
  • New General Employment Permit quota of 100 for Work Riders

Construction Sector

The newly eligible roles within the construction sector are:

  • Electricians
  • Masons
  • Roofers, Roof Tilers and Slaters
  • Plumbers and Heating and Ventilating Engineers
  • Carpenters and Joiners
  • Floorers and Wall Tilers
  • Painters and Decorators
  • Construction and Building Trades Supervisors

This now means that almost all occupations in the construction sector are eligible for a General Employment Permit.

Transport, logistics and supply chain sector

In support of supply chains and cognisant of the ongoing issues facing transport and logistic operators, exacerbated by COVID-19 and Brexit, Minister English has announced that any HGV drivers recruited from outside the EEA will be eligible for an employment permit without the limitation of a quota. The quota used up so does not present an immediate constraint on labour supply has been in existence since 2017 and was extended previously in 2019. As of today, the quota is not yet fully used up so does not present an immediate constraint on labour supply.

Hospitality sector

Businesses in the Hospitality sector in Ireland employed some 260,000 people prior to the pandemic. They have suffered disproportionately from COVID-19 with unprecedented levels of temporary business closures and corresponding staff layoffs. Industry surveys from July identified significant vacancies, including at managerial levels. The Tourism and Hospitality Careers Oversight Group, chaired by Fáilte Ireland, collaborates on a number of initiatives to address labour supply and skills requirements in the sector and to help with recruitment and retention of staff.

Agri-food and agriculture sectors

Agri-food and Agriculture are experiencing unprecedented labour challenges due to the pandemic, in spite of initiatives to attract and retain staff and has identified significant unfilled vacancies prior to the reopening of international travel, the number which continues to increase with an attendant risk to supply chains and harvests. Ireland is an outlier in Europe in not having a seasonal employment permit. While legislation proceeds to rectify this, these new quotas will assist the sector.

Healthcare sector

Changes already announced in June this year made the role of Social Worker eligible for a General Permit, however the sector has provided further evidence that availability of qualified Social Workers is still insufficient to meet demand. To address this immediate recruitment challenge and as part of this Department’s continued efforts to support the healthcare system, Minister English has announced that the role will now be made eligible for a Critical Skills Employment Permit.

In addition, evidence indicates that there is a shortage of Dispensing Opticians, impacting on waiting lists. In response to evidence provided from the sector, the role of Dispensing Optician will, from today, be eligible for a General Employment Permit.

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