News & Events

Minister English introduces legislation to modernise Employment Permits System

The Minister for Business, Employment and Retail, Damien English TD today introduced the Employment Permits Bill 2022 to Dáil Éireann, a new law to help modernise the Employment Permit system in Ireland.

The Minister said:

“With more than 2.5 million people at work in Ireland, the new Employment Permits Bill will allow us to better compete for global talent, to fill labour market gaps, to support local enterprises and to encourage Foreign Direct Investment while at the same time protecting the rights of workers in the State.  While the current system is robust, the existing legislation is inflexible in its operation. The new Employment Permits Bill will increase the agility and responsiveness of the employment permits system, modernise it and ensures that it can adapt rapidly to changes in the Irish labour market.”

The main Provisions of the Bill are:

  • the introduction of a seasonal employment permit,
  • revision of the labour market needs test to make it more relevant and efficient,
  • moving of operational criteria to Regulations, and the streamlining of a number of requirements to make the grant process more efficient,
  • providing for additional conditions for the grant of an employment permit, such as training or accommodation support for migrant workers in some circumstances, or making innovation or upskilling a condition of grant, where this may decrease future reliance on economic migration.

The Bill introduces, for the first time, a Seasonal Employment Permit to cater for short term and recurrent employment situations in appropriate sectors.

On this Minister English said:

“Ireland is an outlier internationally in not providing a seasonal employment permit and the need for this permit type is borne out in my Department’s engagement with employers. We want to be sure we get this right for employers and workers. My Department and I will work with the Oireachtas Committee on Enterprise, Trade and Employment to ensure as many voices as possible are heard as we finalise the details.”

By moving operational detail to regulations to the fullest extent possible, the Bill will allow for easier modification of the law and adaptation of the system to the changing needs of the labour market. The Bill also provides the flexibility to amend the periods for which an employment permit can be granted. This will reduce the number of applications received and mitigate against the processing delays recently experienced.

The legislation also addresses the inflexibility inherent in the Labour Market Needs Test by simplifying the process for employers to reflect modern advertising practices. Moreover, by moving operational detail into secondary legislation the Labour Market Needs Test can continue to be amended as recruitment practices evolve over time, balancing the protection of the EEA labour market with the needs of employers.

The Bill adds the option of new conditionalities attaching to the grant of an employment permit, designed to increase apprenticeship and training opportunities for the domestic and EEA workforce to further protect the EEA labour market and help employers to reduce their dependence on employment permits

In order to ensure that payment thresholds are in keeping with domestic salaries, the Bill introduces automatic indexation of salary thresholds to ensure that the minimum remuneration levels required for each permit type keeps pace with wage growth.

New provisions will also enable subcontractors registered here to access the employment permit system, in recognition of modern labour market practices and value chains.

Minister English concluded:

“While this Bill will make the permits system more agile, the core policy remains unchanged. Employment opportunities which arise in Ireland should only be offered to non-EEA nationals where no suitable candidate within the EEA is available to fill the vacancy. We continue to prioritise upskilling of our own talent pool with an emphasis on lifelong learning, as well as maximising the use of suitable talent in the EEA.”


Notes for Editor

The Employment Permits System

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 skilled personnel, where the requisite skills cannot be met by normal recruitment or by training.  

The Occupations Lists

The employment permits system is managed through the use of lists designating critical and ineligible occupations. The lists are reviewed regularly to ensure their ongoing relevance to the State’s human capital requirements. The review process utilises research undertaken by the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs (EGFSN) and other experts in the labour market, including the Skills and Labour Market Research Unit (SLMRU) at SOLAS. 

The Department also invites submissions from industry representatives, other Government Departments and any other stakeholders who might have a case to make, via regularly open consultation on the Department’s website. Since the Review of Economic Migration Policy which took place in 2018, the Minister has taken advice on economic migration from the Inter-Departmental Group which managed the review process.

The Employment Permits system is designed to attract skilled workers from outside the EEA to Ireland, to meet skills demand in the economy where those skills can’t be accessed through the resident labour force.  For the purposes of the employment permits system, occupations fall into three categories: 

  • Occupations listed on the Critical Skills Occupations List are skilled professional roles that are in high demand and are not always available in the resident labour force. 
  • Ineligible occupations are those with evidence that there are more than enough Irish/EEA workers to fill such vacancies.
  • Every other job in the labour market, where an employer cannot find a worker, is eligible for an employment permit.  For these occupations, the employer is required to undertake a Labour Market Needs Test (i.e. advertise the job four weeks) and if no-one suitable applies for the job, the employer is free to apply for an employment permit.

The Employment Permits Bill 2022

A Review of Economic Migration Policy undertaken in 2018 concluded that, while the employment permits system provides a robust framework to supplement skills and labour needs in the State, the current legislation imposes considerable inflexibility in its operation.

In order to increase the agility and responsiveness of the system, to modernise it and to ensure that it is capable of adapting to rapid changes in the needs of the labour market of the future and to fluctuation in demand contingent on the economic cycle, the Review recommended that new legislation be initiated.

This Bill incorporates both specific and general recommendations of the Review, while retaining the core focus of a vacancy led employment permits system oriented to meeting of the skills and labour needs in the State. The conclusions of the Review endorsed the robust fundamental structure of the existing system. The changes proposed are concerned with increasing its agility and effectiveness, while retaining the key policy focus of supporting the economy and the labour market through evidence-based decision making.

The Bill can be assessed at: Employment Permits Bill 2022 – No. 91 of 2022 – Houses of the Oireachtas