News & Events

Minister Richmond announces 100 employment permits for lineworkers

Neale Richmond TD Minister of State for Business, Employment and Retail, has introduced a new quota of General Employment Permits for the role of lineworker. 100 permits have been approved to help relieve the pressure on the ESB Networks’ overhead line framework contractors.

Minister Richmond said:

“I am delighted to announce a quota of 100 General Employment Permits for the role of 'lineworker'. Opening this quota will go a long way in helping the ESB Networks and their contractors achieve government priorities including the Climate Action Plan 2023 and Housing for All. As we have reached full employment, with over 2.6 million people at work in Ireland, there are some skillsets that are increasingly difficult for businesses to access, and these lineworkers are a prime example. Where these skills are lacking both in Ireland and throughout Europe, the employment permits system allows us to source these workers from the rest of the world.

“Cases like this show how responsive the employment permits system is and how it can benefit both businesses, workers, and the people of Ireland. While the employment permits system can help compensate for skills that cannot be found in Ireland and the EEA, the government is focused on addressing these skill shortages at home through the delivery of apprenticeships and training programmes for workers.”

The role of lineworker is a specialised role in the construction and maintenance of overhead electrical transmission and distribution facilities that deliver electrical energy to industrial, commercial, and residential premises. The new quota, which came into effect from 4 September follows constructive engagement between the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications, and ESB Networks over recent months, which reviewed workforce challenges in the energy and communications sectors, and is vital in supporting ESB Networks in achieving their role in accelerating the transition to a net zero carbon society. The department is facilitating this change to amend the employment permits regulations in addition to the current review of the occupations lists which is currently underway. The public consultation closed on 18 August and submissions are now under active review and deliberations with relevant government departments and the Inter Departmental Group on Economic Migration Policy will begin over the course of the next few weeks. The outcome of this review will be implemented by further amendment to regulation in due course and further announcements will be made once that process is complete.


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 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 Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment continues to actively respond to concerns raised by various sectors with regard to the critical short supply of skills in a number of roles crucial to the economy. To this end, the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications and the Electricity Supply Board Networks engaged with DETE and prepared an evidence-based submission seeking the removal of the Lineman Role from the ineligible occupations List (IOL).

The submission seeks to enable ESB Contractors to recruit a number of lineworkers necessary to undertake the work programme designed to achieve government priorities including the Climate Action Plan 2023 and Housing for All. ESB Networks defines the role of a lineworker as a specialised role and refers to a person who constructs and maintains the overhead electrical transmission and distribution facilities that deliver electrical energy to industrial, commercial and residential premises.

The department works with other departments to promote an integrated approach to addressing labour and skills shortages being experienced in the economy and keeps the employment permits system under review in light of changing labour market circumstances.

The occupations lists

The employment permits system is designed to attract highly 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 highly skilled professional roles that are in high demand and are not always available in the resident labour force. Occupations on this list are eligible for a Critical Skills Employment Permit (CSEP) and include roles such as medicine, ICT, sciences, finance, and business.
  • Ineligible occupations are those with evidence suggesting there are sufficient Irish/EEA workers to fill such vacancies. Employment permits are not granted for these occupations.
  • 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 and if no-one suitable applies for the job, the employer is free to apply for an employment permit. Occupations such as these may be skills of a more general nature and are eligible for a General Employment Permit (GEP).

The review of the lists and public consultation process

It is vital that the employment permits scheme is responsive to changes in economic circumstances and labour market conditions. Therefore, it is necessary to conduct periodic reviews of the Lists that incorporate a public consultation phase inviting submissions from stakeholders and industry. The most recent formal review process commenced with a public consultation opened from 26 June until 18 August. Submissions to that consultation are now under consideration.

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. 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 has managed the review process.

 An occupation may be considered for inclusion on the critical skills occupation list or removal from the ineligible lists provided that:

  • shortage exists across the occupation, despite attempts by industry to train and there are no suitable Irish/EEA nationals available to undertake the work
  • development opportunities for Irish/EEA nationals are not undermined
  • genuine skills shortage exists and that it is not a recruitment or retention problem
  • the government education, training, employment and economic development policies are supported