The Minister of State for Employment, Damien English has announced changes to the employment permits system for workers from outside the European Economic Area (EEA),
It follows a comprehensive review by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment. Many of the changes surround the recent labour shortages across multiple industries.
Some of the main changes include: most construction sector jobs now eligible for a general employment permit, 350 general employment permits for hospitality managers and social workers being eligible for a critical skills employment permit.
Other changes include 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.
Speaking on Thursday, Minister English said: "This is the third bi-annual review undertaken since the onset of Covid-19 and the impact of the pandemic on the labour market has been a significant consideration in today’s outcomes.
"These changes, which will come into effect from today, will address the more immediate skills and labour shortages across a number of key economic sectors.
“Employment permit policy is only one part of the response to addressing skills and labour deficits likely to continue into the medium term. It is not intended as a long-term substitute for up-skilling, nor should it displace sourcing labour from the State’s resident workforce.
The newly eligible roles within the construction sector are:
- Roofers, Roof Tilers and Slaters
- Plumbers and Heating & Ventilating Engineers
- Carpenters & Joiners
- Floorers and Wall Tilers
- Painters and Decorators
- Construction and Building Trades Supervisors
He said it now means that almost all occupations in the construction sector are eligible for a general employment permit.
In support of supply chains and cognisant of the ongoing issues facing transport and logistic operators, exacerbated by Covid-19 and Brexit, Minister English announced that any Heavy goods vehicle (HGV) drivers recruited from outside the EEA will be eligible for an employment permit without the limitation of a quota.
The quota 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.
Minister English said: “Today’s decision to remove the quota entirely for HGV drivers will support the work of those businesses responsible for importing and exporting consumer goods and products to and from Ireland.
"We have worked closely with the Department of Transport to help ensure continued access to the skilled workers needed as the economy continues to grow through the ongoing constraints of the pandemic and Brexit."