The Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation (the “Department”) has issued Contingency Arrangements (the “Arrangements”) to allow the Employment Permit system to continue to operate during the current crisis. The news that the Department will be flexible in dealing with employment permit issues that arise as a result of the pandemic comes as welcome relief for both employers and employees.
Impact of changes to terms and conditions
A new employment permit is normally required where there have been material changes to the terms and conditions of employment, such as changes to remuneration or contract conditions. We have received many queries from concerned employers in relation to the potential impact of measures they are having to take, arising from the crisis, on their employees who hold work permits. In particular, whether a reduction in salary or hours, below those specified on the employment permit, would lead to issues at renewal. The Department has offered reassurance and confirmed that they will be as flexible as possible and will consider these situations on a case by case basis, once it has been brought to their attention.
It may be the case that arising from a reduction in hours, from lay-off or from other measures implemented by the employer, the salary and working hours, as per the conditions of the permit granted, may not be achieved. The Department has stated that it will be cognisant that this is likely to be related to the measures introduced to deal with the pandemic and will take this into account when considering applications for renewal. The Department has advised that if an employment permit holder has been temporarily laid off or is working reduced hours it should ideally be informed in advance so that it can be noted on the permit file. Eligible employment permit holders, may also qualify for inclusion in the Temporary COVID-19 Wage Subsidy Scheme or qualify for the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment.
Working from home in Ireland
Employment permit holders are expected to work from the location specified on their permit. Given the current guidance from the Government is to work from home, the Department have advised that such employees may work remotely from home, in Ireland, during the crisis once the employer notifies the Department. As soon as it is possible for the employee to return to work from the location cited on their permit, they are expected to do so. While the employer must notify the Department, the employer is not required to provide individual employee details, only those of the employer.
Immigration permissions and renewal of employment permits
The Department of Justice and Equality has already extended immigration permissions due to expire between 20/03/20 and 20/05/20 by two months. The renewal is on the same basis as the existing permission and the same conditions apply. While the current renewal application process will continue, it has been confirmed that if there are delays in renewals of employment permits or the processing Stamp 4 letters of support, employment permit holders may continue to live and work under their existing terms and permission.
Employment permits will, for a temporary period, be issued by email in PDF format. The original and certified copies of the permit will, once operations return to normal, be sent to the relevant parties. New electronic procedures have also been put in place for processing Stamp 4 Letters of Support, Trusted Partner Applications and reviews of employment permit decisions.
While the above measures provide welcome reassurance for employers and employees it is important to emphasise that the Department expects to be notified of any changes to applicable terms and conditions. Normal employment law considerations should be taken into account and advice sought before implementing any such changes.
Full details of the Arrangements can be found here.