1. A Very Close Comparator to the UK
UK employers will find that managing employees in Ireland is very similar to their experience of doing so in the UK. While there are inevitably some differences, Ireland and the UK are the two closest comparators within the EU, as balanced, relatively employer friendly employment law and labour relations systems. On a spectrum of pro employer to pro employee jurisdictions, with the US probably being considered the most employer friendly that we are familiar with, certain continental European jurisdictions such as France, and Germany as a close second, would be seen as the most employee friendly. Common features of continental European employment law, such as works councils, employee representatives on company boards, and mass collective action are just not part of the Irish or UK employment law environment. Similarly, excessive benefits and leave entitlements, and significant employment inflexibility are much more of an issue for European employers outside of the UK and Ireland.
Further information about Employment Law in Ireland can be found here.
2. Access to Large Skilled Labour Pool
A separate issue that has come up in the media for Ireland and other jurisdictions expected to benefit from relocating employers post-Brexit is the question of access to skilled employees. In our view, this suggestion that there is a lack of skilled employees available is both premature and over-exaggerated.
It is premature in that it assumes that all employers potentially considering Ireland will arrive at broadly the same time and will ramp up to their full capacity immediately. In talking to clients looking to move, those employers already actively looking at Dublin are still not expected to arrive in the near term. This will instead be a staggered process over a two to three year period.
Likewise, in our experience of running significant FDI establishment projects over the past thirty years, across numerous sectors including financial services, these projects almost always start off with a small number of employees only working towards a larger head count over the following 12 to 18 months. While the demand for skilled finance employees will therefore increase, it will be a gradual and manageable increase and is not likely to prevent any large employers from delivering on their post-Brexit strategy.
While the impetus for Brexit related moves is obviously a new and unique development, the Irish economy has been supporting FDI projects into Ireland for well over thirty years. The Irish economy also has a proven track record of being able to source highly skilled employees in more than ample numbers where required. During previous waves of investment into Ireland, when some of the world’s most successful technology companies announced plans to open large language support operations in Dublin, similar questions were raised about their ability to source sufficient numbers of skilled language staff. In most cases, where these roles could not be sourced locally, the employers had little difficulty attracting highly skilled overseas talent from within the EU to fill these roles. Dublin will, of course, still be able to do post-Brexit. Indeed, the majority of employees working for many of the highly successful US tech and employers have come from overseas.
Existing Labour in Ireland
This rumoured skills shortage also ignores the significant number of Irish employees working in various senior and specialist finance positions in London and New York. Anecdotally, we are already hearing from clients that large numbers of Irish employees are enquiring as to their employers’ Brexit strategy as a career opportunity for them to relocate home. The calibre of employers and the senior roles involved in these moves will also be highly attractive to experienced international mobile employees, Irish or otherwise. In many respects, these positions will sell themselves and attract quality talent in large numbers.
Finally, this view also totally overlooks the existing talent pool of experienced financial services employees already operating in Dublin. There is an estimated 35,000 people working in a very well established financial services industry in Dublin, many of whom will have no difficulty stepping up to the most senior roles likely to be made available post-Brexit.
The question therefore as to whether employers can access the right number of skilled employees in Ireland to support their Brexit plans is actually the wrong question, at least at this moment in the Brexit process. The more appropriate question should instead be whether these employers will be able to source sufficient numbers of skilled employees when they need to, and the answer clearly is yes.