The Government recently published the General Scheme of the Employment Permits (Consolidation and Amendment) Bill 2019.
The Bill proposes to overhaul the existing system which has been identified as unduly complex and inflexible. It will be designed to meet the skills and labour needs while at the same time protecting the labour market and employment rights. Underpinning these aims is a requirement for it to be able to adjust rapidly to both immediate and future economic fluctuations.
An economic migration policy review carried out last year by the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation found inflexibilities in the current employment permits vacancy driven system. The review proposed changes to the current employment permits legislation (the 2003 and the 2006 Acts and the 2014 amending Act). The report identified that a new Bill amending and consolidating the existing legislation was required. Further amendment to the existing legislation was decided against as it was felt it would render the system unduly complex and unwieldly.
- The Bill proposes 2 new employment permit types. A Seasonal Employment Permit will grant enhanced flexibility to sectors dominated by seasonal activity such as tourism, horticulture and farming sectors. It will facilitate recurrent and short stay employment in these sectors. This type of permit is common in other countries. The other type proposed is the Special Circumstances Employment Permit which would allow for bilateral reciprocal agreements with other States. This type of permit would be used to fill roles which are of benefit to Ireland economically or socially and do not fit under the current employment permits regime.
- The Bill proposes a significant revision to the current Labour Market Needs Test. The current test requires employers to advertise vacancies firstly within Ireland and across the EEA. The amendment will ensure that the test is more targeted and effective in reaching Irish and European job seekers in the first case.
- The 50:50 rule will be waived in certain circumstances. The current rule requires employers to show that at least 50% of their employees are EEA nationals where they are seeking an employment permit to hire non EEA nationals. It is proposed that it be waived in circumstances where the permit holder would be the sole employee. The employer would also have to demonstrate that they have made efforts to recruit from within Ireland and across the EEA in the first instance. The 50:50 requirements will be imposed from the point at which the second employee is contracted.
- The Trusted Partner and renewal application process will be streamlined.
- Allowing for the refund of fees where permits cannot be taken up.
- Simplifying the definition of "remuneration" and requirements around it so it is easier for users.
The context within which corporate immigration happens is constantly evolving. Project Ireland 2040 is the Government’s overarching policy and planning initiative for the social, economic and cultural development of the country. The employment permits system plays a key supporting role in the delivery of government strategies by supplementing the labour and skills base where gaps are identified.
The amendments are likely to be welcomed by both employers and job seekers. There is a clear appetite for reform of the current system and hopefully the provisions of the Bill will ensure that the employment permits system will support Ireland's ongoing and emerging labour market needs.