Wednesday, 17 February 2021

Questions (14)

Michael Creed


14. Deputy Michael Creed asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the position regarding the further issue of work permits for the dairy sector; if existing holders of dairy work permits are entitled to move after a period of 12 months from one employer to another dairy operator in cases in which the original employer has ceased farming; if so, the person obliged to organise the further employment; the persons who are required to be notified; if the permit holder can secure further employment to their satisfaction if they are entitled to organise employment themselves; if agents who organised the original work permit can charge fees for reallocation of workers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8180/21]

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Written answers (Question to Enterprise)

The employment permits regime is designed to facilitate the entry of appropriately skilled non-EEA nationals to fill skills and/or labour shortages, however, this objective must be balanced by the need to ensure that there are no suitably qualified Irish/EEA nationals available to undertake the work and that the shortage is a genuine one.

The employment permits system managed through the operation of the critical skills and the ineligible occupations lists which determine employments that are either in high demand or are ineligible for consideration for an employment permit. The lists are subject to twice yearly reviews which are evidence based and are guided by available research, a public consultation and input from the relevant policy Departments and the Economic Migration Inter-Departmental Group, chaired by the Department.

The pilot quota-based scheme introduced in May 2018 following consideration of a detailed business case submitted by the sector, provided a quota of 150 general employment permits for the occupation of Dairy Farm Assistant. This pilot scheme has proved very successful for a range of employers in the sector and the quota of 150 employment permits is now exhausted and has not been extended. Consideration of the submissions received to the current occupation list review is underway with the review scheduled to be finalised in early March.

Last month, Minister of State Damien English TD, engaged with the Irish Farmers Association and Producers on matters relating to employment in the agri-food sector in Ireland.

All permits granted are employer and employee specific and granted for the purposes of the employment stated on the permit. Where a permit holder wishes to change employer a new application for an employment permit should be made. As the quota of Dairy Farm Assistant is currently expired, at present no further general employment permits can issue for the role of Dairy Farm Assistant.

Applications for employment permits may be made by either the employer or the employee. A range of information on submitting applications is available on the Department’s website. Arrangements made with an agency to submit an application on behalf of a party to an application are the responsibility of the applicant to the application. Employment permit legislation prohibits deductions in respect of employment permit application process from employee remuneration.

If an employment is the first for which they have held an employment permit in Ireland, the permit holder is expected to remain in that employment for a period of twelve months before applying for a new employment permit. After that period on their first employment, it is open to the permit holder to change employer, and/or employment provided they secure employment in an eligible occupation and subject to the terms and conditions of the application process. However, employment permit holders are permitted to change their employer within the first 12 months of their first employment in the State in circumstances, such as redundancy, or where circumstances (unforeseen at time of application) arise in the employment that fundamentally change the employment relationship.

This stipulation strikes a reasonable balance between, on the one hand, the employer’s expectations that the foreign national remain in his or her employment for a reasonable period of time given the costs involved in recruiting that foreign national from abroad, and, on the other hand, not unduly binding the foreign national to the employer.

In certain circumstances the non-EEA national may be entitled to a reactivation employment permit which isn't linked to the employment permit occupation lists. My Department should be notified of any change in circumstances.

If the Deputy is referring to a particular situation, he can engage directly with officials in the Employment Permit Section who can go through the specific issues and advise on the appropriate course of action.