The State's employment permit system is designed to supplement Ireland's skills and labour supply over the short to medium term by allowing enterprises to recruit nationals from outside the EEA, where such skills or expertise cannot be sourced from within the EEA at that time. The system is, by design, vacancy led and managed through the operation of the occupation lists: the critical skills list in respect of skills that are deemed to be critically important to growing Ireland’s economy and the ineligible list for which a ready source of labour is available from within Ireland and the EEA.
Changes to the employment permit occupations lists are made where there are no suitable Irish/EEA nationals available, development opportunities are not undermined, a genuine skills shortage exists rather than a recruitment or retention problem and Government education, training and economic development policies are supported.
The lists are reviewed twice a year to ensure their ongoing relevance to the State’s human capital requirements, guided by available research undertaken by the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs (EGFSN), and the Skills and the Labour Market Research Unit (SLMRU) in SOLAS. Cognisance is also taken of education outputs, sectoral upskilling and training initiatives and contextual factors such as Brexit and more recently COVID 19 and their impact on the labour market.
The Department works with other Government Departments via the Economic Migration Interdepartmental Group to promote an integrated approach to address labour and skills shortages in the longer term. Where shortages are clearly evidenced, the employment permit system is flexible enough to address them in real time.
As part of this review process, the Department also invites submissions from industry representatives and stakeholders. The submission process is an opportunity for stakeholders to provide evidence, additional information and potentially different perspectives on the nature and extent of skill shortages. Stakeholder submissions are a vital source of information, helping inform the Department’s final assessment of the status of occupations.
In response to requests from the hospitality sector over the last number of years my Department introduced a number of changes to widen access to the General Employment Permit for occupations in the sector. All grades of Chef have been eligible for the General Employment Permit since 2019, with restrictions such as a quota or limit per establishment also removed. Experienced Executive Chefs, Head Chefs, Sous Chefs, Chefs de Partie and Commis Chefs can apply for a General Employment Permit to work in a restaurant establishment, at a remuneration level of at least €30,000.
The most recent review of the Occupations Lists concluded towards the end of last year, and in response to further requests from the hospitality sector a quota of 350 General Employment Permits was established for managerial roles; namely Catering Managers, Bar Managers, Hotel Managers and Accommodation Managers. The quota is subject to a framework requiring a recognised third level qualification and five years’ experience in the role.
The General Employment Permit is the primary vehicle used by the State to attract third country nationals in occupations with remuneration thresholds of generally €30,000. The General Employment Permit is also subject to a Labour Market Needs Test (LMNT), demonstrating that the employer was unable to fill the position from the Irish and EEA labour market. For occupations included on the Critical Skills occupations list it is a requirement for the foreign national to hold a relevant degree where the annual remuneration is €32,000 or €64,000 without a degree.
The next review of the occupations lists is expected to commence with a public consultation in Q2 2022. When open, submissions will be invited from sector representative bodies and interested parties via the Public Consultation Form which will be accessible on the Department’s website.