Many of the recommendations and issues identified regarding the employment permits system in the Report of the Joint Committee on Business, Enterprise and Innovation on the Role of Apprenticeships and Work Permits in Addressing Ireland's Skills Needs were considered and included as part of the Review of Economic Migration Policy undertaken at my request during 2018.
The Review found that, overall, the State’s vacancy-led employment permits system is robust and has served the country well in recent years, allowing us to focus on attracting skills critical to business. However in the context of strong economic growth new pressures are emerging and some adjustments are needed to provide the flexibilities required to ensure that the system remains supportive of the Irish Labour Market at all stages of the economic cycle. The Economic Migration Interdepartmental Group, chaired by my Department, is overseeing the implementation of the recommendations, including the development of new Employment Permit legislation to consolidate the existing legislative framework and to give effect to a number of the review recommendations. This work is underway at present.
All employment permit applications require that a contract of employment is place the ensure that an employee enjoys the full regulatory protections governing workplaces and any associated enforcement. It is the norm internationally for employment permission for migrant workers to be linked to a specific employer. Non-EEA employees are generally expected to remain with an employer for 12 months, after which they are free to move employment. The current legislative provisions provide for circumstances whereby a non-EEA employee may move employment within that 12 month period.
My officials met with the Low Pay Commission Secretariat during the review and agreed to continue to consult on those recommendations that require further analysis. In addition my Department intends shortly to commission a study on remuneration thresholds for employment permit purposes.
As the economy improves and we approach full employment, the Department has experienced a high volume of employment permit applications which has led to some delays in processing applications. In order to reduce processing times, the Employment Permits section has introduced a number of operational changes, streamlined processes and implemented ICT solutions as well as securing additional staffing resources. In addition a Business Process Reengineering Review for the Employment Permits section will commence shortly as a first step in the development of a new IT processing system which will take advantage of all the new technologies available, including full digitisation.