We look at how proposals under the Employment Permits Bill, and other recent developments, will impact workplace planning and operations for employers.
Employment Permits Bill
In late 2022, the Irish government published the long-awaited Employment Permits Bill 2022. The Bill, as published, proposes to do the following:
- consolidate existing employment permit legislation;
- create a new type of employment permit designed to facilitate non-EEA nationals’ employment in ‘seasonally recurrent employment, which will be specified in separate regulations;
- allow the granting of a contract for services employment permit to a subcontractor, (these permits can only currently be granted to the main contractor).
The Bill would also give the Minister the power to specify conditions relating to the grant of a general or seasonal employment permit, which may include accommodation, training or expenses. Not only does the Bill propose that the Minister can make regulations setting conditions regarding the training or upskilling of employment permit holders, but conditions can also be applied to the training and upskilling of employees other than the employment permit holder. It will be interesting to see what conditions and measures might be implemented by the Minister in the future if this section within the Bill is retained.
In addition, the Bill would revise the current Labour Market Needs test. Currently, to satisfy the Labour Market Needs test, an employer must advertise the vacancy in a national newspaper and either a local newspaper or jobs website, in addition to publishing it with the Department of Social Protection Employment Services/EURES employment network (i.e. JobsIreland.ie). As drafted, the Bill proposes to remove the requirement to publish an advertisement for a vacancy in a national or local newspaper. It only requires the advertisement to be published on two online platforms, the first being one whose principal purpose is to publish offers to Irish citizens and EEA nationals (i.e. EURES/JobsIreland.ie). The Bill would also remove the minimum threshold for the Minister’s regulations as to how long the advertisement must be posted.
While these revisions don’t address all of the issues the Labour Market Needs Test can create, shortening the amount of time a vacancy needs to be advertised for would certainly be welcomed by employers who are still facing an ongoing challenge for attracting talent into Ireland and getting employment permits quickly.
As drafted, the Bill would help improve efficiency in the system by moving much of the operational details for the employment permit system to regulations to be made under the primary legislation which can be introduced more quickly in order to keep up with evolving recruitment practices. Therefore, we will likely see further interesting developments through regulations following the enactment of the Bill.
Immigrant Investor Programme (‘IIP’)
The IIP was launched in 2012 after the last recession in Ireland, to encourage foreign investment into the country for the creation of business and to stimulate employment. The IIP offers non-EEA nationals a route to residency in Ireland in return for an investment or endowment so long as they satisfy certain criteria. If you want to learn more about the IIP.
Since its inception, the popularity of the IIP has steadily increased with more than one billion Euros being contributed to the Irish economy by 1,613 investors through the programme. The accelerated uptake in the IIP in 2022 is particularly interesting. Between January and September 2022, the number of applications rose to a record 812, nearly double the previous annual high. Of the 812 applications submitted in 2022, more than 90% were from Chinese nationals. This is more than triple the number of applications received in 2021 from the same cohort.
The surge in popularity in the IIP comes at a time when these types of programmes and similar schemes are being scrutinised internationally. Within the EU, many member states operate programmes granting residence in return for investment (like the IIP) while others offer the potential to receive passports.
In 2022, the European Parliament called for stricter rules and more stringent background checks on programmes which offer residence in return for investment over fears such programmes are being manipulated. While MEPs have sought the closure of schemes which offer passports or citizenship in return for investment, they acknowledge that programmes offering residence in return for investment pose less risk than those which offer passports in return for investment.
Closer to home, the Department of Justice (which administers the IIP) carried out a review of the IIP but declined to comment on the recommendations of that review as they are still under consideration. However, the Department did deny the ongoing speculation that the IIP will be wound down. This means it is more likely that the IIP will be refined with greater control mechanisms and enhanced due diligence processes.
It is expected that the popularity of the IIP is likely to continue to grow into 2023.
In addition to the continuing developments and trends outlined above, the Department of Enterprise, Trade, and Employment and the Department of Justice are continuing to review their systems in ongoing efforts to improve the delivery of their services. For example, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment recently introduced its new Return and Refund process which involves the Department screening all new employment permit applications across mandatory criteria to ensure compliance with the requirements of the employment permit type. Only applications which satisfy this initial screening will move forward for formal processing. This, it hopes, will allow the Department to improve processing times of applications by returning applications to the applicant which are initially deemed invalid.