Changes announced to Irish work permits

Changes announced to Irish work permits

Stephen Kirwan of the Immigration and International Law Team briefly examines the purported introduction of changes to the work permit scheme

The Minister of State for Business, Employment and Retail Damien English has today announced several important changes to the employment permits system for workers from outside the European Economic Area which will significantly impact on employees in the health care sector.[1] There are a number of key changes proposed by the Minister which are to take effect from today:

-Health Care Assistants are to be removed from the ineligible occupation list and will be required to have a minimum annual renumeration of €27,000 to be eligible for a general work permit

-Dieticians are to be added to the Critical Skills Occupation List

-Social Workers, Occupational Therapists, Physiotherapists and Speech and Language Therapists are also to be removed from the ineligible occupations list.

In the press release today on the Department’s website it is noted that the HSE plans to recruit 16,000 new workers across the healthcare system.[2] This is obviously very welcome for the very may in the sector and will come as a relief to many of those who fought on the frontline who continue to deal with the impact of COVID-19 and issues of staffing shortages both in hospitals, primary healthcare centres and nursing homes caused by aging Irish population.

Despite the very welcome news the announcement once again brings to the fore the deficiencies with the current work permit system.  Under the current employment-permit system a list of critical skills and of those occupations considered ineligible are reviewed bi-annually, allegedly taking account of labour market conditions based on available economic data and on submissions made by representatives in particular employment sectors.

However, the changes, as in cases of healthcare workers in this instance, are often reactive in nature to long terms issues in the industry and often come quite late in the process and after the industry has gone through a demand crisis. It is submitted that a simplification of the general employment permit system including either the complete removal or a significant reduction of the categories of ineligible employment contained on the ineligible list and the assessment of case by case basis while also ensuring basic minimum standards of pay are adhered to on a cross-sector basis.

Do not hesitate to contact Stephen Kirwan of this office should you be need advise on any work permit related

[1] Minister Damien English announces changes to the employment permits system – DETE (

[2] Op cit

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