On the 23rd of April 2014, the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation published the Employment Permits (Amendment) Bill 2014. The legislation proposes significant changes to the existing work permit regime.
The new legislation seeks to update the provisions for employment permit schemes in line with policy and economic developments since 2007. The aim is to cater for a changing labour market, work patterns and economic development needs and to ensure the regime provides clarity and certainty to potential investors and employers.
Notably, the Bill addresses the deficiencies in the existing legislation that were highlighted in the case of Younis. In this case, a loophole in existing legislation was exposed by a 2012 High Court judgement that overturned a Labour Court decision to award Mr. Younis over €92,000 in back pay. The High Court found that the Employment Permits Act, 2003 prevented an undocumented worker from seeking redress under labour law as the employment contract cannot be recognised. Mr. Younis had worked for seven years as a chef on pay of just ¢55 per hour but he was prevented from securing redress as his employment contract could not be recognised. The new Bill is stated to prevent employers from benefiting from illegal employment contracts in situations where an employee does not hold an employment permit but is required to do so.
The legislation proposes to create nine categories of employment permit retaining the existing permits of a spousal/dependent employment permit, an intra-company transfer permit, and a contract for services permit. A critical skills employment permit will replace the existing green card and will permit immediate family reunification and provide what is stated to be a fast track to residency. A general employment permit will operate and be issued in cases where a contract for a designated highly skilled occupation has been offered for a duration of less than two years or for other occupations apart from those included on the list of ineligible jobs. This permit equates to the existing work permit. Most notably there will be introduction of a reactivation employment permit, which will allow for return of individuals to employment, who had fallen out of the employment permit system through no fault of their own. There will also be provision for an exchange agreement employment permit, sports and cultural employment permit and an internship employment permit.
It should be noted that none of these provisions are yet law and it could some time until they are enacted. To read more about the proposal reforms, see the Employment Permits (Amendment) Bill 2014 and government press release here. Also see a press release from Migrant Rights Council of Ireland welcoming the Bill here.