The back log of processing employment permits seems to be at its all-time slowest rate. The Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation (DBEI) are regularly posting updates on their website noting the unprecedented delay.

As matters stand, there is at least a 15 week wait time for a standard employment permit and 6 weeks for a trusted partner employment permit application. This is compared with employment permits previously being processed in approximately 10 - 12 weeks and trusted partner employment permits in 2-3 weeks.

The only reason being given for the delay is the influx of employment permit applications. Presumably the demand for employment permits is an effect of Brexit and also a true sign that Ireland's economy is once again booming. The question on everyone’s lips though is, will it get worse, and I think there is a strong likelihood it may get worse before it gets better. A lot of organisations still haven’t made their mind up about what to do with Brexit, so presumably when the Brexit plan is finalised organisations will start to make definitive plans, which could include an influx of companies moving to Ireland.

Irrespective of the reasons, I think many would agree that something needs to change so that the process of applying for an employment permit is made easier and more accessible for employers, particularly with the reality of Brexit soon to be a harsh reality.

This morning Minister Humphreys for Business, Enterprise and Innovation announced that a review is being undertaken of the employment permits system in light of the changing economy and labour market. Notably the last review of this form took place in 2012 when Ireland was slowly starting to come out of a recession, so a lot has changed since then. Some of the notable recommendations that have come out of this review are:

  • to review the 50/50 rule to meet a broader range of enterprise needs;
  • to revisit and potentially adjust the Labour Market needs test, in line with the current market;
  • the ability to introduce some level of flexibility in the legislation that governs employment permits – what exactly is intended here is unknown;
  • a review of salary thresholds and the criteria for the various employment permits, as well as a commitment to review the Highly Skilled and Ineligible Employment Lists twice a year; and
  • the possibility of introducing a new seasonal employment permit.

The need for flexibility around the parameters of granting an employment permit are in dire need of being overhauled. Notably, at present all employees applying for an employment permit must be engaged on a full time basis, and there is no ability for an employee to obtain an employment permit if they are to be engaged on a part time basis only.

It will be interesting to see what comes out of this review, and what immediate steps are taken to improve the backlog of processing