Changes to the employment permits system for workers from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) include those aiming to help fill skill shortages in the dairy sector.
500 new General Employment Permits have been made available for dairy farm assistants. Eligible roles must pay a minimum of €30,000, based on a 39-hour week.
Measures to help the transport and home care sectors were also unveiled this week by Minister of State for Business, Employment and Retail Damien English.
The changes, which came into effect immediately, followed engagement with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.
English Minister said: “These measures will help alleviate the pressures being faced by farmers in the dairy sector, who have struggled to source workers in the local economy. Evidence provided by consultation with the ICMSA and the Farm Relief Service points to significant recruitment challenges and the introduction of this quota will be particularly welcome as we approach the busy calving season.
“…Our economic migration policy accommodates the arrival of non-EEA nationals to fill skills and labor gaps in the domestic economy in the short to medium term. My department reviews the system regularly, working across Government to promote an integrated approach to address labor and skills shortages in the longer term.Where shortages are clearly evidenced, the employment permit system is flexible enough to address these shortages in a timely manner.”
Employers will be eligible to apply for the employment once they have run the required advertisements for 28 days following the opening of the new permit scheme. Current processing time for employment permits is between three and five business days.
Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, said: “Minister of State Martin Heydon and I have ongoing engagement with the dairy sector stakeholders and have worked closely with our colleagues in the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment on this issue. We are acutely aware of the staffing challenges on some farms and we are moving to address this.Spring can be a very challenging time on dairy farms and this announcement today will allow dairy farmers time to arrange to have the necessary labor in place for the busy calving season.”
Minister of State Martin Heydon added: “These permits are very welcome, balancing workload with labor supply is critical to addressing work-life balance for farmers and reducing the risk of farm safety incidents.”
Ifac, a professional services firm which specializes in farming, food and agribusiness sectors serving more than 22,000 clients, said the introduction of 500 new permits will provide a short-term solution for the labor shortage being experienced by the dairy sector.
Ifac’s Head of HR & Payroll Services, Mary McDonagh, said: “An increasing number of dairy farmers are using employment permits to ease staffing shortages. Timelines for permit applications have been greatly reduced in recent weeks, with the current processing of applications reaching an all -time low of two weeks.This announcement will ensure that in the short-to-medium term, the dairy sector’s immediate labor requirements can be partly met by recruiting non-EEA workers through the employment permit system.
Our 2022 Irish Farm Report found that almost a third of farmers find it difficult to find available employees, while 77% of those planning to recruit would consider hiring outside the EU. The announcement from Minister English, with engagement from Minister Heydon, will have a positive impact on helping the sector with this challenge.”