Wednesday, 20 May 2020
Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation
540. To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if the list of ineligible occupations for work permits will be reviewed in view of Covid-19 and the urgent need for more healthcare professionals, including healthcare assistants, senior care workers and home carers; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5662/20]
Ireland operates a managed employment permits system maximising the benefits of economic migration and minimising the risk of disrupting Ireland’s labour market. The system is intended to act as a conduit for key skills which are required to develop enterprise in the State for the benefit of our economy, while simultaneously protecting the balance of the labour market. The system is, by design, vacancy led and driven by the changing needs of the labour market, expanding and contracting in tandem with its inherent fluctuations.
The Critical Skills and Ineligible Occupations Lists are subject to twice-yearly review which is predicated on a formalised and evidence-based process and involves consideration of the research undertaken by the Skills and Labour Market Research Unit (Solas), the Expert Group of Future Skills Needs (EGFSN), the National Skills Council, and input by relevant Government Departments in addition to the public consultation phase. Submissions to the review process are also considered by the Economic Migration Policy Interdepartmental Group chaired by this Department and which includes the Department of Health. A review of the lists is currently underway and is expected to be finalised before the end of June 2020.
The Employment Permits system has an important role in ensuring that key medical staff are available for our health services at this critical juncture as the country tackles this emerging situation. As a result, my Department has been prioritising the processing of employment permit applications for medical personnel and these applications continue to be prioritised. I have also facilitated the access of diploma qualified nurses and radiographers to Critical Skills Employment Permits and made improvements in the assignment of work permits to doctors on rotation.
Since mid-March 1,404 employment permits have been granted to medical personnel, comprising 745 permits for Nurses, 642 permits for Doctors and 17 permits for Radiographers. Some occupations such as Healthcare Assistants are currently on the Ineligible Occupations List and, following the completion of the most recent review in December 2019, were not proposed for amendment at that time.
In light of the COVID-19 crisis and following the submission of a new business case from Nursing Home representatives regarding the removal of healthcare assistants from the ineligible occupation list, discussions have commenced between officials of my Department and the Department of Health.
I also understand that the Department of Health and HSE are engaging with the private and voluntary nursing homes sector, in the context of addressing the COVID 19 emergency. In addition, the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection has rolled out a scheme to increase national take up of newly emerging employment opportunities. In light of this, I am advised that it was agreed that a change to the employment permits lists in this regard would not be pursued at this time but may however be revisited at a later date.