Tuesday, 15 June 2010
Dáil Eireann Debate
91. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation the extent to which persons employed on foot of work permits are free to opt for an alternative employer; the extent to which he has facilitated this; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24796/10]
Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Innovation (Deputy Dara Calleary): It is current Government policy to issue new work permits for highly skilled, highly paid positions or for non-EEA nationals who are already legally resident in the State on valid employment permits or where there is an officially recognised scarcity of workers of a particular type or qualification. There are no restrictions on non-EEA nationals changing employer after a period of one year and my Department already facilitates those who wish to change employers with new employment permits.
The Employment Permits Act 2006 sets out in legislation the rules governing employment permits. One of the main focuses of this Act was in increasing the rights and protections afforded to migrant workers and the means to ensure redress in the event of exploitative practices. The Act’s provisions gave immigrants greater freedom, autonomy and control over their own employment choices by enabling workers for the first time to apply and re-apply for their own permit and allowing workers to change their employer after a period of a year and move to another employment in order to take advantage of better conditions or career options. Last year, my Department issued almost 1,500 employment permits in respect of employees changing to new employers.
It is important to retain the current arrangements, which operate to protect employees, as they allow the system to trace employers who employ permit holders. I believe that the current arrangements for moving jobs are sufficiently flexible. A properly controlled employment permit system requires that permits be issued to a specific employee for a specific job with a specific employer. To do otherwise would not only risk abuse of the employment permit system but would make it much more difficult to ensure that employers observed the employment rights of employees.
My Department condemns any practices by employers that may result in non-compliance with employment rights entitlements or any other mistreatment of employees including those on employment permits. Ireland’s Employment Rights Legislation establishes the statutory rights applicable to all people working in Ireland whether they are Irish citizens or otherwise. I would urge all whose employment rights are being breached by an employer or those who know of such exploitation to contact the National Employment Rights Authority (NERA).
The Employment Permits Act 2006 allows for regular review of Ireland’s economic migration policies and my Department keeps these policies under review, in line with the emerging needs of the labour market, on an on-going basis.
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