What do Employers need to know about Work Permits?Employers, as you may be aware, the National Employment Right’s Authority (NERA) conducts thousands of inspections (many of which are unannounced) annually.

It is within NERA’s remit to investigate your compliance with Irish Immigration and Employment Permit legislation.

Did you know that employers could be seriously penalised for employing individuals who do not have valid employment permits?

• The Employment Permits Acts 2003 to 2006 make it a criminal offence for a foreign   national to work without an employment permit. Employers are committing an offence themselves if they employ a foreign national without a valid work permit.
• The Acts place an onus on the employer to carry out checks in order to be satisfied that a prospective employee does not require an employment permit, and, if he or she does, that they have obtained one.
• NERA inspectors are authorised to exercise powers under the Employment Permit Acts. If, during an inspection, NERA finds evidence showing that an employee does not have a valid employment permit, both the employer and employee are advised of the need to correct the situation. They are also informed of the consequences of failing to do so.
• An employer failing to rectify matters could be prosecuted. NERA commenced initiating proceedings under S.2 of the 2003 Act in 2012.
• An Garda Síochána are also an enforcement authority under Employment Permits legislation with prosecution powers.

Who needs an Employment Permit?

According to the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, a non-EEA national (except in the cases listed below) requires an employment permit to take up employment in Ireland. The EEA comprises the Member States of the European Union together with Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein.

Employment permit (or work permit) holders are only allowed to work for the employer and in the occupation named on the permit. If the holder of an employment permit ceases to work for the employer named on the permit during the permit’s period of validity, the original permit (along with the certified copy) must be returned immediately to the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Innovation.

Citizens of non-EEA countries who do not require Employment Permits include:
•  Non-EEA nationals in the State on a Work Authorisation/Working Visa
•  Van der Elst Case The European Court of Justice delivered a judgement on the Van der Elst Case (Freedom to Provide Services) on 9 August, 1994. The Court ruled that in the case of non-EEA workers legally employed in one Member State who are temporarily sent on a contract to another Member State, the employer does not need to apply for employment permits in respect of the non-nationals for the period of contract.
•  Non-EEA nationals who have been granted permission to remain in the State on one of the following grounds:
•  Permission to remain as spouse or a dependent of an Irish/EEA national;
•  Permission to remain as the parent of an Irish citizen;
•  Temporary leave to remain in the State on humanitarian grounds, having been in the Asylum process.
•  Explicit permission from the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform to remain resident and employed in the State
•  Appropriate business permission to operate a business in the State
•  A non-EEA national who is a registered student

Swiss Nationals: In accordance with the terms of the European Communities and Swiss Confederation Act, 2001, which came into operation on 1 June, 2002, this enables the free movement of worker between Switzerland and Ireland, without the need for Employment Permits.

It is imperative that every labour market opportunity is afforded to Irish and other EEA nationals in the first instance. This is also in accordance with EU obligations and recognises that Ireland's labour market is part of a much greater EEA labour market which affords a considerable supply of skilled workers.

An interesting point to note is that work permits will not be considered for certain occupations.
Since April 10th 2013 occupations listed as ineligible for work permits are as follows:
• Hotel, tourism and catering staff except chefs
• Work riders – horseracing
• Clerical and administrative staff
• Drivers (including HGV drivers)
• Nursery/crèche workers, child minders/nannies
• General operatives and labourers
• Operator and production staff
• Domestic workers including carers in the home and child-minders*
• Retail sales staff, sales representatives and supervisory or specialist sales staff**
• The following craft workers and apprentice/trainee craft workers: bookbinders, bricklayers, cabinet makers, carpenters/joiners, carton makers, fitters - construction plant, electricians, instrumentation craftspeople, fitters, tilers - floor/wall, mechanics - heavy vehicles, instrumentation craftspersons, metal fabricators, mechanics - motor, originators, painters and decorators, plumbers, printers, engineers - refrigeration, sheet metal workers, tool makers, vehicle body repairers, machinists - wood, plasterers and welders

* In exceptional circumstances an employment permit may be granted for a carer who is a medical professional caring for a person with a severe medical condition or for a carer who has a long caring relationship with a person with special needs. An employment permit will only be granted where there are no alternative care options.

** Specialist language support and technical/sales support with fluency in a non-EEA language in respect of those companies that have formal support from the State’s enterprise development agencies earning at least €27,000 a year may apply for a work permit.