According to officials from the Department of Business, the Irish Republic in a way is an outlier in Europe because it has no system for granting seasonal employment permits for foreign workers in sectors such as fruit picking,
Department officials appeared in front of an Oireachtas committee on Wednesday to scrutinise upcoming proposed legislation that should enable employers, for the first time, to hire seasonal workers from outside the European Economic Area (EEA).
Clare Dunne, assistant secretary of the department, told the committee that foreign workers in seasonal industries will be allowed come here to work each year for periods of about four months, and possibly up to nine months in some cases, before returning home. The permits would be renewable annually.
In response to questions from Fianna Fáil TD Lisa Chambers, Ms Dunne said employers in qualifying sectors who seek to avail of the scheme would have to indicate the wage they intend to pay their seasonal workers, and also how they proposed to help in terms of providing them with accommodation and flights.
The department would also want full details of any deductions, such as accommodation, that would be taken off workers’ pay packets at source by employers.
She acknowledged there was a risk that some seasonal workers in low-paid sectors might overstay their visas, but she said that risk was not peculiar to Ireland. Ms Dunne said many of the seasonal roles in sectors such as horticulture were “hard jobs” that Irish locals don’t want to do, leaving employers understaffed.
She said the department had been examining the operation of seasonal work-permit schemes in the UK, New Zealand, Canada, Australia and Japan, as part of the process in drafting the general scheme of the proposed new laws.