11 Oct, 2022

Labour Shortages in the Agri-Food Sector

An increasing number of employers are utilising employment permits to ease staffing shortages, says ifac’s Mary McDonagh.

As many as two in every three business owners in the agri-food sector find it difficult to hire employees according to ifac’s 2022 Food & Agribusiness Report. Lack of available skills, low interest in roles, high salary expectations and intense competition for candidates were the main barriers highlighted by employers when asked about their hiring difficulties.

While there are steps employers can take to improve their ability to recruit and retain staff--such as offering good wages, flexible working conditions or additional benefits like accommodation—unfortunately these measures may not be enough to attract candidates in the local market.

Sectoral shortages

While the shortage of candidates is affecting businesses across the economy, it is particularly acute in some sectors. Employers in the meat industry, along with dairy, horticulture and pig farmers, for example, are already looking beyond the EU to find suitable candidates for vacant roles.

Employment Permits

If you intend to hire employees from outside the European Economic Area (EEA), UK or Switzerland, it is important to be aware that they require an employment permit to work in Ireland. An employment permit must be granted before the prospective employee can commence employment. From an employer’s perspective, the key criteria are:

The application fee depends on the type of permit sought. For a General Employment Permit, the fee is €500 for a six-month permit or €1,000 for up to 24 months. For a Critical Skills Employment Permit the fee is €1,000 for up to 24 months.

The Labour Market Needs Test takes 28 days. Furthermore, the application must be received by the Department of Enterprise, Trade & Employment (DETE) at least 12 weeks before the proposed employment start date. This means that if you were to apply for an employment permit now, you may be waiting up to 16 weeks before you have a decision.

Applying for a permit can be a tricky process as permits can be refused for a number of reasons. ifac act as an agent and can manage the employment permit process on the employer’s behalf. ifac is a DETE Trusted Partner reducing the time and paperwork for our clients applying for the scheme. For further information and/or advice, contact your local ifac office.