Staffing increased to deal with backlog of work permit applications

Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment was dealing with 10,500 applications at the end of January

The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment is dealing with a “significant backlog” in work permit applications.

That is according to the Minister for State for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Damien English, who has revealed that at the end of January some 10,500 applications were waiting to be processed, compared with just 1,000 at the end of April last.

In a written Dáil reply to Bernard Durkan of Fine Gael, Mr English said the department "experienced a significant increase in applications for employment permits in the past year, impacting on processing times". He said that the backlog "is now stabilising".

During 2021 some 27,666 applications were received, a 69 per cent increase on the 2020 total and a 47 per cent rise on 2019, he said.

The figures show that the three largest sectors to attract work permits in 2021 were health at 5,793, tech with4,615 and finance/insurance at 1,094.

Mr English said the department “recognises the impact delays on the processing times for work permits has for businesses and their workers, and has developed a plan of action to reduce processing times built up over the pandemic”.

He said a trebling of staff in the employment permits section had taken place to deal with the increase in applications.

“As the plan to deal with this issue is implemented and begins to take effect, we expect to see improvements shortly, with the backlog considerably reduced by the end of quarter one and substantially reduced by the end of quarter two this year.”

Cyber attack

The system was also impacted by the HSE cyber attack when employment permit applications associated with the July doctors’ rotation – which occurs annually in January and July – had to be submitted manually.

A spokeswoman for the department said on Monday that the staffing measures taken to address the situation included approval in late November to increase permanent capacity by 69 per cent and to overall capacity to 125 per cent when temporary staff were included. Increases also took place earlier this month.

She said when all recruitment was completed the team would be 3¼ times the size it was in early November,.

Gordon Deegan

Gordon Deegan

Gordon Deegan is a contributor to The Irish Times