Work permits for home care sector refused due to lack of ‘guaranteed hours’

Interdepartmental group says there is not a genuine labour shortage in the sector but cites employment terms and conditions as a factor

Work permits for non-EU nationals to work in the home care sector were refused due to the failure to “guarantee hours of work” and a “lack of travel and subsistence payments”, the Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise has said.

The department runs an occupation list for employment permits, which decides on the sectors of the economy that are allowed to employ workers from outside the EU.

The employment permits review process considers widely available research and takes a range of factors into account when deciding on whether to allow non-EU workers come to Ireland to work in particular sectors. Brexit, Covid-19 and more recently the Ukrainian humanitarian crisis are also considered.

As part of the review process, the Department of Enterprise invites submissions from industry representatives, stakeholders and other government departments. The economic migration interdepartmental group, which the Department of Enterprise chairs, then makes a decision based on the evidence available to it.


The group considered the submissions provided from stakeholders and came to the conclusion that there was not a labour shortage in the sector. Instead it found that employment terms and conditions in the role of home care were a factor in recruitment.

Responding to a parliamentary question, Damien English, the junior enterprise minister, said recent changes to the occupations list for employment permits did “not recommend” the removal of the occupation of home care workers from the ineligible occupations list.

He said: “Evidence suggested that the contracts of employment on offer and employment terms and conditions, for example, failure to guarantee hours of work and the lack of travel and subsistence payments, are factors in the recruitment challenges faced by the sector rather than a demonstrable labour market shortage.”

‘Acute shortage’

A spokesman for Home and Community Care Ireland (HCCI), the trade body for the sector, insisted that there was an “acute labour shortage” for home care workers in the State.

He said he did not understand why the Government allowed non-EEA workers to continue to work in nursing homes and hospitals but not home care.

Changes to the employment permit occupations lists are made where there are no suitable Irish/EEA nationals available, development opportunities are not undermined or genuine skills shortages exist rather than a recruitment or retention problem.

The aim of the group is to promote an “integrated approach” to addressing labour and skills shortages across the economy.

Separately, officials in the Department of Enterprise are engaging with the Department of Health in relation to recruitment challenges for the home care sector. Both are members of a cross-departmental strategic workforce advisory group chaired by the Department of Health to consider the recruitment and retention challenges faced by the sector. A report from the group is expected to be sent to Mary Butler, the junior health minister with responsibility for the sector, in the next few weeks.

Home care providers last week called for an end to a “social welfare trap” that they said restricted staff from working extra hours and contributed to long waiting lists for clients.

HCCI said reforming social welfare rules to allow home care workers work additional hours would add capacity to the sector, help to reduce waiting lists and ensure existing clients continued to receive care.

Under social welfare rules, a carer can work three full days — 22½ hours — and receive jobseeker’s allowance for the other two days, Joseph Musgrave, chief executive of HCCI, said. “However, if a carer works even one hour per day for five days they cannot receive jobseeker’s benefit because the payment is based on the three-day rule rather than cumulative hours worked.”