The Irish Hotels Federation (IHF) and the Restaurants Association of Ireland (RAI) are among those welcoming changes to Employment Permit Regulations that will help to ease the current staffing crisis.

The changes, which Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation Heather Humphreys has signed off on, will make it easier for Irish hospitality businesses to source chefs from outside the European Union. Certain chef grades have been removed from the list of ineligible occupations – if an employer is unsuccessful in filling a vacancy by candidates from Ireland or across the European Economic Area (EEA), they can instead opt to hire a non-EEA national with suitable qualifications.

According to the RAI, the industry requires 7,000 chefs every year to help meet growing needs. The changes also include an overall quota of 610 General Employment Permits to ensure that long-term demand is met by the Irish labour market, with the number of permits per establishment limited to two.

“The hospitality industry in Ireland has been under significant strain in recent years in regard to staffing and allowing more skilled professionals to enter the industry can only encourage further growth in this sector. The Restaurants Association of Ireland has been lobbying on this issue since 2012,” said RAI President Adrian Cummins.

The move follows the launch of a new national commis chef programme earlier this year, which has been supported by industry bodies. According to the IHF, over 60,000 new jobs have been created in Irish tourism since 2011 and a further 40,000 are expected by 2021. According to a recent industry survey, most Irish hoteliers are planning to expand staff numbers in 2018.

“Ireland’s tourism and hospitality industry relies heavily on the consistent delivery of a quality product,” said Michael Lennon, the recently appointed IHF President. “We need a highly skilled workforce to achieve this and the additional flexibility to recruit suitably qualified chefs from outside the EU will help to ensure that we can meet this high standard.”