Access to the labour market

Republic of Ireland

Country Report: Access to the labour market Last updated: 30/11/20


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In July 2018, Ireland transposed the recast Reception Conditions Directive following a decision of the Supreme Court in N.V.H. v Minister for Justice and Equality in which the Court held that an absolute ban on employment was a breach of the right to dignity under the Irish Constitution. With the legislative ban on employment struck down as unconstitutional, the main objection to transposition of the Directive was removed.

The Reception Conditions Regulations permits a person who has been waiting more than nine months for a first instance decision to apply for labour market access.[1] In 2019, the Irish High Court referred to the CJEU a preliminary ruling on a number of questions, with the aim of clarifying the right to access the labour market for international protection applicants in the Dublin procedure, at the time of writing the CJEU has yet to reach a ruling on the matter.[2]

Labour market access consists of permission to be self-employed or to be employed in most sectors of the economy, with an absolute ban on employment in public bodies, such as the Civil Service, Local Authorities, or companies/entities majority owned by the Government or established by way of legislation.[3]

Permission to access the labour market is for a six-month, renewable period.[4] In practice, applications are accepted once a person has been waiting for eight months for a first instance decision in order to prevent delays once the nine-month period has elapsed.[5]

Once a person has been granted permission prior to receiving a first instance decision, that permission lasts throughout any subsequent appeal process. However, if a person has already received a first instance decision, they will not be able to access the labour market no matter how long they may be waiting for a resolution to an appeal. This means that, despite the right to work constituting a significant positive development for newly-arrived protection applicants, those who had been in Ireland the longest and who had already received a first instance decision did not benefit from this change.[6]

There are a number of conditions applying to permission to access the labour market with a criminal sanction applying in the event of a breach. An applicant may not employ any person or enter a partnership with another person. An applicant may not be employed or seek to be employed or enter a contract for services with any of the prohibited bodies.[7] An applicant must also inform the Minister of their income and must inform the Minister if they become self-employed or if there is any change to their self-employment.[8]

In addition, employers must inform the Minister within 21 days of employing an asylum seeker in possession of labour market permission and must inform the Minister within 21 days of that employment ceasing.[9] The employer must also maintain records of the particulars of employment including copies of the person’s permission to work, the duration of employment, and remuneration paid. Employers must keep these records for three years from the date on which the applicant ceases to be an employee and must provide a copy of these records within ten working days. These additional obligations on employers, which do not apply to other employees, are administratively onerous and may make it less attractive to employ a person seeking asylum. Indeed, the Irish Refugee Council has received reports of employers not recognising the official documents granting permission to work and not employing protection applicants on this basis. This has been echoed by media reporting on the topic in July 2019.[10] It is an offence under the Regulations to fail to comply with these requirements, with an employer potentially subject to a fine of €5,000 and/or a prison term of 12 months.[11]

An applicant who breaches the Regulations on access to the labour market is guilty of a criminal offence which carries a fine of €1,000 and/or a prison term of one month.[12] This would also affect their asylum application. 

In practice, protection applicants face significant barriers accessing bank accounts due to difficulties in producing satisfactory identity documents for the purposes of anti-money laundering requirements. This situation continued in to 2019. People in the asylum process also face difficulties in accessing a driver licence. In January 2020, the Workplace Relations Commission found that denying the applicant the means to learn how to drive and therefore earn a living was "indirect discrimination".[13] In this case, the individual’s application for a learner driver licence was refused after he provided his asylum seeker's Temporary Residence Certificate, his public services card, a copy of his passport and his permission from the Minister for Justice to access the labour market. The State are appealing the decision of the Workplace Relations Commission.

The Temporary Residence Certificate provided to people seeking asylum is the only official document given to people before they receive their status and this is specifically stated as not constituting an identity document and, therefore, cannot be relied upon. Employers typically will only pay salary into bank accounts for tax compliance reasons. The same difficulty makes it impossible for protection applicants to obtain a driving licence which inhibits the access to employment, particularly where people live in remote rural areas.

As of November 2019, a total of 5,027 applications for access to the labour market were received by the Department of Justice and Equality. 1,452 applications were refused. 3,438 applications for a labour market access permission were granted. 1,708 employers have completed a return stating that they are employing a person who has labour market access permission. 1,208 of those persons are living in accommodation provided by IPAS, 500 were not living in IPAS accommodation.

[1] Regulation 11(3) Reception Conditions Regulations 2018.

[2] CJEU, Reference for a preliminary ruling from High Court (Ireland) made on 23 April 2019 — KS, MHK v The International Protection Appeals Tribunal, the Minister for Justice and Equality, Ireland and the Attorney General(Case C-322/19), available at:

[3] Regulation 11(9)(a) and Schedule 6 Reception Conditions Regulations 2018.

[4] Regulation 11(5) Reception Conditions Regulations 2018.

[5] This is permitted by Regulation 11(6) Reception Conditions Regulations 2018.

[6]  Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland (MASI), Submission to Justice & Equality Joint Committee, 27 May 2019, available at:

[7] Regulation 11(9)(a) and (10) Reception Conditions Regulations 2018.

[8] Regulation 11(9)(b) and (c) Reception Conditions Regulations 2018.

[9] Regulation 14 Reception Conditions Regulations 2018.

[10] Dublin Inquirer, ‘People Seeking Asylum Say They're Funnelled Into Low-Paid Temp Work, Unable to Use Their Skills’, 3 July 2019, available at:

[11] Regulation 15(2) Reception Conditions Regulations 2018.

[12] Regulation 15(1) Reception Conditions Regulations 2018.

[13] ADJ-00017832 Correction Order issued pursuant to Section 29 of the Equal Status Act 2000 (as amended), available at:


Table of contents

  • Statistics
  • Overview of the legal framework
  • Overview of the main changes since the previous report update
  • Asylum Procedure
  • Reception Conditions
  • Detention of Asylum Seekers
  • Content of International Protection
  • ANNEX – Transposition of the CEAS in national legislation