The contract market has grown enormously over the past five years or so, particularly in the IT and finance sectors, but also in pharmaceuticals, construction and catering. With skill shortages in a number of areas in Ireland, an increasing number of foreigners are being attracted to work in Ireland on short and long-term contracts. In the IT sector, for example, up to a third of contract workers are non-Irish (a large number coming from India) and in the construction industry, UK and German contractors are in turn sub-contracting to labourers from countries such as Poland.
Apart from specialist agencies such as Computer Placement, the best source of contract jobs is the Internet (sites such as www.stepstone.ie and www.irishjobspage.ie), which has displaced magazines such as Freelance Informer and Irish Computer from a job-seeker’s point of view. Agencies will assist with visa or work authorisation applications and provide training where necessary.
Contract workers from EEA countries may either be employed by the company they’re working for on a PAYE basis or establish their own limited companies. Anther option is to set up an offshore company, which means that earnings are tax-free but cannot be used by the employee for subsistence in Ireland; if any money is withdrawn for this purpose, the employee is liable to ‘remittance tax’.
Non-EEA nationals need to obtain a work permit or work authorisation in the normal way and can either set up their own business, provided that they’ve obtained business permission, or become an employee.
In the case of employees, their employer, or the agency which recruited them on the employer’s behalf, acts as a guarantor (also referred to as a ‘sponsor’ or ‘owner’) that they won’t abuse the system by claiming Social Welfare benefits or otherwise becoming a burden on the state. There are recruitment agencies that will find contract work for non-EEA nationals who have established a business without obtaining business permission, but this remains an illegal practice in Ireland.
Part-time jobs (officially defined as jobs in which you work fewer than five days a week, regardless of the number of hours worked) are available in most industries and professions and are common in offices, pubs, shops, factories, cafes and restaurants. Many young foreigners combine part-time work and study, for example improving their English or studying for a trade or professional qualification, although many educational institutions specifically forbid part-time working and study visas aren’t valid for employment.
Most part-time workers are poorly paid, although you should now be assured of at least receiving the national minimum wage. As a part-time employee you’re also entitled to the same bonuses, holidays, etc. as full-time employees, on a pro rata basis. You may, however, have little protection from exploitation by your employer, although some employers give part-time employees the same rights as full-time employees. Some companies operate a job share scheme, where two or more people share the same job.