The role of immigration law in advancing DE&I initiatives in global mobility
17 November 2023
Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) initiatives are no longer just buzzwords but are becoming essential elements of success for companies in all industries. Companies are recognising the value of diverse talent and the need to promote equitable opportunities in their global operations. Immigration law is a cornerstone of the legal framework and can play a pivotal role in shaping the demographic composition of a company.
In this article, Declan Groarke, Senior Associate in the Employment, Immigration and Reward team of Lewis Silkin Ireland, explores how immigration law can be a powerful and effective tool to address and advance DE&I initiatives within a company’s global mobility practices.
What is DE&I
We hear the words diversity, equity and inclusion used with increasing frequency in today’s business world, but what do they really mean for an organisation? Put simply, DE&I is a framework for social reform applied to professional environments.
Diversity involves people’s “race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, nationality, socioeconomic status, language, disability or ability, age, religious belief or political perspective.” In any industry, working in diverse teams can help your company establish trust with different communities and understand different perspectives.
Equity “promotes justice, impartiality, and fairness within the procedure, processes, and distribution of resources by institutions or systems.” This involves creating an environment where everyone is empowered to achieve. In your business, that may involve treating all team members, contractors, clients, customers, suppliers with respect and ensuring your rules, policies, and processes are applied the same way to everyone.
Lastly, inclusion “ensures people of all diverse backgrounds are welcome and have a seat at the table.”
When you put this all together and practice it consistently, DE&I creates a work environment where everyone can thrive and feel supported and welcome. But what role can immigration law have in advancing DE&I initiatives in a company’s global mobility practices.
Attracting global talent
Ireland has become a global hub for innovation and business. Accordingly, Ireland’s employment permit system and business immigration permissions has developed to provide a robust framework to supplement skills and labour needs in Ireland. Whether it is a critical skills employment permit or an atypical working visa, Ireland’s employment permit system and business immigration permissions are designed to attract skilled professionals from diverse backgrounds by providing accessible pathways for talent to work and reside in Ireland. In turn, this enriches the workforce with a diverse set of skills and perspectives, promoting DE&I within a company.
Ireland’s employment permit system can also facilitate international assignments of senior executives and key personnel into Ireland. There are many reasons as to why an organisation may wish to send an executive or key personnel on an international assignment, for example, training, transfer of knowledge, skills development, market insight, succession planning. However, an international assignment can be another powerful tool for further promoting DE&I within a global organisation.
Living and working in a different country can provide members of senior leadership with firsthand experience of different cultures, values and ways of working. That exposure to different cultures can help them to develop cultural intelligence, sensitivity and awareness which can be shared with other senior leaders. Along with obtaining a broader perspective on global business practices and societal norms, this worldwide view can lead to more inclusive decision-making and strategies.
Immigration is all about the inward movement of people. However, family reunification, which lies at its core, plays a pivotal role in promoting greater inclusivity as it embodies a fundamental commitment to human values and social cohesion.
The Department of Justice’s family reunification policy recognises the intrinsic importance of keeping families together and facilitates the reunification of spouses, children and other dependents with their loved ones who are relocating to or have established residence in Ireland. Having a streamlined family sponsorship process like we do in Ireland ensures that immigrants can contribute to their new employer without the burden of family separation. This not only fosters emotional well-being by preserving familial bonds, but it also contributes to the overall stability and integration of immigrants into their new workplace.
Additionally, under Ireland’s family reunification policy, spouses and de-facto partners of certain immigration permission holders (e.g. a spouse or de-facto partner of a critical skills employment permit holder) are granted permission to work in Ireland which is contingent upon their spouse’s / partner’s permission to work in Ireland. It also provides accessible educational opportunities for family members.
Therefore, family reunification can have a profound impact on fostering a sense of belonging and inclusivity for the family as a whole, as it also contributes to the integration of immigrants into their adopted communities.
Language and third level courses
Another way Irish immigration law facilitates the integration of international employees is through immigration permissions which may be sought and obtained by international students undertaking third level and English language courses in Ireland.
Many international students come to Ireland to either learn English or further their studies by undertaking a third level qualification. The consequent student permissions available to these international students allow them to either further their studies or enter the workforce on foot of being granted further permissions under the Department of Justice’s third level graduate programme – the purpose for which is to grant non-EEA national third level graduates permission to work in Ireland for a period of time so that they may find employment for which an employment permit may be granted.
These kinds of programmes again play a pivotal role in supporting the integration of international employees in the workforces of many companies in Ireland with the result of further enriching the workforce with a more diverse set of skills, and further promoting DE&I within a company.
Whilst an unfortunate reality in recent times, global mobility can also involve relocating individuals who are seeking asylum or international protection. Ireland’s humanitarian values extend to its immigration policies, making it a welcoming destination for individuals fleeing oppression or seeking international protection and enabling those individuals to take up employment here. Supporting such individuals within the workforce, and being able to facilitate them through our immigration system, aligns with a company's commitment to DE&I.
Immigration law endeavours to provide equality in both opportunity and access to professionals and families. But it also provides an essential source of diversity for a country. Ireland’s employment permit system and business immigration solutions can be a valuable tool for maximising diversity goals and advancing DE&I initiatives within a business’s global mobility solutions.
At Lewis Silkin Ireland, we advise a wide array of industries and recognise the profound influence immigration law and policy can have on the success of global operations. By embracing immigration policies that attract diverse global talent, promote family reunification, provide education opportunities and offer international assignment programmes, companies can enrich their workforce with diverse perspectives and experiences, thereby fostering and strengthening their DE&I initiatives and goals.
For more information, please contact Declan Groarke at Declan.Groarke@LewisSilkin.com or at +353 1 566 9877.
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