Employment conditions in Malta during the COVID-19 pandemic – Know Your Rights
As a temporary measure due to the COVID-19 pandemic, employers may seek permission from the Director General of Industrial & Employment Relations to temporarily change the applicable conditions of work their workforce. The Director General of Industrial & Employment Relations, however, may only accede to such a request if all employees, or their representatives, agree to the proposed changes, in terms of Article 42 of the Employment & Industrial Relations Act, Chapter 452 of the Laws of Malta.
Employers employing 50 employees or more shall undertake the practical arrangements required to allow employees to exercise their right to adequate information and consultation. If there is no recognised trade union, employers are to ensure that the information and consultation of employees is carried out through an elected or appointed representative of the employees, and this by means of a secret ballot from amongst all employees.
Employers may resort to ‘forced leave’ so long as they provide a written justification to their employees explaining the reason for the application of such forced leave. Such written statement is to be given to employees before the forced leave is applied.
Except in those situations expressly stipulated within the Employment & Industrial Relations Act (Chapter 452 of the Laws of Malta), employers are not allowed to make any wages deductions nor enter into any contract with their employees authorising any deductions to be made from the wages to be paid to the said employees.
In such times of economical distress, the weekly working hours of the employees may be reduced as long as the affected employees and/or their representatives agree with the proposed reduction of their working hours.Nevertheless, it is important to note that a full-time basis contract of employment cannot be transformed into a part-time contract.
All those employees whose employment becomes terminated due to redundancy ought to be re-engaged by the employer if the post they formerly occupied becomes available once again within a period of one year from the date of termination of employment due to redundancy.
If a place of work has temporarily ceased to operate due to enforcement by the Government or due to a reduction in business, the employer is to place employees on forced leave prior to proceeding to unpaid leave once the vacation leave entitlement has been exhausted. During such periods of unpaid leave due to business closure, vacation leave entitlement shall not accrue, irrespective of whether the employer has applied for the Covid-19 Wage Supplement Government Grant to pay employees during the time of business closure.
Quarantine-leave is only to be given to employees who are undergoing obligatory quarantine as advised by the Superintendent of Public Health. If an employee is obliged to undergo quarantine on more than one occasion,the said employee shall be eligible for quarantine-leave for each instance that he or she is obliged to undergo quarantine. Such leave is to be given in addition to vacation leave and is not to be construed as part of vacation leave.
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