Fabian Demicoli

The Adoption of Family Friendly Measures at the Maltese Work Place


Gone are the
days when the majority of families had only one breadwinner per household
wherein the men work and in turn their wives look after their children and
perform all the domestic chores. With today's lifestyle of both men and women
struggling to cope in creating the ideal balance between job and family
responsibilities, the European Union felt the need to boost and raise awareness
of the so called "Family Friendly Measures" for an improved way of life and
better working conditions of its citizens.

This
matter had been given considerable importance at European Union level in order
to enhance participation in the labour market and iron out the rising quandary
of low birth rates in a number of European Union Member States. In this
respect, the Government of Malta is following suit by promoting the adoption of
family friendly measures by bringing into force various Maltese Subsidiary
Legislations and affecting a number of amendments to

employment
legislation.

This
move has been deemed by many as
being essential due to the fact that according to statistics published by
EUROSTAT, Malta is one of the EU28 with the lowest rate of working females.
However, on a more positive note, the above mentioned rate has increased to
49.8% in 2013 when compared to 32.1% in the year 2001.

For the aforesaid reasons, the
Government of Malta as an employer has, in the past, and still is, setting an
example to the private sector by granting a variety of family friendly measures
to the public sector and service which include:

 

  • Adoption leave;
  • Birth leave;
  • Maternity leave;
  • Parental leave;
  • Paternity leave;

 

As part of the initiative in
promoting family friendly measures, the Public Administrate ion HR Of f ice has
published, on 16th August, 2012, the "Family – Friendly Measures Handbook" in
line with the policy of the Government of Malta which manual is applicable to
all public employees.

Nevertheless, in instances were these
family friendly measures do not form an integral part of Maltese Legislation,
such as working flexible hours and working on reduced hours, any requests made
by employees, may only be acceded to following evaluations and discussions
between the Director (in the case of public service) or Employer (in the case
of private sector) and the employee concerned and on condition that the
exigencies of the service or company are not deterred. Notwithstanding the
above, the key scope of this manual is to act as a management tool for Human
Resources Managers and Directors a like in assisting them in implementing the
above mentioned family friendly measures whilst motivating and supporting
employees in reaching the perfect equilibrium

between work and family.

Therefore, by setting an example to
the private sector, the Government of Malta is striving in reminding all
Maltese employers that ‘family' is the core of our small nation. In relation to
the family friendly measures applicable to employees working within the public
service, such measures are regulated by the Public Service Management Code
which code is binding and enforceable on public officers. On the other hand,
the following family friendly measures which are applicable to workers engaged
in the private sector are regulated by national legislation as explained here
below:

 

Adoption
Leave

This family friendly measure is
regulated by Regulations 4, 5 and 5A of Subsidiary Legislation 452.78 of the
Laws of Malta which was brought into force by means of Legal Notice 225 of
20003 on 2nd September,2003. These Regulations apply to all employees whether
working on fulltime

or part-time basis and irrespective
of whether such are employed for a definite or indefinite term however,
provided that the employee making such a request has been in employment with
the same employer for a continuous period of a minimum of twelve months. As per
Regulation 4(1) of

the aforementioned subsidiary
legislation, adoption leave is granted in the form of parental leave whereby
employees of both genders have an individual right to be granted unpaid
parental leave on the basis of adoption, fostering or legal custody of a child
in order to enable such employee to look after the said child. Nevertheless, in
order for an

employee to avail of such a right,
the child who is to be adopted or fostered must fall within the age bracket of
4 months up to the age of eight years. The employee concerned is also obliged
to notify, in writing, his employer of the former's intention to apply for
parental leave at least three weeks in advance.

 

Birth Leave

This family friendly measure is defined
in article 2(1) of the

Minimum Special Leave Entitlement
Regulations (Subsidiary Legislation 452.101 of the Laws of Malta ) as meaning
"leave without loss of wages granted to a father on the occasion of the birth
of his child". In accordance with article 1(2) of the aforementioned
legislation, such leave is granted to employees who have just become fathers
and who work on a full-time basis. The scope of the said legislation is to
create minimum standards which may be altered so long as these are more
favourable than the minimum standards established by law. Regulation 4(1)(b)
provides that employees are entitled to a minimum of "one working day of birth
leave". This regulation further provides that such leave "…shall be availed
of on the next working day after the occurrence of the relevant event".

Such condition may, however, be
varied so long as the employee requests a postponement of up to two weeks
following the event due to compelling circumstances. However, employees working
within certain sectors for instance the laundries industry, the construction
industry and the private security industry, such are entitled to two days birth
leave with full pay.

Moreover, Regulation 6(1)(a) of
Subsidiary Legislation 452.79 also provides that part-time employees are
entitled to pro-rata birth leave.

 

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