The Malta Independent 13 August 2022, Saturday

'Improve the work-life balance law', organisations tell parliamentary secretary in letter

Friday, 5 August 2022, 08:21 Last update: about 8 days ago

Nine organisations in support of parental rights, workers’ rights and equality between men and women have sent a letter to the Hon. Dr Andy Ellul, Parliamentary Secretary for Social Dialogue, who was responsible for the transposition of the European Directive on work-life balance.

In this letter, the organisations asked for a wider consultation on the Directive with the aim of significantly improving the current weak law which came into effect in early August.

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A statement issued by the organisations said that they expressed their disappointment on three counts: First and foremost, the current transposition of the Directive is not going to achieve its original goal - that of enabling Maltese workers to successfully combine work with family and care responsibilities. Secondly, these new laws only provide the bare minimum required by the EU Directive. “Why isn’t the Maltese Government delivering an ambitious vision which inspires and which will truly improves workers’ quality of life and has a positive impact on Maltese society?”, they asked. Finally, the consultation was held behind closed doors for three whole years, in a spirit wholly undemocratic, without consulting the relevant organisations and academics.

The law can be massively improved to strengthen work-life balance in the workforce. The current transposition of the law is letting down Maltese society; those workers who are parents and/or have caring responsibilities, those who need their family to care for them, future Maltese generations and those who want to see increased equality between men and women.

The organisations presented five examples of how the law can be strengthened. Starting with the ten days of paternal leave which are being provided at full pay, the group is questioning why this leave needs to be taken immediately after the birth or adoption of the child. The current implementation fails to acknowledge that all families have different needs.

The second element of the law which can be improved concerns parental leave. Of the four months available, only two will be paid, and this is at the sick-pay rate of €21.85 daily. Why are parents going to be paid at sick-pay level when they are perfectly healthy and when they are providing a service to society with their care? Does the Government realise that this money will not go far in a period when the family’s expenses shoot up, especially with the recent increase in the cost of living? Unless this rate is revised, few parents will afford to take this leave. Specifically, few fathers will afford to do so, which means that it will remain women’s responsibility to provide unpaid or poorly paid care for the family.

The third element of the law which needs improvement also concerns parental leave. The law states that the paid portion of parental leave cannot be used all at once. Only one month can be used until the child is 4 years of age. The organisations are asking for flexibility in this regard so that the paid portion of parental leave can be taken according to the family's needs.

The carers leave measure, wherein workers who have caring responsibilities can take up to five days of unpaid leave, also needs to be addressed. Once again we see the Government taking those workers who are providing caring services for granted. This leave should be paid adequately and fairly. The Government needs to stop propagating the charity model.

Finally, the government also needs to revisit the measure which gives working parents of children less than eight years of age and workers who have caring responsibilities the right to ask for flexible work arrangements. The measure sets no criteria about which requests should be met. Moreover, the fact that the measure is only applicable to parents and those with caring responsibilities, again shows that the Government is out of touch with today’s society. This right to request flexible work arrangements should be available to all.

All of the above suggestions clearly indicate that the measures which have been implemented are nothing but a tick box exercise so that Malta conforms to the Directive’s requirements. The organisations are making a plea to the Government to strengthen and improve the current law to build a better future for Maltese society. The organisations also make it clear that they are waiting for a reply from the Hon. Dr Andy Ellul to explain to them and to the Maltese population what steps will be taken to improve the current law on work-life balance.

 

Organisations

 

Moviment Graffitti

aditus foundation

Alleanza Kontra l-Faqar

Integra Foundation

Malta Women’s Lobby

MGRM - Malta LGBTIQ Rights Movement

NPSPD - National Parents’ Society for Persons with Disability

Women’s Rights Foundation

ADHD Malta

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