The Malta Independent 8 December 2022, Thursday
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Civil society organisations call for improved work-life balance law

Monday, 3 October 2022, 18:46 Last update: about 3 months ago

A number of civil society organisations representing parents, carers, workers and those working for gender equality and the rights of LGBTQI+ people are demanding that the Work-Life Balance law be revisited with the aim of improving it, a statement by Moviment Graffitti read.

"The law - which came into effect in August 2022 - was a result of the European Union's effort to improve work-life balance for parents and carers, to encourage men and women to share parenting /caring responsibilities more equally and increase participation of women in the labour market. Each country was required to implement legislation in line with the EU's Directive."

"We are disappointed that, during the 3 years from the Directive's approval in 2019, the government has not even bothered to consult with civil society. The Legal Notice was never issued for public consultation and when the August deadline came, the Government only made the least possible changes in the law, as stipulated by the Directive. We believe that the current law will fail to reach its intended purpose. Consequently, we are asking that the law be improved - in consultation with civil society and relevant experts - in five areas."

Firstly, they are asking for better remuneration of parental leave. "Currently, parents get 2 months of Parental Leave at sick pay level; €21.85 a day. Expecting parents to subsist on this pay when family costs shoot up and with the current cost of living rise is unrealistic. This rate needs to be improved drastically."

Secondly, they are asking for remuneration for carers' leave. "Currently, carers get 5 days of unpaid Caring Leave yearly. The idea that caring should be provided for free perpetuates the charity model towards disability and those in need of care. Moreover, not everyone will afford to take up this leave with the current increase in the cost of living. Carers' Leave should be paid in full."

Thirdly, they are asking for longer and more flexible Parental Leave. "Fathers have access to 10 days of paid Paternal Leave. They also have access to 2 months of Parental Leave at sick pay level and another 2 unpaid months of Parental Leave, which they need to split and share with their partner. It is often the case that the mother ends up taking this Leave. We want to see a longer period of Parental Leave at full pay to truly encourage and enable parents to share caring responsibilities. "

"On a related note, the 2 weeks of Paternity Leave at full pay can only be taken right after the child's birth/adoption.  Moreover, the current senseless restrictions on the take-up of Parental leave - whereby parents can only make use of this leave in a staggered manner until the child is 8 years of age - should be removed and parents should be allowed, if they wish, to make use of this leave all at once. Every birth, adoption and family is different, so flexibility on when to take Paternity and Parental Leave is important. "

Fourthly, they are calling for better guidelines for flexible work arrangements, and an extension to all. "Working parents have a right to request flexible work. What will happen if the employer refuses to offer flexibility? Who will decide if the request is fair or not?  And why restrict it only to parents of children who are 8 years old?  All workers need flexibility and this restriction will create an 'us' and 'them' mentality which will put those requesting Flexible Work Arrangements in a bad light."

They said that this law affects many workers who will continue to find it difficult to combine their work and caring responsibilities.

"The current law does not encourage a more just distribution of caring responsibilities between partners or among family members. This law needs to be revisited, and the Government needs to keep in mind that workers are also parents, have elderly relatives, small children or persons with disabilities to care for. Some people's caring responsibilities do not end when children reach a certain age. The government needs to remember that for carers who do not have anyone to share their caring responsibilities with, such as when they have one parent or have no siblings, finding a balance between work and care is even more difficult. The government also needs to keep in mind that workers' and carers' quality of life is jeopardised when their responsibilities do not leave them time for personal care - this will be to the detriment of themselves and society."

The organisations sent a letter to MP Andy Ellul in August expressing their concerns. "In his reply, Dr Ellul disagreed with all the points raised but said that the Government intends to build on measures such as these to improve quality of life. The organisations are demanding that he put words to action sooner rather than later. Our families deserve better."

The press conference was organised by Moviment Graffitti and endorsed by Aditus, Malta Women's Lobby, the Maltese Daddy father's lobby, MGRM, National Parents Society of Persons with Disability (NPSPD), Women's Right Foundation.

 


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