The Malta Independent 23 February 2024, Friday
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Women’s lobby asks: When children are sick, what should parents do?

Friday, 1 December 2023, 11:35 Last update: about 4 months ago

The women's lobby is asking the government to find a solution for working parents whose children fall sick, after the Malta Employers Association said it is against the idea of having parents utilise their sick leave allotment to take care of their unwell children.

Whilst noting this objection and the concerns of the MEA, the Malta Women’s Lobby is demanding solutions from the government to solve the recurring problem faced by working parents when their children get sick, a statement said Friday.

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Currently, the law in Malta allows just 15 hours of urgent family leave for such situations.  In practice this can mean that if a child is sick for four days in January, the parents run out of such leave between them for the rest of the year, the lobby said. 

What are the parents supposed to do in such situations for the rest of the year? Leave the sick child alone at home and go to work for lack of leave? Send them to childcare, even if they are running a fever or have a contagious disease?

"We regret to note that successive governments in Malta have adopted an unrealistic, penny-pinching and insensitive approach to granting decent and adequate family related leave for working parents in the private sector," the statement said.

When compared to other EU countries, the 15 hours a year of urgent family leave granted in Malta are, at best, laughable and, at worst, dismal. In Sweden urgent family leave can stretch up to 120 days (with the government picking up 80% of the cost), in Poland 60 days, and in Portugal 30 days (not hours).  The difference could not be starker. Which is also why it is hardly surprising that Malta is experiencing the lowest birth rate in the EU, the lobby added.

The government needs to do away with delaying tactics and should commit to realistic and emphatic family leave for working parents, by offering pragmatic and workable solutions to parents who are caring for sick children. We would also like to add that such measures need to be extended to families who care for sick relatives. “Urgent family leave” needs to be defined for what it truly represents.

Half-measures, like the ones proposed, to double the urgent family leave to 30 hours per year, are unrealistic and disrespectful, and will not work.  They are simply insufficient and defy all logic.

The government needs to find evidence-based solutions that work for both the employers and the employees.

 

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