In response to a series of new family leave measures announced on Tuesday as part of Malta’s obligations as an EU Member State, the Malta Employers’ Association (MEA) pointed out that the EU Work-Life Balance Directive does not state that such expenses should be “borne by employers”.

On Tuesday, Government announced changes to paternity leave, parental leave and added a new tier called carers’ leave. Paternity leave sees new fathers’ paid leave allotment on the birth of their child go up from one day to 10 paid in accordance with the individual’s salary.

For parental leave, which was previously four months unpaid, as from 2nd August, this will be two months paid under the National Parental Leave rate, and two months unpaid. Parents will also be allowed to transfer their leave between them and have the first eight years of their child’s life to make use of it.

Government will be paying the cost of the new leave allotments until end 2023, following which such costs will be paid by the employer.

The MEA said that “although it appreciated the fact that Government, up till now, has generally stuck to the minimum entitlements of the Work-Life Balance Directive to cause minimum disruption to workplaces, the costs of these measures will still be carried by employers from 2024 onwards.

“The Directive does not state that expenses related to work-life balance measures should be borne by employers. In fact, in many EU Member States it is government that pays for such social benefits. The cost to employers is not limited to payment for these benefits, but also the disruption and expenses incurred in replacing absent employees.”

Ignored recommendations

The MEA also called out Government for ignoring recommendations made jointly by employer bodies, “including the one where it was proposed to eliminate the transferability of parental leave in the interest of achieving a better gender balance.

“As things stand, there is the option that this entitlement will be shifted on female employees. It will also be difficult for employers to administer such leave.”  

The MEA also expressed its reservations about the repeated emphasis, during the press conference, that this is ‘only the beginning’.

“Government should state exactly what its medium and long-term plans are in this regard so that employers will be forewarned and may plan accordingly. 

“Vague statements only give rise to speculation and uncertainty which are, of course, detrimental to investment and initiative.

“They also raise expectations during a period when many companies are struggling to regain lost business due to the pandemic, and are also assailed by inflationary and labour-market pressures which are unprecedented during the past forty years.”

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