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Work-Life Balance for Parents and Carers

Through Legal Notice 201 of 2022, The Work-Life Balance for Parents and Carers Regulations, Malta has implemented the EU Directive 2019/1158 on Work-Life Balance for parents and carers, which has come into force today, the 2nd of August 2022.

The Regulations set out minimum standards and requirements with the objective of achieving gender equality in labour market opportunities and treatment, and provides the following rights to all workers, men and women, who have an employment relationship:

a. Paternity Leave – rights available to fathers or equivalent second parents

  • Paid Paternity Leave of 10 working days, to be taken immediately after the birth or adoption of the worker’s child.
  • Paternity Leave applies to all workers, irrespective of their qualifications or length of service, and irrespective of the worker’s marital or family status.

b. Parental Leave

  • If a worker has been in employment with the same employer for a continuous period of at least 12 months, then that worker, whether full-time or part-time, and whether the employment is for an indefinite or a fixed term, is entitled to parental leave per child.
  • A notice in writing specifying the beginning and the end of the parental leave must be given by the worker to the employer 2 weeks prior to taking such leave.
  • This leave cannot be suspended by the employer, nor can the employee return to work before the agreed date of resumption of duties, unless otherwise agreed.
  • During parental leave, the worker can apply for promotions opportunities and both the worker and employee are obliged to maintain contact during the period of leave in order to facilitate the return to work following the leave.
  • The minimum period of entitlement can only be derogated from through a collective agreement applicable to the worker or if established in the worker’s contract of service, both with regards less favourable and more favourable periods.
  •  Workers also have the right to request that they take the parental leave in a flexible manner, to which the employer, after considering the needs of the worker and employer, shall respond, and shall give reasons for the refusal in writing within 2 weeks from the request.
  • In the case of parents with a disability or parents with children with a disability, any arrangement concerning parental leave which goes counter to the provisions of the Equal Opportunities (Persons with Disability) Act shall be considered null and void.

c. Paid Parental Leave

  • Every parent has the individual entitlement to paid parental leave on the grounds of birth, adoption, child fostering, or legal custody, in such a way as to be able to take care of the child for 4 months until the child reaches the age of 8 years.
  • A notice in writing specifying the beginning and the end of the parental leave must be given by the worker to the employer 2 weeks prior to taking such leave.
  • This parental leave is payable for the period of 2 months, at the same rate established for the sickness benefit entitlement under the Social Security Act, as follows: (a) 50% of entitlement paid where the leave was granted at a time when the child had not attained 4 years of age, (b) 25% of entitlement paid where the leave was granted at a time when the child had not attained 4 years of age but has not attained the age of 6, (c) 25% of entitlement where the leave was granted at a time when the child has attained 6 years but has not attained the age of 8.
  • In the case of parental leave granted to foster parents, the rate of payment shall be the same as that established for parents not being foster parents, on condition that payment of allowance will be given as per parent applying for parental leave and not for each child fostered.
  • The 2 months of parental leave cannot be transferred and unless agreed otherwise, shall be availed of in established periods of at least 2 weeks each.
  • Paternal and parental leave commence when employer is provided with a birth certificate or evidence that the couple have legal custody of the child or proof of placement in case of fostering.

d. Carer’s Leave

  • Each worker has the right to unpaid carers’ leave of 5 working days per year upon presentation of medical proof that a relative or person living in the same household is suffering from an illness and is in need of care.

Flexible Working Arrangements

  • Workers with children up to the age of 8 years, and carers, have the right to request flexible working arrangements for caring purposes to which the employer shall respond, and shall give reasons for the refusal in writing within 2 weeks from the request.

Employment Rights

  • At the end of paternal, parental, and carers’ leave, workers are entitled to return to their jobs or to equivalent posts on terms and conditions which are no less favourable to them, and to benefit from any improvement in working conditions to which they would have been entitled had they not taken the leave.
  • Any dismissal on the grounds that the worker has applied for, or has taken, paternal, parental, carers’ leave, or time off from work on grounds of force majeure, or have exercised the right to request flexible working arrangements, shall be unlawful. However, notice of termination of employment in accordance with the Employment and Industrial Relations Act may be given by the employer or the employee during parental leave.

This article was written by Dr Maria Attard. The author wishes to thank legal trainee Mr Marvic Grech for his assistance in the drafting of this article.

For more information, please contact Dr Ivan Gatt and Dr Maria Attard.

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to impart legal advice and readers are asked to seek verification of statements made before acting on them.