Updated | Vacation leave rules retracted after employers boycott employment board

New annual leave rules benefit workers by limiting shutdown days or revocation powers • Government has suspended the legal notices after employers said they will boycott meetings

Updated at 8.30pm with government announcement

The Equality Ministry has retracted new work condition regulations after four employer organisations said they will not attend meetings of the Employment Relations Board in protest at the introduction of new vacation leave rules.

In a statement this evening, the government said it was suspending the legal notices as a sign of goodwill. The ministry said these rules will be discussed with the social partners as part of wider discussions being held to improve work conditions.

Employers were furious over the new rules that came into force on 10 August.

The move attracted criticism from the NGO Moviment Graffitti, which said it was disappointed that these regulations had been retracted. “It is shameful that employers’ associations are opposing these common-sense regulations aimed at ensuring the very basic workers’ right to days of rest and to information about one’s pay,” spokesperson Andre Callus said.

“Many workers in Malta are suffering from low pay and bad conditions of work. Employers have consistently vetoed any effort to improve the conditions of workers and have even opposed, successfully, a raise in Malta’s meagre minimum wage. Regulations ensuring certainty for workers with regards to their days of rest, and the provision of clear information about their pay, are the very bare minimum for safeguarding workers’ rights. The fact that employers’ associations are forcefully opposing even these very basic provisions goes to show their disregard for their workers, without whom they would not be making a cent of their profits.”

Moviment Graffitti called for the regulations to be immediately and said the government ought to prioritise workers’ interests and not bend to the will of a lobby group “that is seeking to maximise profits at the cost of the workers’ basic wellbeing.”

Earlier

The Chamber of SMEs (GRTU), the Chamber of Commerce, the Malta Employers Association and the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association said they were dismayed by the introduction of four legal notices related to industrial and employment relations.

“These legal notices were introduced without the knowledge of and any form of consultation with employer bodies on 14 August, on the eve of Santa Marija, period commonly associated with shutdowns,” the employers said.

Under the new system, annual leave allotment will continue to accrue even during a period in which the employee is on maternity, sickness or injury leave and even when on unpaid leave.

Under the new rules, once granted, leave cannot be revoked under no circumstances whatsoever. Also, employers can only utilise up to 12 working days from the annual leave entitlement for the shutdown period.

“There has been a significant departure from the spirit of healthy social dialogue which existed so far at the ERB. In fact, these four legal notices were never discussed at ERB, a board which was established in the role to advise the Minister concerned on any matter related to conditions of employment, a practice that so far was always observed,” the employers said.

The recently introduced legal notices deal with amendments to the protection of employment in the case of business transfers, temporary agency workers, new regulations on itemised payslips and annual leave.

“Without the necessary consultation the legal notices are going to give rise to severe disruptions in the labour market. We are officially requesting the government to put these four legal notices on hold until they are brought forward for discussion at ERB level subject to any amendments which will be proposed during this period.”

The employers said this should have been the procedure to be followed. “We’re surprised that in spite of their numerous attempts to create a balanced environment for social dialogue in the country, the authorities have decided to do away with consulting the main stakeholders represented on this board.”

New vacation leave regulations

  1. As from January 1, 2019, unless otherwise agreed in any applicable collective agreement, the employer may only utilise up to the equivalent of 12 working days from the annual leave entitlement for the purposes of any type of shutdown, including temporary closure of whole or part of the premises by the employers for bridge holidays or any other short periods of shutdown. Such period must be communicated to employees by the end of January.
     
  2. Once leave from the annual entitlement has been agreed to by the employer and employee, it can only be cancelled if both sides agree.
     
  3. Annual leave shall continue to accrue in favour of an employee during the period when they are on maternity, injury or sick leave. Such provision may apply irrespective of whether this leave is fully paid, partially paid or unpaid.
     
  4. When a public or national holiday falling on a day of work or on a weekly day of rest, not being a Saturday or a Sunday, falls within the period of maternity leave, the employee shall be entitled to the equivalent hours of an additional day of annual leave.
     
  5. Any period of pre-arranged leave coinciding with a period of maternity, sickness or injury leave shall be carried to the subsequent year if such leave could not be availed of during the same year.
     
  6. In case of termination of employment, all the leave accrued during a period of maternity leave, sickness or injury that had not been availed of, must be paid in accordance with the Organisation of Working Time Regulations. Any person who contravenes these provisions is liable to a fine of up to €465.

New payslip regulations

  1. The employer shall be bound to give his employees an itemised payslip either before or on the date when wages are due. Employers contravening these regulations could be liable to a fine of between €500 and €1,165.
     
  2. The itemised payslip must contain, among other things, the total wages paid, the number of normal and overtime hours worked and the respective pay rates for Sundays or public holidays if applicable, the annual leave and sick leave balance to date for that calendar year and any breakdown of any bonuses, allowances and commissions received.
     
  3. Any deduction affected, including national insurance contribution, tax and others, must be included.
     
  4. If the payslip is not given, employers must present proof which exculpates them from any liability beyond reasonable doubt.

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