MEA reveals opinion on extended maternity leave measure

Malta Employers’ Association says that while agreeing with extending maternity leave, government should safeguard employers’ interests and presents proposals to be considered.

Government should protect employers from additional costs resulting from extended maternity leave
Government should protect employers from additional costs resulting from extended maternity leave

The Malta Employers’ Association said it was always in favour of measures to help balance work and life considerations as well as encouraging a higher rate of female participation in the labour force.

According to the Budget 2012, maternity leave is proposed to be extended by two weeks in 2012 and another two weeks in 2013 paid by the government at a rate of €160 per week.

“Any such measures should not come to a cost to employers and should not place more burdens on the already stretched resources of local business endangering the already precarious level of competitiveness further,” the MEA said.

The MEA also said that it recognised demands of new and changing social and economic realities and a paradigm shift also needed to be recognised by employers.

The position of the MEA regarding the extension of maternity leave was based on several principles including that social benefits were to be paid by governments not employers, the government should be responsible for costs incurred by businesses for maternity leave and any measures which incurs indirect costs to businesses should be balanced by counter measures by the government to offset these costs.

Referring to other countries, the MEA said that maternity leave was not paid at full pay, was not paid by the employer –contrary to Malta – and many European countries offer more than 14 weeks maternity leave with strong lobbying at EU level to increase it further.

Referring to Malta’s situation, payment of maternity leave by employers in Malta is also linked to the beneficiary having to work for at least six months after maternity leave and it is often taken the case that employers pay for an additional seven days leave because it is taken for granted that leave is actually 14 weeks in Malta. This assumption results in the business actually paying out the cost for 15 and a half weeks instead of 14.

“Employers are already paying for Family Friendly Measures introduced in the public sector through their tax. It should be noted that no cost-benefit analysis or management audit of such measures and their implementation has been carried out,” the MEA said.

The implementation of such a measure could be viewed as ‘unfair’ on largely female oriented businesses according to the association, resulting in unlevelled ‘playing field’ and increasing the possibility of discrimination against women.

 

The MEA made several proposals in order to safeguard the interest of businesses whilst increasing maternity leave. These were:

1. Maternity leave should be extended to eighteen weeks as announced in the budget

2. Besides the payment for additional weeks of maternity leave, the government should also undertake to pay weeks 12 and 13, in the first year, and weeks 10, 11, 12 and 13 in the second year when the total maternity leave amounts to 18 weeks.

3. Any additional weeks of maternity leave are voluntary and the employee may opt to return to work if she wishes, and if the employer accepts. In such cases, the employer should be notified before maternity leave begins.

4. The Government should commit itself to retain the obligation of the employee to return to work with her employer for at least a year after the period of maternity leave. If removed by imposition from the EU, the burden of all maternity leave payments will no longer be the responsibility of employers and will be immediately passed on to government.

5. Government should commit itself to pay for any other measure which may be introduced in future.

6. Employers should be presented with a plan to completely phase out the burden of paid maternity leave on companies over a number of years.

7. The right to the accumulation of sick leave, vacation leave and injury leave during maternity leave should be removed.

8. The identification of a number of performance indicators that allow employers to track the effectiveness of the measure.

9. The government should carry out a cost-benefit analysis and a management audit of family friendly measures being implemented in the public sector.

 

 “After careful study and deliberation, MEA has based these proposals on the conviction that if they are implemented, the extension of maternity leave will be cost neutral to employers and will be beneficial to female employees both in their role as mothers and also in their career prospects,” the MEA said.

More in Budget 2012