Maltese workers work 10 hours of overtime a week

Malta, Austria, Ireland, Portugal and UK report highest average hours of overtime worked

Malta, Austria, Ireland, Portugal and the UK have reported the greatest average numbers of overtime hours, according to a report published by European Working Conditions Observatory (EWCO).

Data covering the period 2012-2019 shows average overtime of around 10 hours per week in Malta, one of 13 EU countries which fully reports overtime statistics.

The Maltese work even more overtime than workers in the UK where in 2017 employees working overtime would typically do 6.4 hours per week of overtime.

The highest rate of employees reporting overtime is found in the public sector, which includs public administration, education, health, social work and defence.

Maltese law states that overtime cannot exceed a weekly average of 48 hours over a period of 17 weeks unless the employee gives consent in writing. Despite the higher rate of overtime in Malta, overtime is “well regulated by legislation and company agreements, and is therefore not a contentious subject”.

But the statistics do not include groups for whom the protections provided for in the regulations are waived or adjusted. The most commonly affected group is senior managers, who are either exempt from regulations or have specific rules that apply to them – as is the case in Cyprus, Finland, France, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Norway and Sweden. This exemption is provided for in Article 17 of the Working Time Directive, which permits derogations in the case of ‘managing executives or other persons with autonomous decision-taking powers’.

Statistics also do not include workers in the gig economy who in Malta are “mostly third-country nationals working in the food delivery sector and taxi services”.

EWCO refers to reports in MaltaToday that “there are indications that many food couriers work around 60–70 hours per week, earning only around €1,500, since they need to give around 50% of their earnings to the recruitment company that found them the job.”

The General Workers’ Union (GWU) is described as “the most vociferous of the unions on the issue”, by denouncing working conditions of those workers are akin to ‘slave labour’, since they are unprotected and classed as neither self-employed nor employees.

The report warns that the COVID-19 crisis further endangered workers, as they were encouraged to work overtime to compensate for loss of productivity, while employers were reluctant to hire additional staff in a climate of economic uncertainty. “As the remote workforce grows, how working hours are recorded is changing, with additional hours often constituting ‘grey overtime’ – invisible work that takes place at the blurred boundaries between working life and private life.”

EWCO reports a heightened focus in Malta on the right to disconnect, with trade unions arguing that more workers are ending up working remotely in excess of their usual working hours without any sort of compensation or protection for their mental wellbeing.

A survey on the right to disconnect, carried out in 2017 by the trade union confederation FOR.U.M., further substantiated these claims: 97% of all respondents worked after hours, while 95% checked their emails at weekends and 82% checked their emails during family time.