David Casa decries government's minimal effort in implementing Work-Life Balance directive

PN MEP David Casa, who worked on the EU directive that sets minimum standards for leave conditions to be enjoyed by new parents, welcomes Malta's adoption of the rules but says only bare minimum was implemented

Nationalist MP David Casa, who was the European Parliament's lead negotiator of the Work-Life Balance Directive
Nationalist MP David Casa, who was the European Parliament's lead negotiator of the Work-Life Balance Directive

Updated at 3:57pm with Labour Party reaction

David Casa welcomed the Maltese government's adoption of the Work-Life Balance Directive but lamented that only the bare minimum was impleneted.

The Nationalist MEP had worked on the directive that sets minimum standards for leave conditions to be enjoyed by new parents. The new rules adopted in Malta will see fathers getting 10 days of paid leave, among other benefits.

Casa said the directive was aimed at addressing inequalities between men and women, whilst promoting a culture of shared responsibility.  He said that the legal notice brought "drastic change" to the current legislation, as currently fathers only get one day of paid leave.

"This is an important step for a country like Malta, and I’m proud I was responsible for it. Fathers can now spend more time and be close to the baby and the mother after birth," Casa said during a press conference at PN headquarters. He was flanked by MPs Ivan Castillo and Graziella Attard Previ.

Under the legal notice published by the government on 12 July, fathers are set to receive 10 days of paid leave, parental leave will be split into two months of paid and two months of unpaid leave, carers will benefit from five days of unpaid leave and parents will have the right to request flexible working arrangements for the first eight years of the child's life.

However, Casa said the new measures introduced by Malta were the minimum set by the EU directive. He also criticised the fact that the paid parental leave was set to a minimum wage, and not at full pay.

"Unfortunately, it was just a minimal effort. The directive was concluded in 2019 and the government dragged its feet till the last minute. The government did not engage in proper consultation with the social partners," Casa said.

The new rules received mixed reviews from the social partners. Employer bodies welcomed the government's decision to stick to the minimum entitlements of the EU Directive but complained that the costs of these measures will be carried by employers from 2024 onwards. However, various lobby groups, including the Women's Lobby and Graffitti, decried government's decision to opt for the bare minimum, which they insist will not be enough to remove the disparity between women and men in the eyes of employers.

"Businesses and SMEs are being asked to pay for these measures. Leave is restricted and inflexible. And parents of babies born before August 2 are being excluded from these rights for years to come," Casa said. "I welcome the implementation of the directive but it leaves a lot of questions and disappointments. We could have had a stronger law. Hopefully, the government regards it as a social service and not as imposed by European directives."

PN MP Graziella Attard Previ said the government procrastinated on the law till the last minute, pointing out that it had to become law by the end of August.

"It is not true that the government is implementing it because it was an electoral pledge. Would the government have introduced the law if it wasn’t a European directive?" Attard Previ said.

She said that if the government truly believed in the law, it would have gone beyond the minimum imposed by the directive. Attard Previ also questioned whether the government consulted with the families and said that a "one-size-fits-all" approach was wrong.

PN MP Ivan Castillo said that the legal notice was rushed and that it was "conveniently" published when parliament was closed.

He also argued that the fact that parental leave was not paid in full, further discouraged parents from having children, in a country with the lowest fertility rate in the EU.

Labour Party says it consistently improved workers' rights

The Labour Party hit back at the PN, insisting it had consistently improved workers' rights. It said this contrasted with decisions taken by previous Nationalist governments that reduced workers' leave.

"It is ironic that achievements PN MEPs boast about suddenly become bad when implemented in Malta. It is ironic that these arguments are being made by those who had supported the reduction of workers' leave days," the PL said, with reference to a decision taken in 2009 by the Gonzi administration to stop awarding additional leave days when public holidays came on a weekend. That policy was reversed over a span of years during Labour's second term in 2013.



The PL added that government safeguarded jobs over the past couple of years in the face of a global crisis caused by the pandemic.