Maternity leave fund set up to ‘eliminate gender discrimination’

Every local employer will have to pool funds into national maternity leave fund that has been set up to encourage more women to enter the workforce

Helena Dalli and Edward Scicluna launch the national maternity leave fund
Helena Dalli and Edward Scicluna launch the national maternity leave fund

A national maternity leave fund, which every local employer will have to pool into, has been set up to discourage gender discrimination.

Launching the fund, civil liberties minister Helena Dalli explained that the scheme was launched to eliminate chances of discrimination against job seeking women.

“Some employers might not select a woman for a particular job, simply because they would have to pay for their maternity leave if they get pregnant,” she said.

"Through this fund, all employers will have to contribute to the maternity leave system whether or not they employ women.”

She added that until now, employers were responsible to pay salaries of their female employees for fourteen weeks after she would have given birth.

“Under the new system, all employers will now be paying a minimum contribution for each of their employees, regardless of their gender.”

Dalli said that the fund therefore aims to encourage further social equality, to encourage more women to enter the workforce, and to encourage the practice of the law against gender discrimination.

Finance minister Edward Scicluna said that the scheme aimed to promote an image and idea that women should not be reduced to potential figures.

Scicluna said that a study into the impact of an extension of maternity leave by four months had revealed that there would be a 9% increase in female participation if the time period was extended.

"Resistance to this extension was based on the fact that Malta was the only country (in the EU) where employers had to foot the bill for a woman's maternity leave," Scicluna added.

Scicluna said that employers would be paying 0.3% weekly contribution from all employees’ social security contributions, and that the contribution would go into a trust fund. He added that penalties for the system would be similar to National Insurance systems.

He also clarified that the new fund would not effect employees’ social security contributions in any way and that employees would not see any more of their pays going into the system.

The fund will be overseen by a board composed of three employers’ and one trade unions’ representatives, along with various government representatives among others.

Scicluna added that the fund will only be financing the reimbursement of wages and salaries of those employed in the private sector, and that the government would continue to pay maternity leave of those female employees within the public sector.

“The government will continue paying for those weeks of leave that a woman is entitled to over and above the aforementioned 14 weeks, and this payment will be made for all employees, irrespective of whether they are employed in the private or public sector.”

Dalli added that discussions about paternity leave were on-going, and that the new system hsd come into effect on 6th July 2015.

Quoting Eurostat figures, Scicluna added that the current government's efforts  had already pushed female participation (between the ages of 25 and 40) from 40% to 63.3%.