Maltese and EU workers, or those who employ them, will not face any penalties for failing to have a tourism skills pass when the scheme is rolled out to include them, according to the new legislation.

Last week, the government announced that those from outside the EU hoping to get jobs in the tourism and hospitality sectors will need to have a skills pass from May, while those already in the country will need to have theirs by next year.

The requirement will then be rolled out to all EU and Maltese workers in the industry from the start of 2026.

However, while those from outside the EU who fail to acquire the pass could have their work permits refused, workers from Malta or elsewhere in the bloc who don’t get the pass look set to get off scot-free.

The legal notice establishing the scheme does not list any penalties for those from Malta and elsewhere in the EU who fail to do so.

There are also no penalties listed for employers who fail to ensure their staff have the pass.

But when asked about the lack of sanctions against Maltese and EU workers, or employers, Tourism Minister Clayton Bartolo said only that fines would be introduced if needed.

Tourism Minister Clayton Bartolo says he doesn’t want the industry to abide by the skills pass requirement “because it is afraid of fines”. Video: Matthew Mirabelli

“Why don’t we talk about fines further down the line – let’s start implementing [the scheme] first and raise the quality; that’s where I want to get to,” he said.

“If we need them, they’ll be there. I’m not saying there won’t be fines... But let’s have a forward-looking industry which looks towards quality and sustainability,” said Bartolo.

“Ultimately, I don’t want the industry to do these things because it’s afraid of fines but because it believes in what we’re doing.”

He added the scheme was being rolled out “one step at a time” to avoid shocking the industry, calling it “the reform of a generation.”

The skills pass was first floated in October after a plan to introduce it was presented to industry stakeholders. Speaking at the time, Bartolo said the “time for a free-for-all system is over. We need to get people with the skills we need as a country”.

I’m not saying there won’t be fines... But let’s have a forward-looking industry which looks towards quality and sustainability

Costing up to €475, the pass was originally due to be introduced in January but was postponed following concerns by the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association that there was too little time for the industry to comply with requirements.

It was formally introduced last week and will be needed to work in hotels, bars, restaurants, kitchen staff, housekeeping and front office posts

From Monday, non-EU workers seeking jobs in the tourism and hospitality industry can apply for the mandatory online course in English language proficiency, customer care, hospitality and what Malta offers tourists. 

The course will be taught by two AI chatbots called ‘Ryan’ and ‘Clara’.

From May 6, online verification interviews will be carried out before the pass is issued.

Candidates will also need to be approved by Jobsplus and the police before receiving a one-year work permit.

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