The introduction of a measure enabling parents to call in sick when their children are unwell has hit a snag as employers are insisting that the government foots its entire cost, the Times of Malta has learnt.

There is disagreement between social partners on the measure, with unions wanting its introduction and employers saying they should not be the ones bearing the cost.

A spokesman for the government would only say that discussions are ongoing within the Employment Relations Board with a view to introducing the measure later this legislature.

But Malta Employers’ Association director-general Joe Farrugia contradicted this, saying, when contacted, that the matter had not been formally discussed at the Employment Relations Board.

He also confirmed that there was disagreement between the social partners about the concept.

His organisation was among the most vocal against the new measure and the position has not changed since it was first mentioned and included by the government in its electoral manifesto.

The matter had not been formally discussed

The employers had dubbed as “crazy” the notion of granting parents the option to call in ‘sick’ when their children are unwell, whether as part of their sick leave entitlement or in addition to their personal entitlement. Employers are insisting that sick leave is there to be taken if the individual employee truly needs it and that it is unrelated to the medical condition of other parties.

They fear that the net result of such a measure would see many parents opting to take any available sick leave on the pretext of sick children, bringing about an increase in sick leave – rather than the reverse.

Mr Farrugia said that there was no study on its impact, and no definite price tag on how much the measure would cost.

“It has not been costed as first one has to determine how much of the sick leave entitlement will be available to take to care for sick children,” he said.

Enabling parents to use their sick leave when children are unwell was originally proposed by the Nationalist Party in the run-up to last year’s general election and then adopted by the Labour Party in its electoral manifesto.

The proposal instantly came under fire from employers, workers’ representatives and also sociology experts, who insisted it would have an adverse effect on the country’s competitiveness.

Employers were the most vociferous though, saying they could never agree to a measure that encourages absence from work rather than presence and therefore affected productivity.

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