There are no plans to ditch summer half days for civil servants and there is no indication that half days are hindering the economy, Principal Permanent Secretary Mario Cutajar said on Wednesday.

Mr Cutajar was speaking on the margins of an informal meeting with the trade unions at the Excelsior Hotel in Floriana.

In his remarks, he announced that a pilot project will soon be launched in a major government entity which he declined to mention by name, to evaluate the effect of extending the hours of service to the public.

“This could be a win-win situation as the public will be better served while employees could have more flexible working hours,” he said.

Asked if the government was considering ditching half days in summer, Mr Cutajar said that contrary to public perception, this arrangement only applied to a minority of those on the government’s books. He pointed out that in the medical sector and disciplined forces, workers did not have half days.

Nonetheless, he said that current economic growth did not suggest that half days were having a negative impact. Furthermore, no substantive argument was ever presented to the government on how the half days were hindering the economy. Consequently, he said that there is no need or plans to ditch them.

During the briefing, Mr Cutajar also gave an analysis of the sick leave usage across both the public and the private sectors.

He said that contrary to the claims made by the Malta Employers Association, civil servants did not take three times as much sick leave than those in the private sector.

From an analysis carried out by statistician Vincent Marmara, it transpired that the average sick leave use in the government sector was 3.6 days per year, while in the private sector it stood at 2.6 days.

However, he noted that such comparison had to be treated with a degree of caution as in the private sector only those who took more than three consecutive days of sick leave were obliged to report to the Social Security Department. This meant that there could be a degree of under-reporting when it comes to the private sector, he said.

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