The first remote working policy for the public service has been published, giving thousands of workers the possibility to work away from the office.

The policy follows a pilot project which started in 2019 and the COVID-19 outbreak. 

While the policy enters into force on October 1, there will be a transition period of 18 months to shift from the existing teleworking system to the new remote working policy. This will enable the necessary changes in equipment and training to take place. 

The policy will make it possible to switch individuals and entire sections and departments to remote working. A government spokesman told Times of Malta that around 6,000 workers may apply for the scheme since several others cannot work remotely.

The Public Service will be responsible for providing and maintaining the equipment necessary for remote working.

So how will it work?

Employees whose job performance and skills, as well as the nature of their job, are suitable to be carried out away from traditional office set-ups, may request to engage in remote working.

Public Service employees may, on their own initiative, submit a written request to their department head, through their immediate superior, to switch to remote working. 

Employees on a trial basis are eligible to apply for remote working subject to the approval of the head of department. The manager may indicate a shorter period when the employee on trial can apply for remote working.

Conversely, new recruits engaged from outside the public service are not eligible to work remotely while on probationary period.

Core hours will be established by the head of department with a view to facilitating the day-to-day operations of remote working teams. Remote workers shall remain available throughout the core hours as part of their official working hours. 

Contact hours will be established by the head of department as set hours when remote workers may be requested to be available. During the contact hours and core hours, employees are expected to remain accessible by phone, e-mail, and any other official means of communication. Vacation leave may be availed of during core and contact hours upon approval.

The department head shall have the right to terminate a remote working arrangement after giving 15 working days’ notice. The foregoing notice period does not apply whenever the arrangement is terminated due to failure to meet the desired standards and workloads, or if it results that the provisions of this policy are abused. In such cases, the working arrangement shall
be terminated with immediate effect.

Principal permanent secretary Mario Cutajar said the policy is the result of several months of work.

“We first set a pilot project, then analysed the work performance during the COVID pandemic, and then a specially-appointed working group enabled this policy to be drawn up. I firmly believe this policy will continue to affirm the public service credentials as a key leader in the country on work-life balance,” he said. 

It also introduces guidance to ensure professional standards in service provision, data protection, employee wellbeing and use of technological equipment, as well as to safeguard laws, policies and sectoral agreements currently in force. It will be embracing the principle of the right to disconnect. 

Specific training on both management and technical aspects will be provided by the Institute for Public Services to employees and head of departments, to increase access to this new system of operation. 

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