Updated at 4.58pm with UĦM reaction

The current one-day paternity leave is a huge injustice, according to the Association for Equality, welcoming an EU directive increasing the entitlement to 10 days and noting it is “the least fathers should be granted”.

Though, by Maltese law, mothers can benefit from up to 18 weeks leave, fathers only enjoy a single day of birth leave.

The new Work-Life Balance Directive, agreed upon by the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers, will, among others, introduce a 10-day paternity leave remunerated at not less than the national sick pay level.

A4E chairwoman Anna Borg told the Times of Malta the entitlement at present was, firstly, an injustice to fathers who also needed to get to know and bond with the child while sharing the caring roles. Equality for all went both ways, she added.

It was also an injustice to mothers because, with such a disparity, in the employers’ eyes men will remain the ideal employees as they were not obliged to take on caring roles and, therefore, parental leave on the birth of a child.

With the economy doing well, cannot the country afford to invest in the upcoming generation of workers, tax payers and social security contributors?

“Ten days of paid birth leave is just the beginning, especially in a context of falling birth rates, which are below the replacement rate.

“With the economy doing well, cannot the country afford to invest in the upcoming generation of workers, tax payers and social security contributors?” she asked. 

Studies clearly showed that the long-term benefits of paid paternity and parental leave outweighed the initial outlay cost and had a direct positive impact on the economy, the family and demographics, Dr Borg noted.

In comments to Times of Malta last week, the Chamber for Small and Medium Enterprises (GRTU) shot down the directive proposal and the Malta Employers’ Association said it resisted any further financial burdens on employers.

Dr Borg said it should be up to the State to provide remuneration for paternity leave. In all probability, she added, if fathers had longer birth leave, mothers would go back to work earlier.

As things stood, it seemed that while women had shifted into the world of work, fathers had not made the move into the caring role at the same pace, meaning the changes added stress on mothers.

While all harped on equality at an education level and securing a high rate of female graduates as a consequence, it had also to be made clear that caring roles should be shouldered jointly and that the matter should be facilitated by the State, Dr Borg remarked.

Apart from paternity leave, the new directive, for which Nationalist MEP David Casa was the European Parliament’s rapporteur, will introduce new rights such as flexible working arrangements, four months parental leave, of which two months will be paid and are non-transferable, and a five-day carers’ leave for those who need to look after relatives.

A4E noted the positive step in ensuring that two of the four months parental leave granted would now be paid. This should encourage more fathers to share their parental leave with the mothers, especially if the levels of compensation were equal to one’s own salary level.

“These work-life balance measures are a step in the right direction for the much needed reforms to meet the emerging needs of modern families,” the NGO said.

“In Malta today, the majority of young mothers and fathers are in paid work and have to struggle daily to cope with the caring responsibilities of their children and the demands of work.”

A4E urged the government to move towards the swift transposition of the directive and expressed hope that payment levels would be high.

Forum Unions Maltin calls on government to discuss with social partners

Forum Unions Maltin welcomed the proposed EU work-life balance directive, saying it has supported the directive from its initial stages.

"The confederation believes that since this directive sets out the minimum entitlement, it is now up to Government to, in discussion with social partners, seek the implementation of the best model, which will see improved parental leave and measures supporting the family."

UĦM welcomes directive

The UĦM Voice of the Workers also welcomed the directive. Sharing responsibilities between the parents would not only benefit women who wanted to enter the labour market and children themselves, but also encouraged fathers to take up a more active role.

Nowadays, several employees sought jobs with work-life balance incentives, and would even consider resigning their post if their workplace lacked such benefits.

The union urged the government to implement these measures immediately.

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