Lobbyists are urging the government to revise its implementation of the work-life balance directive and strengthen the law to make sure Maltese workers can successfully combine work with family and care responsibilities.

Nine NGOs on Friday wrote to Parliamentary Secretary for Social Dialogue Andy Ellul asking for wider consultation on the directive to "significantly" improve the current "weak law" that came into effect this week.

They are claiming the measures implemented in Malta are just a "tick box exercise" so that the country conforms to the directive’s requirements.

On August 2, legal notice 201 of 2022, amending the Employment and Industrial Relations Act, came into force which means Malta transposed the EU Work-Life Balance Directive into local law.

The changes extend paid paternity leave, introduce partially paid parental leave (two months of the current four-month leave will be paid at sick-leave rate) and grant parents the right to request flexible hours. 

Carers get five days of unpaid additional leave a year to support a sick relative.

Lobbyists have already publicly complained the way the local government implemented the directive will increase the caring gap between women and men.

Last month, they also slammed the General Workers' Union and Union Ħaddiema Magħqudin for failing to exert influence on the government in its transposition of the directive. 

On Friday, they said the current transposition of the directive is not going to achieve its original goal - that of enabling workers to successfully combine work with family and care responsibilities.

They said the new law also only provides the bare minimum required by the EU directive: “why isn’t the government delivering an ambitious vision which inspires and which will truly improves workers’ quality of life and has a positive impact on Maltese society?”

Additionally, the consultation over the transposition was held behind closed doors for three years, "in a spirit wholly undemocratic, without consulting the relevant organisations and academics," they added.

The NGOs are Moviment Graffitti, aditus foundation, Alleanza Kontra l-Faqar, Integra Foundation, Malta Women’s Lobby, MGRM - Malta LGBTIQ Rights Movement, NPSPD - National Parents’ Society for Persons with Disability, Women’s Rights Foundation and ADHD Malta.

In a statement, they said the current transposition of the law is letting down Maltese society: those workers who are parents or have caring responsibilities, those who need their family to care for them, future Maltese generations and those who want to see increased equality between men and women.

They suggested five ways in which the law could be strengthened:

1. Why does the 10-day paternal leave need to be taken immediately after the birth or adoption of the child? The current implementation fails to acknowledge that all families have different needs.

2. Of the four months of parental leave, only two will be paid (at the sick-pay rate of €21.85 daily). Why are parents going to be paid at a sick-pay level when they are perfectly healthy and when they are providing a service to society with their care? Does the Government realise that this money will not go far in a period when the family’s expenses shoot up, especially with the recent increase in the cost of living? Unless this rate is revised, few parents will afford to take this leave. Specifically, few fathers will afford to do so, which means that it will remain women’s responsibility to provide unpaid or poorly paid care for the family.

3. The paid portion of parental leave cannot be used all at once: only one month can be used until the child is four years of age. The organisations are asking for flexibility so that the paid portion of parental leave can be taken according to the family's needs.

4. The carers leave measure, wherein workers who have caring responsibilities can take up to five days of unpaid leave, needs to be addressed. The government is taking workers who are providing caring services for granted - it needs to stop propagating the charity model.

5. The government also needs to revisit the measure that gives working parents of children less than eight years of age and workers who have caring responsibilities the right to ask for flexible work arrangements. The measure sets no criteria about which requests should be met. Moreover, the fact that the measure is only applicable to parents and those with caring responsibilities again shows that the government is out of touch with today’s society. This right to request flexible work arrangements should be available to all.

Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.

Support Us