The Nationalist Party has announced eleven electoral promises to help parents strike a balance between earning a decent living and enjoying time with their families.
Bernard Grech announced the measures in a news conference at the PN headquarters on Wednesday and said the Nationalist Party felt it should prioritise work-life balance.
He also said the PN will strive to strengthen the bonds between fathers and their children.
Grech said that under a new PN government:
- Paternity leave will be extended to 15 days. The leave would be paid in full by the government, 'subject to an established maximum amount'.
- New fathers will be eligible to take the leave during the first days after birth, when the mother is also on maternity leave. This would enable the couple to support each other and spend quality time with the baby. Paternity leave will not be transferable to the mother.
- Parents will be paid by the government for eight weeks of parental leave, 'subject to an established maximum amount'. The measure would apply if parents take leave before their child turns eight. Foster parents and adoptive parents will also be eligible (over and above the adoption leave).
- Self-employed parents will be able to enjoy these measures with the same conditions as employed parents. The government will work it out using a system similar to the maternity leave fund, whereby parents will be able to stop working and are paid an amount of money by the government, according to their declared income. Alternatively, they may use the money to employ someone to help them out with work or to be able to keep the business running.
- Both employed and self-employed parents will receive a subsidy or 50 per cent tax rebate on expenses related to nanny and child-minding services.
- Parents will be able to use their sick leave when their children are ill or have had an accident that requires their parents to be with them.
- Cleaner subsidy: Families with two working parents and children under the age of twelve or disabled children will be eligible for a subsidy or tax rebate if they employ someone to help them with housework.
- Employees will have the right to ask their employers for temporal flexibility, meaning they will be able to negotiate at what time they start and finish work, for a better work-life balance. Employers will be obliged to consider their request and must provide a documented justification if they decide to refuse.
- Employees will have the right to agree with their employers on a number of days during which they can work remotely. They will be required to maintain productivity and customer satisfaction, but employers will be obliged to offer them the option and a refusal must come with documented justification.
- Employers will be eligible for a tax rebate if they buy ergonomic furniture for their offices and their employees' homes when they work remotely. The government will also incentivise businesses to provide free wifi to work-from-home employees.
- The Protection of Maternity Employment regulations will be amended, to give added security to pregnant women in their workplace.
During the news conference, Bernard Grech also paid homage to murder victim Rita Ellul, who was found dead in an apartment in Għajnsielem last Saturday.
He said the news of her murder serves as a reminder that it is not enough to create laws to protect women, but we must also work towards a more respectful country, especially to women.
Grech urged authorities and the police to take domestic violence reports seriously and never turn a blind eye to vulnerable people who need their help.
On Wednesday, Ellul's daughter claimed her mother had already reported the suspect to the police over domestic violence and the case remains ongoing in court.
Meanwhile, Rita Ellul's partner was charged with her murder in the Gozo courts. He pleaded not guilty.