by Dr Graziella Cricchiola – Junior Associate
As wonderful as the word ‘leave’ sounds, this is very important in the work and social life. The benefit of taking leave promotes good physical and mental health in the workplace and improves people’s work-life balance, which in turn boosts employees’ enthusiasm and productivity upon their return.
The Minimum Special Leave Entitlement Regulation lays down the minimum entitlement of sick leave, birth leave, bereavement leave, marriage leave, injury leave, and leave for jury services to whole-time employees. Recently, another form of leave entitlement was introduced by means of Legal Notice 62 of 2020 – the paid quarantine leave for all employees, payable by the employer.
What is an employee entitled for in terms of vacation leave?
With effect as from 1st January 2020, an employee working 40 hours per week is entitled to 216 hours of paid annual leave. This is calculated on a 40-hour working week, and an 8-hour working day. If the average normal hours (excluding overtime) calculated over a period of 17 weeks is below or exceeds 40 hours per week, the vacation leave entitlement in hours should be adjusted accordingly.
Interestingly, the employee has the possibility to take the leave in hours (rather than whole days) through mutual agreement with the employer. Nevertheless, if no agreement has been reached, the leave must be availed of as whole days.
Apart from vacation leave, what is the minimum special leave that an employee is entitled to?
In terms of article 4 of Legal Notice 62 of 2020, every employee is entitled for:
(a) one working day of bereavement leave;
(b) one working day of birth leave;
(c) two working days marriage leave;
(d) up to one year of injury leave;
(e) jury service leave for as long as necessary;
(f) quarantine leave for any period of quarantine as may be determined by the Superintendent of Public Health or by any other public authority
This being said, any collective agreement or private employment agreement can stipulate different annual leave rules so long as such agreements are more favourable to the employee.
What about sick leave?
The amount of sick leave varies substantially according to the relevant sector of industry. Where the sector is not covered by a Wages Council Wage Regulation Order, an employee is entitled to two working weeks of sick leave annually.
Additionally, the employer is only obliged to pay the amount of sick leave entitlement provided by law. If an employee remains sick after having exhausted all the sick leave entitlement, the employee will only continue to receive the sickness benefit from the Social Security to which the employee may be entitled.
What about quarantine leave?
After the Covid-19 pandemic, the Minimum Special Leave Entitlement was amended to introduce special paid quarantine leave to all employees. The employee is entitled to paid quarantine leave for any period of quarantine as may be determined by the Superintendent of Public Health. This type of leave is over and above any other leave and cannot be deducted from the employee’s annual leave or sick leave.
But how does the law define quarantine leave?
The law defines quarantine leave as,
“as leave to be granted to the employee without loss of wages in such cases where the employee is legally obliged to abide by a quarantine order confining the employee to a certain area or to certain premises as determined by the Superintendent of Public Health by any public authority under any other law.”.
Upon the return of the employee to work, the employer is entitled to request evidence from the employee ascertaining that the employee was obliged to abide by quarantine order.
But, who is legally obliged to abide by a quarantine order?
In terms of S.L. 465.13, any person arriving in Malta from any country other than those listed in sub-article (3) must submit himself to a fourteen (14) day period of quarantine immediately upon his arrival in Malta. At the time of writing, this list included Austria, Cyprus, Japan, Jordan, Romania, Portugal, Italy and Denmark. This order applies to persons who live in the same residence who is in mandatory quarantine.
Disclaimer: This article is not to be considered as legal advice, and is not to be acted on as such. Should you require further information or legal assistance, please do not hesitate to contact Dr Graziella Cricchiola on firstname.lastname@example.org.