Flexible working, trust between employer and employee

"Minister within the Office of the Prime Minister Carmelo Abela addresses the MCESD and presents outcomes of consultation meetings with social partners on future of work and social dialogue

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During an MCESD (Malta Council for Economic and Social Development) meeting, Minister within the Office of the Prime Minister Carmelo Abela presented outcomes of recent brainstorming meetings organised by the Ministry within the Office of the Prime Minister with social partners, mainly focusing on the perspectives of the future of work and social dialogue.

Minister Abela explained that the rationale of this brainstorming exercise was to address the new labour market necessities that have developed throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, bringing to the fore emerging employment patterns.

Throughout these brainstorming meetings, with representatives from the employees and employers’ sectors, three main questions were discussed:

“Minister within the Office of the Prime Minister Carmelo Abela addresses the MCESD and presents outcomes of consultation meetings with social partners on future of work and social dialogue

How do we see work changing and what is the impact of this on the employer-employee relationship?

Are there any changes we need to make in the legislative framework dealing with industrial and employment relations to address both the main issues faced today and the future of work?

What form should social dialogue take going forward?

Minister Abela explained that the most emerging issue was the need of flexible working as a tool to be used appropriately to the needs of the future of work. The entities focused on the importance of mutual trust to strengthen employer-employee relations, with arrangements to benefit both parties. 

The new developing trend of non-standard forms of employment was a constant emerging theme. This includes, temporary employment; part-time and on-call work; temporary agency work and other multi-party employment relationships; disguised employment and dependent self-employment. In this regard, flexibility was stressed as a prerequisite.

With reference to legislative considerations, Minister Carmelo Abela noted that the social partners emphasised the need of updating the employment legislation to address work realities of today and tomorrow. On this aspect, work has already commenced by the Ministry within the Office of the Prime Minister. In particular, the social partners mentioned the issue of remote working. The partners focused on considerations for: appropriate compensation and allowances; adequate IT security to mitigate risk of breaches; onus of liability for injuries during the performance of duties; extension of health and safety risk assessments; and discussion on costs incurred, such as internet, office equipment and utilities.

With regards to non-standard forms of employment; Minister Abela said that the topics emerging revolved around affording basic protection of the worker; considerations for minimum wage, social security and sick leave; freedom of association and the rights to collective bargaining. Another topic under discussion was the revision of labour laws to provide enhanced manoeuvrability under force majeure or extreme circumstances.

Minister Abela said that in relation to the future of social dialogue, social partners highlighted proposals for the restructuring of MCESD, strengthening of the Employment Relations Board and the pursuit of sectoral committees for further focus.

The entities met with were the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry; Malta Employers Association; Malta Chamber for SMEs; Malta Hotel and Restaurant Association; Gozo Business Chamber; General Workers’ Union; Forum Unions Maltin; Union Ħaddiema Magħqudin, Confederation of Malta Trade Unions; and representatives of regulated professions.