Updated: MEA against utilisation of employees’ sick leave to look after sick children

Last Updated on Thursday, 23 November, 2023 at 12:59 pm by Andre Camilleri

The Malta Employers’ Association on Wednesday pronounced itself against the utilisation of Employees’ sick leave to look after sick children.

The Malta Employers’ Association said that the Children’s Policy Framework could be a step forward in introducing measures to improve the well-being of children and of families in general. The document includes positive measures that will improve child welfare if implemented.

However, the association stated its strong opposition to the use of the sick leave entitlement of the employee to look after sick children.

Sick leave is to be utilised specifically when an employee is unfit for work, and thus, by definition, should never be transferred to other persons. Such a measure will be impossible to control by employers and could lead to abusive practices.

In addition, the recent scandals of having sickness certificates given over the phone, and the exposure of a widespread organised system of benefit fraud, make employers sceptical of the ethical standards of the medical profession in issuing sickness certificates.

The entitlement of urgent family leave already makes it possible for employees to address family emergencies.

The document also needs to be consistent with other policies that have been introduced recently. Promoting a smoke free society whilst simultaneously legalising marijuana are conflicting strategies that many families will find confusing, the MEA said.

GWU says working parents deserve right for sick leave when caring for sick children

The General Workers’ Union said it will be presenting its proposal for parents’ sick leave to care for their sick children, as part of a consultation process for the framework children’s policy 2024-2030.

GWU Secretary General Josef Bugeja said that the right for parents to take days off to be with their sick children was one of several issues the GWU believed in. 

Bugeja was replying to a statement issued Wednesday by the Malta Employers’ Association expressing its strong opposition to the use of the sick leave entitlement of the employee to look after sick children.

In the statement Thursday, the GWU secretary general said it always believed there are circumstances in which workers must use their sick leave to tend to their own sick children. In a recent Employment Relations Board meeting, the GWU said it was in favour of such use of sick leave for parents to care for sick children.

Bugeja said that contrary to those who claim such a measure was impossible, employers could still have control of the situation.

He said that while families can already use urgent vacation leave for family emergencies, the reality of children falling sick frequently was also true. “I cannot understand how only recently everyone was talking about trusting workers, and now there are those complaining about not trusting them. Today, with everyone in a family being usually employed, many are the instances when one of the parents has to stay at home to tend to their sick children.”

Bugeja said that if the public truly believed in workers’ participation on the workplace, this trust in workers had to be shown by supporting sick leave in such normal circumstances, rather than undermining this right by sowing doubt.

“Throughout the years, workers have displayed strong principles at their place of work – they did so during the financial crisis, during the pandemic, and even when their place of employment was enduring bad times,” Bugeja said.

“The relation of the workers to their place of work has been continuously changing. So work-life balance between family duties and a job should not be just a declaration on paper. These are matters that must be concretely achieved in collective agreement negotiations, as well as at a national level.”

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