The Department for Industrial Relations is working together with various enterprises so that where possible conditions of their work operations are adjusted relative to the current pandemic situation. Director General Diane Vella said that in agreement with the Department various companies have made adjustments to enable employees to operate various alternative arrangements, including that working a week of reduced hours.
A number of employers have requested the Department to be given the go-ahead to adjust their working conditions.
Diane Vella said that over the last three weeks the Department has issued 200 temporary permissions for companies to reduce their working hours while a further 100 applications are being processed.
These are permissions to enable a four-day week or a three-day week as well as a 20-hour week – according to the nature of the work.
While stressing that employers cannot change conditions without the necessary permission the Director General said various temporary measures may be used. These include using paid vacation leave as payment and reduced working hours now that may later be made up by employees.
She said that hopefully the lost hours may be made up at a later stage when the current situation begins to improve and therefore more work would be needed to resume the normal economic cycle.
Most application are being made by hoteliers, travel agencies, English Language schools, entities providing transport services and car hire enterprises. She said employers cannot reduce the rate of pay and can neither switch full-time employees into part-timers.
She said the Department is able to assist so that full-time employees work ‘full time reduced hours’ but cannot be made to work part-time because the two concepts are different.
Regarding those employees on a Definite Contract that have been abruptly terminated, these also had rights that have to be respected.
If the contract, for example, was up to end November, the employer has to pay half of the salary as if it were worked to end November; this has also been applied to those employees who leave before the termination of their contract and they have to pay the employer.
The Minister for Social Dialogue, Carmelo Abela, said this exercise by the Department is also taking into consideration the financial support being given by Government to those companies affected by the crisis.
Dr Abela said the Department has been receiving about 1,000 telephone calls daily as well as 300 emails, totally 1,300 queries daily, asking to know how they are affected by the financial measures announced by the Government and requesting to confirm their employer is acting within the agreement with social partner MCESD.
Minister Abela said those companies that cannot comply with the stipulated obligatory measures are to contact the Industrial Relations Department for alternative arrangements to be made.