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01 April 2020
In response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the superintendent of public health has published the Minimum Special Leave Entitlements (Amendment) Regulations 2020 (LN 62 of 2020). These regulations amend the Minimum Special Leave Entitlement Regulations (SL 452.101), introducing a new paid quarantine leave for all employees, payable by their employer.
'Quarantine leave' is defined as leave to be granted without loss of wages in such cases where an 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 under the Public Health Act or by any public authority under any other law.
The order specifies that all employees are entitled to receive paid quarantine leave from their employer for any period of quarantine as may be determined by the superintendent of public health or any other public authority.
This quarantine leave applies to all employees, including those who are governed by a wage regulation order (to whom the Minimum Special Leave Entitlement Regulations do not typically apply).
On an employee's return to work, their employer can request evidence that an order of the superintendent did in fact mandate quarantine.
Persons failing to comply with such regulations are guilty of an offence and should, on conviction, be found liable to a minimum fine (multa) of €465.87.
These regulations apply without prejudice to the introduction or implementation of provisions in other legislation under Chapter 452 of the Laws of Malta, collective agreements or any other agreement entered into between employers and employees which are more favourable to the employees.
In this regard, at the time of writing, in terms of the Period of Quarantine (Extension of Countries) Order 2020 (LN 63 of 2020), the superintendent of public health has ordered that any person arriving in Malta from any country must submit to a 14-day period of quarantine immediately upon arrival in Malta. Prior to such legal notice, the Period of Quarantine Order 2020 (LN 40 of 2020) had set out a specific list of countries in this respect.
Persons living in the same households as any of the above persons must also spend 14 days in mandatory quarantine.
Further, in terms of the Period of Quarantine (Contact with Other Persons) Order 2020 (LN 78 of 2020), the superintendent of public health has ordered that any person who comes in contact with a person diagnosed as suffering from COVID-19 must also submit themselves to a 14-day period of quarantine immediately upon receiving an oral or written order, as the case may be, from the superintendent of public health.
With regard to persons living in the same household as such individuals, the law is silent. However, official guidance seems to indicate that persons living in the same household are also to undergo quarantine. However, it is unclear whether persons living in the same household would also be entitled to paid quarantine leave by their employer. Further clarifications need to be provided from the authorities in this regard.
In this regard the government has announced that it will provide a grant of €350 per employee to employers (including the self-employed) that have or have had full-time employees on mandatory quarantine leave. The grant is also available to full-time self-employed persons who had to undergo mandatory quarantine.
This measure covers only grants for full-time employees.
In order to benefit from such grant, employers must complete and submit an online application form available on the Malta Enterprise website. This application requires that information as to the reason for mandatory quarantine is submitted. Applicants must also declare and confirm that the employees for which the quarantine benefit is being claimed have been remunerated within the parameters of their employment contracts and the applicable employment laws.
For further information on this topic please contact Paul Gonzi or Mattea Pullicino at Fenech & Fenech Advocates by telephone (+356 2124 1232) or email (email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org). The Fenech & Fenech website can be accessed at www.fenechlaw.com.
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