Employment and Industrial Relations Law

Maternity and Family Leave Rights – GVZH Advocates’ contribution to the ICLG to Employment & Labour Law 2013 Edition

05 May 2013

4 min read

Maternity and Family Leave Rights

How long does maternity leave last?

A pregnant employee may apply for maternity leave for an uninterrupted period of eighteen weeks which is availed of as to (a) six weeks of the maternity leave entitlement to be taken compulsorily immediately after the date of birth; (b) four weeks of maternity leave to be availed of immediately before the expected date of birth, unless agreed otherwise between the employer and the employee; (c) the remaining balance of entitlement to be availed of, in whole or in part, either immediately before or immediately after the above periods, as the employee may request.  If she is unable to avail herself of the maternity leave entitlement before the date of birth, such remaining balance of entitlement may be availed of after birth.

What rights, including rights to pay and benefits, does a woman have during maternity leave?

When an employee is on maternity leave, the employee shall be deemed to have been in employment and during any such absence she shall be entitled to all rights and benefits which may accrue to other employees of the same class or category of employment at the same place of work, including the right to apply for promotion opportunities at her place of work, and on return to work, she shall be entitled to return to the same job or when this is no longer possible for a valid reason, to equivalent or similar work which is consistent with her original contract of employment. However, during the period of maternity leave the employee shall have no right to any bonus or allowance related to performance or production.

With regards to pay, the employer shall not be obliged to pay any wages for those weeks of maternity leave which go beyond fourteen weeks.  If the employee chooses to avail herself of maternity leave beyond fourteen weeks the additional four weeks will be paid by the Government in accordance with the provisions of the Social Security Act.

Moreover it is not lawful for the employer to dismiss a pregnant employee, an employee who has recently given birth or a breastfeeding employee, from the date in which such employee informs her employer, by means of a certificate issued by a registered medical practitioner or midwife, of her pregnancy to the end of her maternity leave, or during any period of special maternity leave, because of her condition or because she avails herself or seeks to avail herself of any rights in terms of law.

What rights does a woman have upon her return to work from maternity leave?

A woman has the right to return to the same position, same role and the same wage after maternity leave or when this is no longer possible for a valid reason, to equivalent or similar work which is consistent with her original contract of employment.

The EIRA states that where the mother does not resume work after the birth of her child or, having resumed work, terminates her employment without good and sufficient cause within 6 months of the resumption of work she shall be liable to refund the wages received during the maternity leave availed of.

Do fathers have the right to take paternity leave?

Maltese law does not cater specifically for paternity leave, however in terms of the Parental Leave Regulations (S.L. 452.78) and the Minimum Special Leave Entitlement Regulations (S.L. 452.101) fathers are entitled to 1 paid day of birth leave and parental unpaid leave of up to 4 months (availed of in periods of one month each) until the child has attained the age of 8 years.

Are there any other parental leave rights that employers have to observe?

Parental leave may be availed of not only by natural parents but also in the case of adoptive parents and foster parents. The employee who exercises the right to make use of parental leave shall be entitled to return to the same job that the employee occupied prior to the granting of parental leave

Are employees entitled to work flexibly if they have responsibility for caring for dependents?

To date employees in the private sector are not entitled to work flexibly, this is a benefit which may be agreed upon between the employer and the employee.

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