Employee and Employer Rights during Covid 19 Pandemic: Malta


The Covid-19 virus is spreading rapidly in Malta, impacting all parts of everyday life, including the workplace. Therefore, Maltese employers are advised to take into consideration the following recommendations. Pursuant to Maltese law, an employer is responsible for the physical and psychological health and safety of the employees in the workplace and in this respect give instructions and take safety measures as reasonably can be expected from the employer.

What current restrictions are in place by the government?

Following a decision by the Maltese government to ban all commercial air travel to the country because of the coronavirus outbreak, as from 21 March Malta is closing its airport allowing only flights made for humanitarian, repatriation or other reasons related to the crisis.

Bars, restaurants and public places are being closed as from Midnight Tuesday 17th 2020.

Schools are currently closed.

What are the sick pay rules in Malta?

Sick leave amounts to two working weeks per year. Once the sick leave has been completely exhausted, the employee may opt to avail himself of his vacation leave (if any) instead, so as to continue to receive a regular salary.

What are the general principles an employer should or could apply?

Below we have set out the general principles which Malta employers should and could apply. These principles will be aligned with the general principles of other countries and are permitted under Maltese law.

  • Implement a (verbal) policy to decrease face-to-face meetings and travel less, both professionally and privately
  • Assess the risks faced by employees & visitors and implement measures to mitigate those risks, paying particular attention to vulnerable staff (such as those who are pregnant; with impaired immunity; on secondment or working away from home)
  • Review the need for flexible working arrangements and whether existing contracts and working arrangements permit such flexibility, and if not, consider how this might be achieved
  • Review policies governing business travel, holidays, sickness, caring for dependents and home working to ensure a reasonable and consistent approach, taking account of their risk assessment and government guidance
  • Review relevant insurance policies and guidance issued by their insurers
  • Update contact details for staff and management
  • Devise arrangements for dealing with staff who have to travel abroad; who may be at particular risk of contracting CoVID-19; or who report symptoms and may have CoVID-1

Can an employer force an employee to work from home?

Yes, if this is in response to an identified risk, and if working from home is possible and reasonable.

If an employee is sent home, then what measures do employers have to take?

An employer must ensure that the employee is also working in a healthy and safe workplace at home.

If the employee is quarantined, does the employer still have to pay the salary?

The Government of Malta has issued a Legal Notice on Quarantine Leave. Such Legal notice obliges anybody coming into Malta from anywhere to have to spend 14 days in mandatory quarantine as of 12.03.2020 onwards. Such quarantine is to be fully paid. People who can work remotely are not eligible for quarantine leave.

There is no mention about what happens should an employee decide to travel to an ‘infected’ zone, which has not been declared as a no-go zone by Government as of today, (for example the UK) notwithstanding the Government’s appeal for non-essential travel only, and neither is there any mention whether this legal notice would apply to persons who have returned from high risk zones before the 13th of March 2020, when the legal notice was issued.

At first glance, this rule does not apply where employers have requested, or are still requesting, employees returning from zones that were not declared by Government to be mandatory quarantine zones, to self-quarantine, as a precaution.

If on request of the employer, the employee should stay at home due to a suspicion of being infected, does the employer still have to pay the salary?

Yes. We refer to our answer above. This also applies if the employee is not able to work from home.

What if the employee refuses to come to the office

As long as there are no restrictions issued for Malta or a country where the employee has to travel, an employee is in principle obliged to come to the office.

A refusal of the employee could potentially lead to disciplinary measures, such as stopping the salary. Per case, it needs to be determined if disciplinary measures can be taken. We also refer to the answers to the questions below.

If childcare services and/or schools are closed, is it allowed for the employee to stay home? If yes, is the employee still entitled to his/her salary?

Yes. We refer to our answer to question 6 -“if the employee is quarantined, does the employer still have to pay the salary?”. This also applies if the employee is not able to work from home.

Can an employer force the employee to take holidays on (very) short notice? “Forced leave”?

The law regulates forced leave. Should an employee be made to avail himself of forced leave by his employer, the employer shall always provide a written statement justifying the forced leave, within a reasonable time frame before the forced leave starts to run. In such instances, the utilization of such forced leave does not give rise to a civil debt in favour of the employer; should the leave taken exceed the annual leave entitlement of the employee.

However, any leave taken by an employee which has been requested by the employee himself, which is in excess of the annual leave entitlement shall give rise to a civil debt in favour of the employer upon termination of the employee’s employment.

Can an employer force the employees to cancel their holidays on a short notice?

In principle, an employer cannot force the employees to cancel their holidays. Employers can recommend employees not to travel or at least not to travel to risk areas, and if they do travel to risk areas, the employer could consider taking disciplinary actions that need to be determined per case, taking into account the reasonableness and fairness.

Can an employer forbid his employees to travel abroad privately and/or on business purposes

The employer under recent circumstances shall reconsider any travel requirements and implement a temporary restriction on travel for all staff, including management not to risk the possibility that employees might not be able to return to Malta.

Can an employer oblige employees to travel abroad (to risk areas) for business?

The employer under recent circumstances shall reconsider any travel requirements and implement a temporary restriction on travel for all staff, including management not to risk the possibility that employees might not be able to return to Malta.

Currently, there are many other ways of having a meeting and therefore per case, it needs to be determined if the meeting can be held through sources such as Skype.

Can the employer ask employees whether they have recently visited a risk area and if yes, what can the employer do?

Yes, employers can ask if employees have recently visited a risk area privately or professionally. If the employee has visited a risk area, the employer can request the employee to visit the company doctor and send the employee home. Insofar as possible, the employee can continue to work from home.

Can employers take the temperature of an employee?

This depends on whether the actual temperature is in any way being recorded by the employer. If not, then taking the temperature is allowed as the GDPR then does not apply. The employee can then be refused to enter and should be advised to contact the company doctor. If, however, temperatures of employees are recorded then this is only allowed if this process is carried out by, or executed under, the authority of a medical practitioner.