New helpline for employees and employers; 6,000 questions received by DIER
The Department for Industrial and Employment Relations (DIER) is the regulator ensuring that wages and work conditions are being safeguarded. Prior to implementing changes, the Department needs to grant permission to all those companies which find themselves in a position where they cannot retain the usual wages and normal conditions for their employees. The Minister responsible for the Department for Industrial and Employment Relations (DIER), Carmelo Abela, announced this during a virtual conference. The Minister spoke about how the government is taking all the necessary steps to ensure that there is no abuse at the workplace in relation to the Covid-19 situation.
During a video conference, Minister Abela announced a new helpline managed by the Department which will assist all those employees and employers with their queries about work conditions and mandatory quarantine leave in Covid-19 times.
The helpline numbers are as follows: 1575 for employees and 1576 for employers. Minister Abela explained that through this helpline one may seek advice about a number of different issues such as work conditions, quarantine leave, payment rates, reduced hours, unpaid leave, forced leave and collective redundancies. These helplines will be available from Monday to Friday, between 08:00 and 16:00. Anyone needing to clarify issues may also do so via email on firstname.lastname@example.org. The helplines will be operated by a team of 16 professionals with 8 people per line.
The Minister also provided an overview of the work which the Department has been doing in relation to this situation and stated that as from the 9th of March 2020, it has received a total average of 6,000 calls and emails with questions about work conditions in these times.
Since the 9th of March, the Department for Industrial and Employment Conditions has received an average of 3,500 calls by employers, employees, trade unions and legal representatives. In this past week the Department received an average of 300 calls a day. Since the 9th of March the Department has received an average of 2,500 emails. The Department also prepared a list of Frequently Asked Questions focusing on work conditions in the light of the Covid-19 situation. These FAQs are available on dier.gov.mt (attached).
- Both government and employers carry their own weight in paying wages
The Minister explained how the Government, through its third financial aid package announced by Prime Minister Robert Abela, committed itself to provide EUR800 as a wage supplement to employees working in those sectors affected most by the Covid-19 reality. He also pointed out that employers have also committed to contribute as well.
In this sense, Minister Abela clearly explained the scheme. If an employee receives a salary of EUR1200 a month, the sum is shared as follows: the government will be contributing EUR800 a month and the employer would need to allocate the other EUR400 a month. If the salary is EUR1,000 a month, then the government would contribute EUR800 a month and the employer would need to allocate EUR200 a month. If the salary is EUR1,600 a month, then the government would contribute EUR800 a month and the employer would need to allocate another EUR800, but still at a minimum of EUR400 as agreed with the MCESD. The same applies in case of higher salaries. If an employer—for some reason—is unable to follow this pattern then he or she would need to contact the Department for Industrial & Employment Relations immediately.
- A legal notice about mandatory quarantine leave
Minister Abela stated that as soon as the country was forced to move on from voluntary quarantine leave to mandatory quarantine leave, he immediately published a legal notice to amend the Employment and Industrial Relations Act (Chapter 452). This became mandatory and government also contributed EUR350 for quarantine leave. He also stated how this followed a consultation with social partners and a meeting with the Employment Relations Board where social partners requested that employees in the private sector are granted the same conditions as employees in the public sector. This proposal was taken on board.
Minister Abela thanked the DIER Director General, Ms Diane Vella Muscat, and all her team for their sterling work, particularly in these circumstances.