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Legal Aid Service

Free Legal Aid Service

Assisting With Your Legal Concerns

The FIDEM Charity Foundation has arranged to partner with legal experts in order to assist the We Connect community with their legal concerns. Our Legal Aid Service is free.

FIDEM's Founder, Dr. Sabine Agius Cabourdin, is a lawyer by profession, and will be answering your questions in collaboration with our Legal Aid Contributors.

We understand that dealing with legal issues can cause stress and anxiety, particularly in these challenging times living with the COVID-19 pandemic, and we want to support you. We have created a library of frequently asked questions received from people who have had legal concerns arise due to the impact of the pandemic on their everyday lives, which we hope will prove to be a helpful resource.

We are also happy to answer questions about other legal issues you need assistance with. 

If you would like to submit a question which is not already answered below, or if you would prefer to speak to a legal expert in confidence, please fill in the contact form at the bottom of the page.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Mandatory Quarantine

  • Q. I am subject to mandatory quarantine, but I live with my family or share my residence with other persons. What should I do?
    If you are subject to mandatory quarantine and share your place of residence with your family or other persons, you may wish to seek alternative living arrangements for the duration of the mandatory quarantine. If you cannot make alternative living arrangements, those persons sharing the same place of residence as yourself are also obliged to submit themselves to a fourteen (14) day period of mandatory quarantine (L.N. 78 of 2020).
  • Q. I am subject to mandatory quarantine but would not like to stay indoors throughout the entire duration of the mandatory quarantine. Are there any repercussions?
    If you are subject to mandatory quarantine but for some reason fail to adhere to such obligatory period of quarantine, you shall be guilty of an offence and shall, on conviction, be liable to the payment of a penalty of €3,000 for each and every occasion that the quarantine period is breached (L.N. 72 of 2020). In this respect, if a Police Officer discovers that you have breached the conditions relating to mandatory quarantine, said Police Officer shall hand over to you or affix in some conspicuous place at your address, a notice containing: i) the nature of the offence; ii) the place, time and date of the offence; iii) the signature of the Police Officer handing over or affixing the notice; and iv) information as to payment of the penalty. In such a scenario, you may, within fifteen (15) days of the termination of your quarantine period, pay the penalty in respect of the breach in such manner as shown in that notice, and where the said penalty is not paid within the said period, proceedings shall be instituted before a Commissioner for Justice in respect of the offence in question.
  • Q. I was diagnosed as suffering from the COVID-19 (or the novel coronavirus) infectious disease. What should I do?
    If you have been diagnosed as suffering from the COVID-19 (or the novel coronavirus) infectious disease you are to submit yourself to self-isolation and are to remain in self-isolation until the Superintendent of Public Health deems fit (L.N. 99 of 2020). In this respect, since you have been diagnosed as suffering from the COVID-19 (or the novel coronavirus) infectious disease, you may be entitled to avail of any remaining balance of sick leave you may have been entitled to upon employment.

    You are to be aware that those persons sharing the same place of residence as yourself are also obliged to submit themselves in self-isolation until any such time the Superintendent of Public Health deems fit. If you or any person sharing the same place of residence as yourself fail to submit yourself/ yourselves to self-isolation, you shall be guilty of an offence and shall, on conviction, be liable to the payment of a penalty of €10,000 for each and every occasion that the self-isolation order is breached (L.N. 98 of 2020).
  • Q. My family, myself and other persons I share my place of residence with are all subject to mandatory quarantine and therefore cannot return to our place of work. What can we do?
    If your employer can make arrangements for you to telework or work remotely, you would be able to return to carrying out your work duties from your place of residence or from the premises where the quarantine is being effected. In this scenario, you would still be considered to be fulfilling your work duties as though you were at the place of work. If on the other hand your employer cannot make teleworking or remote working arrangements, and therefore you’re unable to carry out your work duties, you may wish to avail of the special type of leave called ‘quarantine leave’ introduced by the Government (L.N. 62 of 2020). Persons on quarantine leave shall be paid by their employer for the duration of the mandatory period of quarantine.
  • Q. How long is the period of quarantine leave?
    The period of quarantine leave is determined by the number of days each employee has to stay in mandatory quarantine, as determined by the Superintendent of Public Health. For the purposes of COVID-19 mandatory quarantine is fourteen (14) days. Quarantine leave may be enforced in the future for other outbreaks and different periods of quarantine may apply. COVID-19 example: if an employee is subjected to mandatory quarantine on a Monday, such employee will be able to benefit from ten (10) days of quarantine leave and two days falling on a weekend, adding up to 14 days; provided that such employee works on weekdays only.
  • Employment

  • Q. My employer closed down the doors to its business temporarily because of the COVID-19 (or the novel coronavirus) outbreak. Can my employer not pay my salary?
    If you are currently employed and your employer has closed down the doors to its business temporarily, there are various measures which can be opted for. As explained above, if your employer can make arrangements for you to telework or work remotely, you can carry out your work duties from your place of residence, thereby fulfilling your work duties. On the other hand, if your employer cannot make teleworking or remote working arrangements and the business will be shut down temporarily, you may be made to avail of your statutory vacation leave: i) until such time the business reopens its doors for business, or ii) your leave is exhausted, whichever occurs first. You are to be aware that employees are entitled to 216 hours of annual leave in the year 2020 (or pro-rated according to the period of your employment).

    This said, there is a general prohibition on employers to force their employees to utilise more than the equivalent in hours of twelve (12) days vacation leave from the annual leave entitlement of employees for the purposes of shutdown or temporary closure (Art. 3(2) of S.L. 452.115). However, notwithstanding this limitation, where employees are made to undertake forced leave by their employer, the employer shall, before such forced leave starts, provide a written statement giving justifiable reasons compelling the imposition of forced leave on the employees.

    You are also to be aware that the utilisation of such forced leave does not amount to a repayable debt in favour of the employer should the forced leave taken exceed the annual leave entitlement (unless such leave was requested by the employee) (Art. 4A of S.L. 452.115). This means that: i) employers may not automatically shift their employees on ‘unpaid leave’ and ii) employers will have to pay for those days which exceed the annual leave entitlement without any obligation on the employee to repay the employer for those days which would have exceeded the entitlement. This ties in with the requirement that employers may not provide for conditions of employment which are less favourable to the employee than those set out at law. However, this rule may be dis-applied in exceptional circumstances with the approval of the Director of Industrial and Employment Relations (Art. 42 of Cap. 452). It is not yet clear whether this rule will be disapplied due to these extraordinary circumstances.
  • Q. The COVID-19 situation has had an adverse effect on a company's operations, resulting in less human resources required to continue operations. In view of this, can an employer change the conditions of work of his/her employees?
    Yes, as a temporary measure for the survival of the organisation and the consequent retention of jobs, following a written request from the employer, permission may be given by the Director General of Industrial and Employment Relations to temporarily change the applicable conditions of work.
  • Q. Can an employer change the conditions of work without informing the employees and/or their representatives?
    No, approval is granted under the premise that the employer is proposing such measures in agreement with the employees or the employees’ representatives as provided by Article 42 of the Employment and Industrial Relations Act (Chapter 452).
  • Q. My employees are not represented by a Trade Union and/or an employees’ representative. With whom should I discuss any possible alternative solutions?
    All employees must be in agreement with the conditions being proposed. Undertakings employing 50 employees and over shall make the practical arrangements necessary at the appropriate level to allow their employees to exercise the right to information and consultation. Where there is no recognised trade union, the employer shall ensure that information and consultation of employees shall be carried out with the representatives of the employees elected or appointed by means of a secret ballot from amongst all employees.  
  • Q. What are some of the alternative solutions an employer can propose to the employees and/or their representatives as a temporary measure in such a force majeure situation?
    The most common measures being utilised by employers include: i) the utilisation of (pro-rata) vacation leave followed by unpaid vacation leave, ii) the implementation of a reduced working schedule.
  • Q. Can the employer enforce forced leave?
    The employer may decide to resort to ‘forced leave’ (as provided in S.L.452.115) as long as the employer furnishes the employee/s with a written justification explaining why s/he is applying forced leave. The written statement has to be given to the employee/s before the forced leave starts to run.
  • Q. Is the employer able to resort to the option of reduction of wages as a means to avoid redundancies?
    Except where expressly permitted by the provisions of the Employment and Industrial Relations Act (Chapter 452), an employer shall not make any deductions nor enter into any contract with an employee authorising any deductions to be made from the wages to be paid by the employer to the employee.
  • Q. In light of the current situations affecting our sales, an employer is considering reducing the working week for employees working in the sales department only. Is this allowed?
    Yes, as long as the affected employees and/or their representatives are in agreement with the proposed measure and there is approval for conditions less favourable by the Director General for Industrial and Employment Relations.
  • Q. As a temporary measure under Article 42, can employers change the contracts of full-time employees to stay on the payroll as part-time employees?
    A contract of employment agreed on a full-time basis cannot be changed into a part-time contract. Article 42 of the EIRA stipulates that where conditions are less favourable than those stipulated in the Act, then this must be put down in writing and the Director of Employment and Industrial Relations must be informed. 
  • Q. For how long can the employer sustain such conditions of employment if granted permission in terms of Article 42?
    Approval is intended to provide temporary measures to avoid redundancies and is subject to be reviewed every four (4) weeks.
  • Q. Due to a dwindling cash flow, the Statutory Weekly Allowance will not be paid out for the time being. Is this allowed?
    This is not permitted by law and every employer is obliged to pay each of his full-time employees on the last working day in March and on the last working day in September of each year the Statutory Weekly Allowance. The same applies for the Statutory Bonuses to be paid between the 15th and the 30th day of the month of June, and between the 15th and 23rd day of the month of December of each year.
  • Q. If a worker’s employment is terminated due to redundancy, can the employer engage another person to do the same work? Can the employer change his/her conditions of work?
    The employer is under a legal obligation to re-engage an employee previously terminated on the basis of redundancy if the post formerly occupied by him/her becomes available within a period of one year from the date of termination, and if the conditions of employment shall not be less favourable than those to which he/she would have been entitled if the contract of service relating to him/her had not been terminated.
  • Q. My place of work has been temporarily closed down, what happens now?
    Where the place of work has temporarily ceased to operate, either due to enforcement by the Government of Malta or due to a reduction in business leading for business owners to temporarily close their business, the employer should place employees on forced leave before proceeding to unpaid leave once the vacation leave entitlement has been exhausted. While the employer may opt to give employees the entire annual vacation leave entitlement, they are only obliged to give employees leave which has been accrued. Such leave is to be taken from the employees’ vacation leave entitlement and is to be paid at the employees’ normal hourly rate.
  • Q. Will vacation leave continue to accrue while I am not performing work but being paid the €800 grant?  
    During periods of unpaid leave, vacation leave does not continue to accrue. If you are still employed but your place of work has temporarily ceased its operation then you shall continue to be employed on unpaid leave once your vacation leave entitlement has been exhausted. This shall apply regardless of whether the employer is entitled to apply for the €800 grant to pay employees during the time of business closure. Therefore, if you are employed but not performing work due to business closure, then your vacation leave entitlement shall not accrue during such period even if you are receiving the €800 grant.
  • Q. How can I benefit from schemes announced by the government?
    Employers are to apply for schemes which they may be eligible for with Malta Enterprise, who may be reached through their helpline 144. Employees may apply for schemes for which they may be eligible through the Social Security Department, who may be reached through the 153 helpline.
  • Q. Am I entitled to quarantine leave?
    Quarantine leave may only be given to persons who are to undergo obligatory quarantine as advised by the Superintendent of Public Health. If a health professional has advised that an employed person must be placed in quarantine, then said employee shall be entitled to quarantine leave, which is to be fully paid by the employer. The employer may then submit an application with Malta Enterprise to apply for the €350 grant for each quarantined employee. If an employee is quarantined on more than one occasion, that employee shall be eligible for quarantine leave for each instance that s/he is obliged to undergo quarantine. This shall also apply for instances when the employer has requested an employee to quarantine him/herself as a precautionary measure. There are no minimum or maximum days for quarantine leave since this is determined on a case by case basis by health professionals.
  • Q. Is quarantine in addition to vacation leave?
    Quarantine leave is a special leave entitlement which is to be given to persons who are obliged to quarantine themselves by health professionals or who are instructed to do so by their employer, which is to be given in addition to any other leave entitlement which an employee is entitled to. Therefore this is an addition to vacation leave and not part of it. There are no minimum or maximum days for quarantine leave since this is determined on a case by case basis by health professionals.
  • Q. Does the employer still have to pay the employee notice if made redundant?
    Yes, an employer who makes an employee redundant is still to follow regulations stipulated in the EIRA regarding notice periods. If an employer is making an employee redundant then that employee is either to be given the opportunity to work their notice period, or if this is not possible due to business closure or because the employer refuses to allow the employee to work such notice period, then the employer is to pay the employee for the full notice period.
  • Q. Does the employee still have to give the employer notice if they choose to resign from the current employment?
    Yes, an employee is still to follow regulations stipulated in the EIRA regarding notice periods. An employee is either to work the notice period, or if s/he chooses not to work such notice period s/he is to pay the employer a sum equal to half the wages of the unworked notice period.
  • Q. What happens if I will be on maternity leave?
    Persons who started maternity leave before their place of work was locked down are still on maternity leave and should not be limited to the grant of €800. The employer should top up the difference in salary between entitlement and grant. Should the place of work still be locked down by the end of the maternity leave, the employee shall continue to be employed on unpaid leave and be paid the grant of €800 only from thereon. In the case where the maternity leave begins when the place of work is already closed, the employee shall only be entitled to the €800 grant given to her by the employer. The employer may top such amount up only at their discretion. The six month obligatory period is to be worked after the employee resumes her duties following the cessation of the maternity leave, either on telework or once the place of work is once again operational.  
  • Q. My employer closed down the doors to its business temporarily because of the COVID-19 (or the novel coronavirus) outbreak. Why?
    The Government, by order of the Superintendent of Public Health, ordered the closure of the following venues indefinitely (L.N. 41, L.N. 65, L.N. 73, L.N. 76, L.N. 77, L.N. 82, L.N. 86, L.N. 91 and L.N. 95 of 2020), for the purposes of guarding against and/or controlling the spreading of the COVID-19 (or the novel coronavirus):

    i) the Courts of Justice of Malta, including the superior and inferior courts, the appellate courts irrespective of their competence or jurisdiction, any tribunal established by law, and any boards, commissions, committees or other entities before which any proceedings are heard or procedures undertaken which are subject to legal or administrative time limits for filing any claims, defences or other acts and the registry of those courts and/or tribunals;

    ii) childcare and kindergarten centres; colleges, sixth forms and higher secondaries; the University of Malta and other tertiary educational institutions; further and higher educational institution; ELT schools;

    iii) bars, restaurants, cafeterias and snack bars;

    iv) cinemas, clubs, discotheques and night clubs;

    v) museums and exhibitions;

    vi) open-air markets;

    vii) gymnasiums, indoor swimming pools, the national swimming pool and massage parlours;

    viii) gaming premises including controlled gaming premises, bingo halls, casinos, gaming parlours, lotto booths and betting shops;
    ix) vehicle roadworthiness testing (VRT) stations;

    x) shops, whether or not operating in shopping malls, whose principal business relates to the selling of clothes, sportswear, handbags and leather goods, luggage, footwear, jewellery, costume jewellery and accessories, non-prescription eyewear, perfumes and beauty products, souvenirs, haberdasheries, toys and hobby-related products, soft furnishings and sofas, furniture, household appliances, flowers, vapes and discount stores;

    xi) outlets, whether or not operating in shopping malls, providing non-essential services, namely hairdressers, barbers, beauticians, spas, nail artists, nail technicians and tattooists;

    Moreover, all organised events, including all cultural, recreational, entertainment, sporting and religious events and exhibitions in public or private places, including all evens and exhibitions held inside any of the above-mentioned places are suspended as from 23rd March 2020, indefinitely (L.N. 101 of 2020).

    Therefore, it may be possible that your employer may have closed down its doors to its business temporarily to adhere to such measures. In this scenario, Point 7 above still applies.

    You are to be aware that the above-mentioned shops may still sell their products or provide delivery and take-away services to the community. Likewise, restaurants situated in hotels may continue to provide room service to hotel guests and delivery service in the community.
  • Q. My employer closed down the doors to its business temporarily/ is considering closing down its business permanently because of the COVID-19 (or the novel coronavirus) outbreak. Can my employer fire me?
    
Employers have the right to terminate their employees in case of redundancy – which means if employers do not have enough work to give to their employees. In such instances, the employee shall be given a period of notice, which varies according to the length of time that employee would have been employed (Art. 36(5) of Cap. 452). During the notice period employees should be paid in full by their employer.

    You are to be aware that there exists a certain order of preference as to how employees are to be made redundant (Art. 36(4) of Cap. 452). Moreover, in the case of collective termination of employment on the ground of redundancy, the provisions of the Collective Redundancies (Protection of Employment) Regulations (S.L. 452.80) shall apply.

    The Government of Malta has announced that JobsPlus will be providing the necessary assistance to those Maltese residents whose employment was terminated.
  • Q. My employment was recently terminated by my employer because they closed down the doors to their business. What can I do?
    The above may apply to your situation if your employment was recently terminated. If the termination of your employment was not related to COVID-19 (or the novel coronavirus) or redundancy, other legal advice would need to be sought. Apart from legal recourse, the Government of Malta has also announced that those employees whose full-time job was terminated as from 9th March 2020 shall benefit from a temporary increase in their unemployment benefit of up to €800 per month.
  • Q. I am a third country (non-EU) national and working in Malta. Is my employment at a higher risk?
    If you are a third-country national, most likely you are working in Malta by means of a Single Work Permit (“SWP”), which also allows you to reside in Malta. If this is the case, you are to be aware that all of the above points also apply to your employment, including but not limited to: periods of mandatory quarantine, periods of quarantine leave, periods of annual leave and/or forced leave, the payment of salaries and/ or termination of employment. All laws on employment applicable to Maltese and EU nationals apply to third country nationals without distinction.

    You are also to be aware that if your employment agreement is i) terminated or ii) expires, without having made arrangements for the renewal of your employment agreement with the same employer or a new employment agreement with a new employer, and without having applied for the renewal of your work permit with Identity Malta and/ or JobsPlus, you will not automatically be deemed by the Maltese authorities to be residing in Malta without a legitimate permit and/or automatically deported.

    Moreover, live-in carers and healthcare professionals, such as nurses, nurse assistants, staff nurses, doctors, professors, health carers, assistant carers, carer supervisors, health specialists and locum medical officers whose SWP is about to expire can have their permit automatically extended for a period of three (3) months. You are however to be aware that the financial assistance announced by the Government of Malta does not apply to third-country nationals.

    In this respect, the Government of Malta together with Identity Malta and JobsPlus has made necessary arrangements for assistance to be provided to those third country nationals whose employment was terminated, in order to find alternative employment, as well as to assist with work permit queries.

  • Q. I am an EU national and working in Malta. Is my employment at a higher risk?
    If you are an EU national, you are to be aware that all of the above points also apply to your employment, including but not limited to: periods of mandatory quarantine, periods of quarantine leave, periods of annual leave and/or forced leave, the payment of salaries and/ or termination of employment. All laws on employment applicable to Maltese nationals apply to EU nationals without distinction.
  • Q. I am a third country (non-EU) national seeking work in Malta. What should I know?
    The Government of Malta has announced that Identity Malta and JobsPlus will not be processing new permits for unskilled third-country nationals for the time being and until further notice. This measure is intended to safeguard third-country nationals who are currently in the possession of a valid SWP but whose employment has been terminated, by being re-employed before other third-country nationals who are not yet in the possession of a valid SWP. This measure does not apply to highly skilled workers.
  • Rent and Home Loans

  • Q. I rent an apartment/ house and have rent to pay. My employment was recently terminated and I am worried about my situation. What can I do?
    The Government of Malta has announced an increase in housing/ rent subsidies intended for those families where one dependent had his/her employment terminated.
  • Q. I have a personal bank loan and I am worried because of the economic downturn due to COVID-19 (or the novel coronavirus). Are there any measures to protect my mortgage?
    The Government of Malta announced an agreement with local banks consisting of aid in the form of loan moratoriums of up to three (3) months for personal loans.
  • Government Financial Assistance

  • Q. I am an employee who is required to stay home to tend to my children who are at home due to the recent closure of schools. Can I benefit from any assistance?
    The above-mentioned incentives may apply to your situation if you are required to stay home and tend to your children. Apart from your annual leave entitlement, the Government of Malta has announced benefit aimed towards families with children who have both parents/ guardians working in the private sector, and where at least one parent/ guardian is required to stay home to tend to their children and where neither of such parents/ guardians have teleworking or remote working facilities provided by their employer. In such instances, the government will be providing up to two (2) months additional leave for a benefit €800 per month.
  • Q. I am an employee who requires special assistance and I am concerned about my health. What can I do?
    As a person who requires special assistance you may potentially be more vulnerable to COVID-19 (or the novel coronavirus) and therefore may decide to stop work due to health concerns. For this reason, the Government of Malta has announced benefits geared toward employees who require special assistance and where such employees do not have teleworking or remote working facilities provided by their employer. In such instances, the government will be providing benefit consisting €800 per month for a specified period.
  • Q. What financial assistance is the Government of Malta giving in all cases?
    The financial assistance being made available by the Government of Malta, with the main scope of preserving employment as much as possible, consists of the following:

    i) Government to cover €350 per employee on two weeks’ quarantine leave. It is noteworthy that the quarantine leave payable must cover the full wage of the employee with the difference paid by the employer;

    ii) Tax, VAT, National Insurance and Social Security payments are to be deferred for the months of March and April;

    iii) An unemployment benefit of €800 per month to employees who have been made redundant with effect from 9th March 2020;

    iv) Vulnerable persons who are required to stay at home but cannot work remotely and are not being paid by their employer during their absence from work are entitled to €166.15 per week for full timers or €103.85 per week for part timers;

    v) A benefit of €800 per month to persons with disabilities who have to stay at home due to health concerns that may arise as a consequence of COVID-19 and cannot telework;

    vi) A benefit of €800 per month to a parent, when both parents work in the private sector, who must stay at home to take care of children (under 16) whilst schools remain closed and such parent cannot telework;

    vii) Rent subsidies or increased rent subsidies to employees who lose their job and have rent to pay;

    viii) A benefit of €800 per month per full-time employee to businesses that have been hardest hit by the COVID-19 outbreak and which were subject to a forced closure by the government. The critical sectors are: wholesale, retail, accommodation, food and beverage service activities, vehicle rentals and leasing, employment activities, tour operators, travel agencies and other related enterprises, security and investigation services, services to buildings, transport companies, creative arts, entertainment activities and personal services (such as barbers, beauticians, hairdressers);

    xv) The same amount will also be paid to self-employed individuals engaged in such sectors. If the salary due to the employee is in excess of €800 per month, the employers must top up the salary by €400 per employee per month, without prejudice to the payment in excess of €400, at the employer’s discretion. In the event that businesses would not be in a position to finance the €400 top-up, then the appropriate discussions must be undertaken between the employer and employee with the guidance of Department of Industrial and Employment Relations;

    x) The afore-mentioned benefit also applies to part-time employees at a reduced rate of €500 per month;

    xi) A benefit equivalent to one day’s salary per week shall be granted to businesses operating in less critical sectors such as parts of wholesale, manufacturing, retail, warehousing and information with the possibility of increasing it to two days, based on a full-time salary of €800 per month (or part-time salary of €500 per month).

Legal Aid Service Contact Form

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