Will the Budget bring about any changes to the Organisation of Working Time Regulations?MEDIA ROOM
With the Budget only a few days away, it is interesting to speculate on how the Government will react to the various proposals brought forward by the different employee unions and employers’ associations. Over the past few weeks building up to the Budget speech, which is expected to be given on Monday 9th October, the GWU, the MEA and the MHRA have all given their opinions on how to deal with the low wages being received by employees in comparison to the ever increasing property prices and cost of living expenses.
One of the most debated topics was the suggestion put forward by the GWU regarding Sundays and Public Holidays. This was of interest as it brought forward various legal issues which are not entirely tackled by the Organisation of Working Time Regulations (OWTR). The GWU proposed that Sundays and Public Holidays should be treated differently to other days of work, with employees being eligible to double or triple pay respectively. They also requested that this be enshrined within Maltese law. This proposal was obviously met with objection by the MHRA since its members would be some of the most negatively affected by this introduction. The MHRA stated that this measure would create unnecessary expenses for hoteliers and restaurant owners.
As the law currently stands, the OWTR do not regulate specific scenarios where Sundays and Public Holidays form part of an employee’s normal hours of work. The only exception to this is a set of detailed regulations which deal with situations where shift workers miss out on Public Holidays due to their shift schedule. Which days and hours of work are considered as being ‘normal’ would be dependent upon what is contracted into between the employer and the employee, and would also depend on the job at hand. Notwithstanding this, certain standards must always be kept, such as maximum weekly working hours and rules regarding periods of rest.
It is this lacuna which has led to employers offering employees in the catering and hospitality industries employment agreements which include Sundays and Public Holidays as being normal working hours. This is considered fair by associations such as the MHRA because it is on these days which establishments would be busiest, and these employees would still be given their appropriate days of rest, just not on a Sunday itself. It will be interesting to see how the government reacts to these opposing views and whether or not it will act on them at all.
 Organisation of Working Time Regulations (Subsidiary Legislation 452.87 of the Laws of Malta).