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ICLG to Employment & Labour Law 2021 – Maternity and Family Leave Rights

4.1       How long does maternity leave last

In virtue of the Protection of Maternity (Employment) Regulations, Subsidiary Legislation 452.91, an employee is entitled to an uninterrupted period of eighteen (18) weeks of maternity leave.

An employee who is pregnant, breastfeeding or has recently given birth will also be entitled to special maternity leave, in the event that such employee could be exposed to a risk at work which could jeopardise her health and safety, and/or the pregnancy or the child.  Furthermore, if an employee needs to attend ante-natal examinations during her hours of work, then such employee would also be entitled to time off without loss of pay or any other benefit.

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

During the first 14 weeks of maternity leave, a woman is entitled to full pay by the employer.  If a woman avails herself of an additional four weeks of maternity leave, then she will not receive payment from the employer; however, she will be entitled to the Maternity Leave Benefit in accordance with the provisions of the Social Security Act.

Furthermore, an employee on maternity leave shall be deemed to have been in employment during such leave.  She shall also 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.  However, during the period of maternity leave the employee shall have no right to any bonus or allowance related to performance or production.

A pregnant employee, an employee who has recently given birth or a breastfeeding employee may not be dismissed by the employer 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.  Furthermore, if an employee has still not exhausted her probationary period, then such period is suspended during the maternity leave or special maternity leave.  Should the employer need to dismiss an employee during the probationary period and after having been notified of the employee’s condition, then such employer would be legally obliged to provide the employee with a valid reason in writing in order to confirm that the dismissal is not due to the employee’s condition.

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

Upon her return to work from maternity leave, a woman has the right to return to the same role with the same wages which she would have been entitled to prior to the maternity leave.  Should this no longer be possible for a valid reason, then the employee shall be entitled to equivalent or similar work which is consistent with her employment contract.   

4.4       Do fathers have the right to take paternity leave?

Under Maltese law, fathers are entitled to paternity leave on their birth of their child.  The paternity leave entitlement varies in terms of the applicable Wage Regulation Order.  However, employees who are not regulated by any Wage Regulation Order will be entitled to one day of leave in terms of the Minimum Special Leave Entitlement Regulations, Subsidiary Legislation 452.101.  

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

Male and female employees with at least 12 months of continuous service with their employer will be entitled to an individual, non-transferable right to unpaid parental leave in the case of birth, adoption, fostering or legal custody of a child.  Parental leave may be utilised until the child has attained eight years of age and it enables such employees to take care of the child in question for a period of four months.

Parental leave can be availed of in established periods of one month each.  Upon changing employment, the employee will not be entitled to fresh parental leave but rather only the employee’s balance of parental leave will be transferred to the new employment.

During parental leave, an employee shall be entitled to all rights and benefits which may accrue to other employees of the same class or category of employment at that same place of work.  An employee shall also have the right to apply for promotion opportunities arising at the work place.  After parental leave, an employee shall then be entitled to return to the same job which the employee would have occupied prior to making use of the parental leave.  When this is no longer possible for any valid reason, then the employee shall be entitled to return to an equivalent or similar job in line with the original contract of employment.

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

Under current Maltese law, employees do not have any right to work flexibly if they have the responsibility to care for dependants.  However, this does not preclude the employer and employee to reach an agreement which allows the employee to work flexibly in such circumstances.

This article forms part of the ICLG to Employment and Labour Law publication. 

For more information you can contact one of our Team Members at Mifsud & Mifsud Advocates.