In response to the government’s decision to shut down all schools in Malta for a period of one week starting tomorrow, the 13th of March, we’ve already received a number of queries as to what working parents are expected to do, especially since leaving children with their grandparents doesn’t seem to be an option at this point, as per official warnings.
There’s no point in debating whether children under a certain age can or cannot be left alone at home – an adult must necessarily supervise. Therefore, a great deal of parents will inevitably be needing to stay home from work with their children in the coming week.
Sick leave is certainly a non-issue at this point (unless you’re actually sick, in which case, please stay home!). So, first things first – if you’re an employer, make sure you have a vacation leave procedure. If you’re an employee, check if your company has one. A vacation leave procedure should provide a simple guide as to how to apply for vacation leave. Check if vacation leave procedure is the same or maybe this has been amended to cater for the current situation. Employers may want to review this and make temporary changes, for example, people don’t need to give as much notice as possible to apply for vacation leave. If you are concerned as to how many hours of vacation leave you have left, check your most recent payslip, which should always show your vacation leave balance. If that’s not possible, check with your HR department or your manager. If your vacation leave entitlement won’t suffice, many employers are willing to consider granting unpaid leave.
Another option to consider is the availing of parental leave. Each parent is allowed 4 months of unpaid parental leave per child until the child is 8 years old for reasons relating to the care of the child. Employees may check with their employer how much of their parental leave entitlement remains and discuss the possibility of utilising it whilst their child is not attending school.
Lastly, dear parents, keep in mind that if your child is ill (although we hope you manage to keep them happy and healthy!) you can make use of your urgent family leave entitlement, which is a total of 15 hours of leave which may be availed of with immediate effect upon request (although, it is always appreciated if employees can give employers a few hours’ notice!). Keep in mind that although this is a special request entitlement, these hours will come out of your total annual leave hours.
Please keep in mind that these aren’t school holidays – as far as possible, remain indoors with your children in an effort to contain this highly contagious virus. Consider that our responsible actions now will play a significant part in avoiding much more serious consequences in the future. For any further information as to how to make any further work arrangements, drop us a line.