Malta: Concerns over male-dominated sectors subsidising maternity leave benefits

Employers groups are concerned that increased national insurance contributions required to build up a maternity leave benefit fund amounts to an unfair subsidy from male-dominated sectors.

The private sector will have to pay more national insurance contributions for all employees to build up a trust fund from which the 14-week maternity leave benefit will be paid. The fund was promised in the government's 2015 budget speech after the maternity leave was extended to 18 weeks. The additional four weeks will be paid by government. The increase amounts to 0.3% of the basic wage, and the contribution rate may be revised after three years. 

The Malta Employers Association (MEA) welcomed the scheme with some reservations. One of its concerns is that there are a number of employers who, due to the nature of work in their business, tend to employ few if any female workers. Thus, employers in these male-dominated sectors would be subsidising the female-dominated sectors. The Malta Chamber of Commerce and the Chamber for Small and Medium Enterprises (GRTU) share this concern. MEA suggests that the fund could consider some exemptions to ensure a fairer distribution of the financial burden related to maternity leave. 

The Malta Chamber of Commerce also expressed its concern that the contribution could be increased to make up for shortfalls. The trust fund will be administered through a board of trustees and overseen by the social partners. The public sector will not benefit from the fund.

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