Editorial | Work-life balance: Looking beyond the cost

Seeking a healthy work-life balance benefits people and is in the interest of private employers as much as it is for their workers


Government this week unveiled changes to employment regulations that help to achieve a better work-life balance for new parents.

Paid leave for new fathers has been extended to 10 days, while parents can accede to two months’ parental leave paid at the national rate and two months unpaid, which can be transferable from one parent to another.

Parental paid leave can be taken gradually across the first eight years of parenthood and parents will also have the right to ask for flexible working arrangements for the first eight years of their children’s lives.

Government committed itself to finance all the measures until 2023 with the private sector having to finance its share of the cost as from 1 January 2024.

The new rules implement the basic requirements laid down by the EU Work-Life Balance Directive. When launching the changes, Parliamentary Secretary Andy Ellul said these arrangements, which will come into force on 2 August, were only “just the beginning”.

Understandably, the Malta Employers Association has raised concern over the cost these new measures will place on employers and called for more clarity when referring to Ellul’s statement that these were ‘just the beginning’.

Within the context of a fragile recovery after the COVID-19 pandemic and the prospect of recession in the wake of the ongoing war in Ukraine, the MEA cannot be faulted in expressing its concerns.

There could be scope for more dialogue to determine how certain aspects of the new rules will be implemented, especially the transferability of parental leave between the parents, which can be a bureaucratic nightmare companies.

However, this leader believes that it is high time employers looked beyond the cost of implementing the work-life balance directive.

A good quality of life does not only depend on having a good job that pays well but also having the ability to enjoy free time with family and friends.

This is more so when couples decide to have children. Child birth is an amazing time but also one fraught with anxiety, uncertainty and vulnerability. It is also the time when some workers, mostly women, decide to remove themselves from productive employment to stay at home and care for the child.

Allowing new parents to spend more time with their baby, while making sure that their financial wellbeing does not suffer, is important for mental health wellbeing. It also benefits the child.

Businesses have to realise that new parents whose mental health wellbeing is cared for at a time of obvious stress, will be more productive on the workplace and more likely to remain in the job.

This comes at a cost, which government must share. Government already shares the cost of maternity leave by paying four of the 18 paid weeks at the national rate. It also offers free childcare services and free breakfast clubs in State schools and an afterschool service, Klabb 3-16, at a nominal fee. The Children’s Allowance is also a financial boost for parents.

But it would be shameful if the private sector did not shoulder part of the cost to preserve a healthy work-life balance.

Seeking a healthy work-life balance benefits people and is in the interest of private employers as much as it is for their workers.

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