In reply to the constant development of the COVID-19 pandemic, on the 13th of March 2020, the Government of Malta published legal notice 62 of 2020 which has amended the Minimum Special Leave Entitlement Regulations to also include "quarantine leave" in view of the mandatory quarantine which the Government of Malta has imposed on all individuals who have returned to Malta, from any country, as of the 13th of March 2020.

The Minimum Special Leave Entitlement Regulations have been created to regulate and lay down the minimum legal entitlements, for employees who do not fall within the ambit of a wage regulation order, in relation to sick leave, birth leave, marriage leave, bereavement leave, injury leave and jury service leave. Such Regulations have now also included quarantine leave.

Quarantine leave has been defined to mean special leave granted to the employee without loss of wages in such cases where the employee is legally obliged to abide by a quarantine order confining the said employee to a certain area or to certain premises as determined by the Superintendent of Public Health under the Public Health Act or by any public authority under any other law.

This, thus, means that as of the 13th of March 2020, quarantine leave is to be considered at par to all aforementioned special paid leave entitlements which an employee is eligible for.

Any employer who contravenes or fails to comply with any provision of these Minimum Special Leave Entitlement Regulations and thus, in this particular instance, does not pay the quarantine leave entitlement to his employees or deduct the quarantine leave from any other leave available to the employee, shall be in breach of the Minimum Special Leave Entitlement Regulations and liable to a minimum fine of four hundred and sixty-five euro and eighty seven cents (€465.87).

Considering the situation the country is currently facing, employers should ensure that they have contingency plans and company policies in place to guarantee business continuity. One of the main policies to be taken into consideration in such a circumstance is to allow the possibility for the employees to work from home, if and where possible. Where a policy is already in place, the employer should review such policy to ensure that this remains relevant for the current purposes and circumstances and make any changes should it be deemed to be required to cater for the situation at hand. Any updated policy should be circulated to all employees and placed in an accessible area, such as the company's IT server, for employees to refer to when necessary.

If an employer does not have a work from home policy yet in place, but does have the possibility to allow its employees to work from home, it is highly advisable for such employer to put pen to paper to accommodate for such circumstance, circulate such policy to its employees and also test the company's infrastructure to guarantee the possibility of having the employees continuing their daily job from the comfort of their home.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.